Do you have a voice-over studio “go bag”?
Oct 23 2015
You can enjoy a very nice voice-over career without ever leaving your home studio, but plenty of jobs are still recorded at commercial voice-over studios. (We know, because we are one, and our studios are very active.) What should you take to one? Newspeople keep a packed bag by the door in case of far-off breaking news. Voice-over talent should have a bag ready in case of a hurry-up day-trip. Or at least this list…
NOTE: Before taking any medicinal measure, or if you have persistent vocal fatigue, sore throat, dryness, hoarseness or cough, consult your doctor without delay.
Here’s just about everything we can think of that might come in handy at a studio, that might not already be there. You do NOT need to stock up on everything, just use your common sense and what you know about yourself. Above all, Rule Number One is probably “Don’t be late.” So if you don’t have something on this list, don’t waste time trying to find it. Just grab a sharp pencil, the studio’s address and phone number, and go! But hopefully this will help that from ever being an issue.
Studio Go-Bag Contents
Pencil and eraser. These are for markup and script changes. You’ll often need to revise them, so pencil is the way to go. Either bring a bunch of them pre-sharpened, or a mechanical pencil with extra leads. In fact, it’s good to have a spare or two even of those, in case the mechanism fails or the lead is in pieces. A medium-thick lead will hold up better under both kinds of pressure, and might be easier to read. As for the eraser, get a fresh one from time to time (they tend to harden after awhile), to make it erases cleanly.
Pen. For contracts, notes and whatever.
Highlighter. Optional, and not erasable, but some people like to mark scripts this way.
Reading glasses or bifocals. You may need to see the both the copy and the engineer, director or client.
Business cards, demo CD and/or mp3, and acting resumes. Not having at least a few cards with you is generally considered unprofessional.
The script, if you have it. But don’t be surprised if it’s changed when when you get there.
Studio’s address and phone number. Also know the route you’ll take. A street map might be wise, in case your phone battery fails.
Water bottle. Just in case the studio’s water dispenser isn’t working. For ecology’s sake, make it a re-usable bottle, please. Be sure its cap is easy to seal securely , so it won’t leak in your bag, and won’t spill in the booth. A thermos is probably overkill – your water should be room-temperature. Too hot or too cold is bad for the voice. And thermos bottles tend to be awkward to use during a hectic session, easily toppled, and on some you’re never quite sure which way the valve is closed. Ditto for some sports bottles with push-pull valves.
A few bags of a simple herbal tea. The foregoing notwithstanding, there are moments where a nice cup of lukewarm herbal tea is soothing. Purists will say to avoid coffee and tea, but be your own judge on that. Some people seem more susceptible than others. Edge Studio has a wonderful coffee machine, a variety of teas, and other beverages, including hot and cold water. If water is just not to your taste, go decaffeinated. (Tip: You can make tea with cold water, just not as quickly!) Mint is nice … we’ve never heard anyone complain about the lingering aroma of mint. Throat Coat Tea is an option often mentioned. But there’s another reason to avoid coffee: it may speed up your need for a bathroom break.
Green apple. Relieves dry mouth and it’s just acidic enough to polish up your vocal system and lubricate your teeth. Some people even wrap slices for convenience (and to avoid getting peel stuck in their teeth), but you’ll do that just before leaving.
Toothpick or toothbrush. Just in case of a bit of apple skin does get stuck.
Commercial mouth-moistening remedy. Products to consider include Colgate Optimoist or Biotene gum. Another remedy for dry mouth is to take just a sip of water and hold it in your mouth for a while.
Throat moisturizer/soother. Examples are Entertainer’s Secret, Clear Voice vocal spray or Vocal Eze. There are also other inexpensive throat sprays, but note that these are not all the same and may or may not be equally effective. There’s also more serious “artificial saliva spray” product called Aquoral. In extreme cases, it might be appropriate, but it has warnings regarding possible side effects, drug interactions, allergies, pregnancy and/or other medical conditions. Check with your physician or pharmacist and read the insert before using. The vast majority of people don’t need something this extreme for an ordinary recording session.
Gum or breath mints (and a bit of paper to stash the gum). Not so much to fight dry mouth, but a nice gesture if you’ll be recording with a partner at the mic.
Cough drops. We suggest Slippery Elm lozenges. They don’t contain menthol, which dries you out. Find them at some health food or drug stores.
Camera (or smartphone camera). In case a publicity-shot opportunity presents itself. Almost every job is of publicity interest to someone, somewhere. If it turns out to be mutually flattering, send it to your client afterward. Here’s a tip: If your camera allows, include a polarizing filter, which can cut down on glare when shooting through glass.
Your mobile phone. But once you get there, turn it off. In fact, leave it in your car. Even if you leave it in your bag outside the booth, it will be distracting to others. Know how to turn off your watch alarm, too!
A watch or silent stopwatch. The director should track your time, and you don’t need the distraction. But you may want to time yourself while rehearsing. If using it in the booth, some people find that a sweep second hand is easier to observe peripherally, but with familiarity and a large enough display, a digital counter becomes easy enough to see. Also important — it should be easy to start, and start reliably. Finding a stopwatch or timer that doesn’t beep might be difficult, but you probably have one already in your pocket — a stopwatch app on your phone. If for this reason you leave you phone on, put it into airplane mode. And if your watch has a loud mechanical tick … consider getting a $20 electronic one for sessions.
Soft, silent clothes, clean and ready (and hanging in your closet). Shirt should not be starched, no crinkly materials. Avoid wearing new jeans (soft, worn ones are great!), and of course, no corduroy. Dress like a professional. That no longer necessarily means jacket and tie or the female equivalent, but it does mean you should look like you care — about yourself, your client, and the job. Business casual is safe. If in doubt as to a new client’s sensibilities, err on the conservative side.
Squeakless, soft-soled shoes. Clean socks, too, especially if it’s a double … you never know when the director or engineer might suggest removing your shoes.
Wallet/purse. Including a bit of cash and credit card, possibly for lunch or something you’ve forgotten.
Lip balm. Check to be sure it’s intact, not stuck in the cap. (And for that matter that it’s what you expect – we’ve seen a different type of product that comes in an applicator that looks exactly like ChapStick’s. The product? A wart remover!)
Phone charger cord, spare battery, etc. Whatever you always find yourself wishing you had.
3-way AC outlet adapter. How many times have you wanted to charge something but there weren’t enough outlets? (If you’re doing the recording in a motel room, add an extension cord, but that’s a different list.)
Transportation. If using mass transit, buy your train ticket and/or subway pass ahead of time, or have exact bus fare, and stick it in the bag. IMPORTANT: Check your bag monthly or so, to be sure the ticket or pass hasn’t expired. If going by car, be sure it’s gassed up.
Ponaris. This is an oil decongestant and nasal lubricant for your nostrils, possibly useful if taking a tightly sealed, air conditioned train for any distance (or an airplane).
Collapsible umbrella. So you’ll know where it is. If no rain in the forecast, take it out.
Spare car and house keys. Who hasn’t had an exit moment where these had gone missing?
Did you forget something? Don’t sweat it. Go. The last thing you need is stress. Oh, and carry your bag by the handle, not by the strap. That way, there’s even less stress on your neck.