Life after the Whisper Room.

I once heard a well-known voice over coach say that a Whisper Room looks like a coffin.  Well, they are both dark.  They dominate everything else in a room.  And at 1200 pounds, we needed a team to bring it upstairs.  But my new studio doesn't feel like a coffin at all.  I'm having a great time.

Voice Over is such an unpredictable business, that in the beginning, I hesitated to invest in a dedicated isolation booth.  Luckily, for a long time, I didn't really need to.  I have been working at home for a while, and like so many VO's, I was living in the closet.   
 
In 2006, I commandeered a closet in a back bedroom.  I read up on sound waves and acoustic treatment, stuffed in Auralex and Acoustimac and nailed a shelf to the wall.  There were no windows in the booth and no central air in the house.  In the summers, I nearly melted.  But a few engineer friends gave me a thumbs up on the sound, so I got to work.

Because our home was in a quiet area, I had only two regular noise issues:  Our neighbor's leaf blower--every single day and entirely un-negotiable.  And, my musician husband's guitar--mostly negotiable.  You can't do much about jerks and their noise pollution, but my husband and I have good manners and politely (mostly) tried to work around each other.

Then, in the summer of 2015, we upgraded to a new town, ditched the neighbor, and I got a new closet.  Throwing off the anchor of the leaf blower was one thing, but for the first time I also realized how a small space could affect my stamina.  In the old room, when I moved my elbows away from my rib cage, I'd hit foam and ruin a take.  As a result, I'd stand stock still.  When playing a character with highly physical dialogue, instead of loosening up, I'd tense up.  I wasn't completely aware of how it affected me until I finally had some room to move.  Granted, the new closet-booth was still about 2'x3', but suddenly, a few precious inches kept me from being exhausted at the end of the day.

However, while I gained space in the new booth, I also gained exterior noise, as our new home is near a busy road.  One of the immediate ways I approached the challenge was by changing my go-to mic.  I swapped out my TLM 103 with it's cardioid pattern, and swapped in a Sennheiser MKH 416.  Using a shotgun mic with a lobar pattern made a noticeable difference in the noise floor.  I also bought acoustical window inserts from Indows, which gave me another few precious Dbs.  But even with that, there was always a chance that the low rumble of heavy trucks and buses, or a high pitched train whistle would bleed into a read.  And after a decade, I was also still working around my husband's guitar.  Frankly, waiting out his practice, or asking him to wait out my session, had become just as exhausting as reading in a robot stance. This year, I decided I'd had enough.

My new Whisper Room is an enhanced 3'5"x 5', with two windows, and 7'6" on casters.  Given the mic stand and other gear I have in the space, I'm probably standing in the back third of the room. With my fists at my shoulders and elbows extended, I just touch the walls.  I finally feel like I have room to perform.  Gesturing without feeling crowded, means I can forget about the space and focus on the performance.  In the daytime, I often take the option of working by natural light through the windows.

While I'm actually pretty handy, given the investment, I opted for a white glove install by David Shinn to be sure it was done quickly and correctly.  David also made a custom upgrade to the ventilation system:  I'm using a TD100X exhaust fan with a Powerstat variable transformer set at 35%, so the fan can run constantly, and is uber silent.  He also suggested adding a power conditioner and battery backup to my chain.  Power outages, no problem.

Before I settled on the Whisper Room, I did consider building a studio, but I'd like to be able to move the box to our next home, and sell it at the end of my career.  A double-walled Whisper Room is heavy, but not quite as heavy as a comparable-sized Industrial Acoustics booth.  I do understand the coffin comment--it's not a looker.  Studiobricks has the most stylish booth, but I was more confident about a double-walled Whisper Room for isolation.  We're working on improving the entire office's layout. 

Whisper Room offers an optional acoustics tuning package, but I chose to recycle the bass traps, etc; from my prior work spaces.  The surfaces of the booth are covered with fabric that operates, essentially, like the female side of Velcro.  It's pretty easy to hang foam with a minimal amount of the male side and a bit of friction.  Whatever your situation, the booth will require some tuning. 

Finally, the Whisper Room off-gassing was unpleasant for first few couple of weeks.  We left the office windows open at night to help air the booth out, but I was told that letting a heavy Whisper Room door hang open long-term, can put pressure on the hinges.  Hopefully, letting the fan run will help the odor dissipate, and anyone buying a used model likely won't have the same issue.  

All said though, after 10+ years, I don't have to put on a sweet face to go ask my husband to be quiet in his own home.  I don't have wait out rush hour buses, trains, most heavy trucks or guitar solos.  It doesn't entirely block out the odd leaf blower or lawn mower right next door, but depending what I'm doing, I don't have to come to a full stop, either.  I've been able to schedule a session at any time, and I have a comfortable space to perform.  

Thanks to David, and to Tony Pasquale for for giving me a tour of his fantastic 4 x 6 booth and studio--Tony is living the life.  Now I am, too.