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Tom Prigge
Portable VO booths
on Jul 16, 2012 at 1:20:32 pm

I'm interested in getting opinions on these little portable sound booths--those cubes with acoustic foam lining them in which the mic is placed. On the surface, it seems like a genius idea. Rather than a full booth, just isolate the mic. Seems logical. But what is the reality? Anyone have experience with these? I've seen prices ranging from $50 to $350, and even less if you make one yourself.


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Ty Ford
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 16, 2012 at 2:01:23 pm

Hello Tom,

Putting a sound deadener behind the mic, on the side of the mic that's already dead, and expecting it to eliminate reflections that occur from all over the room is unrealistic.

And, it's not just about acoustics, it's also about whatever sounds are happening (lawnmowers next door, dogs, parrots, toilets flushing from the upstairs apartment, helicopters, trains, emergency vehicles, etc.)

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Tom Prigge
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 16, 2012 at 7:01:54 pm

Ty,
Thanks for the reply. Do you understand that what I'm talking about is a cube that the mic is in, not just something propped up behind it? The only side open is where the announcer would be. For a side address, cardioid mic, wouldn't this arrangement be helpful. With something behind the announcer to asorb sound too, of course.


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Ty Ford
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 16, 2012 at 7:08:48 pm

Tom,

Yes, thanks. Again, it's "protecting" the deaf side of the mic and arguable the sides to some extent.

In certain specific situations, it might reduce some pickup of ambience, but don't expect too much. You're up against the laws of physics. :) If it was the be all and end all, everyone would be using one and studios would no longer need to be designed. :)

Tell you what; get one and post some sound files for us - before and after.

Regards,

Ty Ford


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Tom Prigge
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 16, 2012 at 8:45:31 pm

Well, now I'm having second thoughts. Thanks for the input, Ty.


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Ty Ford
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 16, 2012 at 8:58:20 pm

Tom,

What's your specific situation?

Regards,

Ty
Cow Audio Forum Leader


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Peter Groom
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 17, 2012 at 9:45:11 am

Everyone has their own opinion, but for me Im not a fan of portable solutions.
To me the 1 thing that good old bricks and mortar (with kiln dried sand in the cavity) brings to the equation is solidity. Thats what makes a good mic space for me, lack of portability.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Tom Prigge
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 17, 2012 at 1:08:45 pm

In response to Ty's question about my situation, I'm considering dabbling in a little VO work on the side. I was a DJ back in the day of turntables and 45s, and have done VO work while working in video and at a TV station. I keep hearing that a closet with lots of clothes can work. Certainly not ideal, I know. I'm not interested in taking a portable booth tucked under my arm wherever I go. I would set it up in a closet. Everything I have read about these cube booths says they are fantastic--of course, that's coming from folks selling them. That's why I posed the question here, to get unbiased opinions. Has anyone here actually have experience with one?


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Ty Ford
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 17, 2012 at 1:18:55 pm

Tom,

A nice walk-in closet can work very well. Can you get in it and turn around so the back side of the mic is aimed at the door opening?

I have seen people try to setup at the door looking into the closet. That doesn't work as well because the live side of the mic hears the room they're in.

Also check the ceiling. Ceiling bounce can be pretty destructive. Adding a blanket above will tame that.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Bill Davis
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 18, 2012 at 2:38:55 am

Tom,

Perhaps this will help.

Sound and light are both "wave" phenomena.

So instead of thinking about sound, think about light.

You're in a well lit room. And you wish to keep all light from the front of your microphone.

So you take a cardboard box and you cut out only ONE side. And you put a hole in it and stick your mic through the hole. If you're standing in front of the box can you see the mic? Of course you can. Because the ambient light of the room is bouncing off all the walls and filling the room, so it's going to bounce right into the open side and light up the mic. The mic will certainly be dimer. But if there's an open side, it won't be surrounded by pitch black.

The ONLY way to make the mic totally disappear is to totally control ALL the light coming into the room. So the "closet" approach is effective since standing in a closet STARTS with all outside light eliminated from the environment.

See how this works?

I'll add that in sound, low frequencies are a bit like sunlight. It's pervasive and gets around curtains and blinds all too well. To eliminate it, you really have to treat every possible entry point. And even then, low frequency with enough energy can create sympathetic vibrations that will cause problems even in well treated spaces. I have a fully treated VO booth, but hailstorms will still shut me down, since hail on the roof will still be heard when my mic is open.

