Voice-over from the comfort of your own house has become the norm. However, what every home studio needs is to feel like a home-away-from-home inside your home. Home-ception...
Whether during the COVID-19 pandemic or before, the voice-over industry has been shifting to working from the comforts of one's own domain. Producing a makeshift voice-over studio in a spare room or closet isn't terribly tricky - technically speaking, throwing up some duvets and working from a pillow fort could work (Though I hesitate to endorse that and doubt it would pass our requirements).
Although, who wants to launch their career from the house equivalent of a car boot? A space that pops with colour and personality is essential to mental and physical health and is what every home studio needs for a voice talent to shine.
Jennifer Johnston has set out to do just that. We sat down and had a chat with her about her remarkable and jazzy new home studio space - check it out:
Q: You set up your first home studio in 2006 - way ahead of the curve - How well did that prepare you for working from home becoming the norm?
Jennifer: I would have set up my studio before 2006 if I'd had the space! The purchase of my 2-bed apartment with the all-important hall cupboard gave me the space and motivation to do it. I can see why it would appear I was ahead of the curve back then but, to be honest, many experienced and more established voice-over professionals than I had already been voicing from home for years.
I was just really keen to join that illustrious band of voice-overs and, because I'd been "treading the boards" and earning my stripes for a few years, it was the next logical step that resulted in a real boost to my VO career. So when COVID and the first Lockdown struck, and all those "Soho Studio" voices, as I would call them, had to quickly scramble to set up home studios and adapt to working home. Part of me felt relieved that it was already the norm for me but also really confident in my studio set up because there was a hell of a lot of dodgy "home-recorded" audio going out of Radio & TV for a couple of months! I forgive them, though; it was a sign of the times!
Q: What were your objectives for fitting your home studio into your new home - was it important to keep it sleek and in keeping with the aesthetic?
Jennifer: It was so important to me to have an "aesthetically pleasing" voice-over studio. Partly because I'd started up a new Instagram account a few months earlier, the first account for my voice-overs, and I was enjoying posting content. Still, I felt that the hub of my operation, the very heart of it, with a professional set and output, just wasn't "Instagram cool" enough! Plus, I wanted a space I could not only be proud of and show off, but I also wanted to enjoy looking at it and working in it thoroughly.
Q: How vital was the round window to your plans?
Jennifer: Most Home VO Booths don't have windows! I've never had a window in any of mine before, so, as this would be a bespoke build, I decided I may as well go to town on the style. I chose the round window because it's cute but also reflects the Mid-Century style of our house - hence the Orange door! Someone posted on my Insta account that it was "the most iconic door of 2021". I loved that!
Q: Why did you land on the dimensions you did for your home studio size?
Jennifer: I was slightly restricted due to the size of my office, but my new booth is still marginally more spacious than my previous one. The most significant improvement is the head height; I've got an extra 1.5 ft, which has made a difference to the comfort factor. I could have made a much larger booth if I wanted to, but it wasn't necessary.
It's only me using it (although I have a local 6ft 1" VO colleague, the fabulous American Voice Tamsin Cope, and she fits perfectly!) I also wanted to leave enough space for a fitted desk, which my carpenter built for me, and I still have plenty of room to enjoy my office or, as I like to call it now, my "Green Room"!
Q: What are the most critical aspects of deciding on what soundproofing to go with?
Jennifer: I deliberated over this for ages; honestly, weeks! I've always used acoustic tiles and, in my small booths, the sound quality has been excellent. I considered going down the alternative route of "acoustic panels", something like that, but it just wasn't sitting right with me, so, as my old tiles needed replacing anyway, I just invested in new, more stylish tiles. And they are fab. I'm glad I made that decision.
They do a great job on top of my double, Rock Wool insulated walls. Plus, my Door, when it closes, makes a beautiful "schlupt" (suck in when you say it!) as it seals shut, so there's an authentic "isolation booth" feel once you are inside. It's glorious!
Q: Your new Booth is incredibly stylish and tidy! How do you like it?
Jennifer: I'm loving it! I can't tell you what a pleasure it is every morning to switch on the light, fire up my PC and step inside onto my luxury carpet tiles! The term "simple pleasures" really applies here. I keep it tidy as a rule.
The only food allowed in my booth is maybe a packet of lozenges and only water to drink, no juice or coffee! No children either, hee hee! That includes my own 13-year-old son unless he decides he'd like to give voice-over a shot one day!
Q: Is it ever challenging to switch off when work is so close to home?
Jennifer: I'm pretty good at switching off, to be honest. But my office is such a calm and relaxing space now that even when I'm not working in my booth, I still hang out in my office and even meditate in there sometimes. I've been practising Transcendental Meditation since 1999, and I really think my newly "spruced up" space is probably my favourite room in the house to meditate in, and that's saying something because our whole house is pretty calm. Workspaces are often stressful but not mine; mine is like Heaven to me. I'm fortunate.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Jennifer! Hopefully, anyone reading this will have drawn some interest or inspiration from this adventure - it demonstrates that what every home studio needs is a little bit of TLC.
Check out Jennifer's blog to see more from her.