High frequency sounds are actually somewhat easier to control. Think more along the lines of a flashlight, where you can more easily effectively stop nearly all light leaks by blocking the light by putting something solid over the lens to blackout the limited light source.

This is kinda why you can hear the thump of the big car stereo driving by long after the highs are gone.

These aren't perfect analogies, but they help you develop your thinking about how to control waves.

Good luck.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Ty Ford
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 18, 2012 at 11:05:12 am

Bill,

Thanks so much for your continued and excellent contributions to the Cow Audio Forum. This is a great example of thinking outside the box for the benefit of others.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Tom Prigge
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 18, 2012 at 1:08:50 pm

Bill,

This is the clearest explanation I've ever seen, and one that folks more versed in video than audio can understand. Which is more important--absorption or dispersion of sound waves?


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Ty Ford
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 18, 2012 at 1:48:58 pm

Hi Tom,

It's a balance of both. I explain sound in a room as similar to a pool table. Toss a ball on a pool table and it hits the cushions until it runs out of energy. In a room the pool table is three dimensional.

Sound deadening is used to keep outside sounds from getting in. That's normally a D-I-D (density-isolatio-density) sandwich of walls and a space that isolates the walls from each other so they don't conduct sound. That's something completely different than treating the insides of the space.

Foam absorbs. Diffusion breaks up the waveforms and scatters them. Inside the space, you typically need a balance of absorption and diffusion to get it right. Hard parallel surfaces are your enemy, e.g. ceiling/floor, wall/wall. Once you tune into that, you can walk into a room, clap your hands and hear the problems and see and hear the areas that need treatment.



See the record albums on in the corner? That shelf systems covers my entire wall; 13 feet by 8 feet tall. Those irregular edges of all the LPs creates a giant diffuser. Books on shelves can do the same thing.

The long horizontal panel is two 2' x 4' sheets of 4" thick acoustic foam squeezed slightly (so they stay there) into 1" x 4" boards I attached to the wall with simple L brackets.

Wall to wall covered by a carpet on the floor.

Some (but not all) of the "acoustical" ceiling tiles are are covered in 1" thick foam to reduce ceiling bounce.

The frame on the left with the foam on it is a stood up base for a slatted platform bed.

The couch also helps.

The carpet on the table helps.

The grey muslin curtain was added when I began to shoot video in this space and needed a more neutral background. It also impacts the sonic signature of the space.



You don't have to go all scientific once you get the idea. I also use CD storage towers on a chest along the back wall to breakup the soundwaves. You can sort of see them behind the Neumann mic and JBL monitor in the top shot.

The visual for that is imagining what happens when you drop a stone in a pond. It sends out a circular ripple. You want to break that up so it doesn't hit a flat surface and bounce back to you in tact. Worst possible case...a racquetball court. Still bad...most bathrooms. Usually funky...a stairwell. All bad due to hard parallel surfaces.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Bill Davis
Re: Portable VO booths
on Jul 21, 2012 at 1:25:49 am

[Tom Prigge] "Which is more important--absorption or dispersion of sound waves?"

Tom.

Which is more important to lighting? Blocking light or reflecting light?

The correct answer is, of course, yes.

In situation A it might well be more important to block it. In situation B, it might be equally critical to diffuse it. Or add more. Or color the light. Or move it. Or move the subject.

If I'm setting a backlight on a bald subject, I might need to fly a flag (absorb the light) to keep down an unwanted shiny spot on their head.

When that's done, I might notice that the light is creating too defined a shadow under his or her eye sockets, and so I might need to soften that shadow by using diffusion (dispersing the light waves over a larger surface.

The big issue is that with lighting you at least can SEE the difference as you work once you're trained to look for the results.

Sound is much more subtle. You can't "see" that high frequencies might be missing or too pronounced. You simply have to learn to LISTEN - and that is usually very difficult for most people. Our brains are very sophisticated about decoding meaning from live sound in the natural world. Microphones don't have brains and so you have to listen with INTENT if you want to be aware of things that you brain might be filtering out in the field..

This means you must train yourself to understand what good audio should sound like.

Just like we learn to light in layers (key, fill, backlight, ambience, etc.) you have to learn to LISTEN in layers. Primary signal, ambience, room tone, distractions like RF or distant traffic, etc.

It's only when you learn to be aware of what you're hearing, that you can bring a tool or technique to bear to try to fix or diminish it.

Welcome to audio!

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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