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The Business of Show Biz: Updating My Technology

Wednesday, August 5, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rotimi Agabiaka
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by Velina Brown


Q: Can you advise about what equipment, apps, etc. an actor should have these days to be ready for opportunities in the current COVID-19 situation? I’m an older actor and feel a little out of it and anxious when it comes to the tech stuff. I’ve never had to be tech savvy until now. It’s time for me to catch up. What do I need?


Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.

A:  To be honest, I totally ride on the coattails of my husband when it comes to just about anything technology related. I also have a teenaged son who has helped me many times, particularly with editing video.

Now that I’m directing the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s radio/podcast series I’m having to deal with this question all the time. Fortunately, I’ve been able to turn to my comrades, audio engineer and sound designer Taylor Gonzalez and his assistant Keith Acuragi, to make sure the actors in the series are set up properly.

I asked Acuragi if he would tell me his checklist for onboarding actors for our project. He generously shared the following questions he asks each actor to determine whether they are ready for recording day:

  1. Do you have an external USB or XLR microphone? Which one? Headphone microphones tend to be insufficient.
  2. What model of microphone do you have?  Some examples are the Samson Go Mic (inexpensive, small enough to fold up and stick in your pocket) or the Blue Snowball iCE condenser microphone. There are costlier models with more features, such as the Blue Yeti USB microphone, which has 4 pickup patterns and mic gain control.
  3. Do you have a decent mic stand, preferably with a boom arm that allows you to move your mike to a comfortable position?
  4. Do you have a pop filter/wind screen to minimize the popping sound when you use plosive sounds like “p” and “t”.
  5. How does your microphone get data to the computer? Does it just plug in like a USB? Then you are using a USB microphone. If you are using an XLR microphone, you will need to find a way to connect the microphone to the computer, since almost no computer comes with an XLR port. If so, what is the make and model of the interface? A small mixer, like the Behringer Xenyx Q502USB, will likely suffice for your needs.
  6. Do you have working headphones that you can plug in during the recording? Your earbuds probably aren’t good enough. Good headphones are critical so that you are not recording other actors’ voices over speakers. 
  7. Do you use a PC or a Mac? iPads and phones do not meet our requirements. You must be on a computer. 
  8. Do you normally record audio on Audacity, Garage Band, or some other software? If not, you will need to download Audacity from Audacityteam.org . It’s my preferred program. It's free, open-source sound recording software developed by volunteers, and most audio engineers will likely not balk at you using it. There are some good tutorials on YouTube to help you get started with Audacity.  However, if GarageBand is what you’re most comfortable with, we can make that work. 
  9. Finally, do you have a quiet room, free from even low noise, where you can record? We will need to listen to hear if there is an echo in the room or other ambient noise. You might not realize how much background noise there is in a given room, but your microphone will pick it all up. Typically, having your windows open or being too close to a computer fan or other appliances will cause background noise. This can ruin your takes.

I’d like to add to Acuragi’s list that if you have space to create a dedicated recording area, putting up some acoustic panels would be helpful. If you don’t have a dedicated recording space, you can use a portable isolation shield. You can place the shield on a tripod stand if you’ll be standing while recording. If you’ll be sitting, use a portable shield that can be placed on your desk. My husband bought us a small shield that has greatly helped our sound. And it can be folded up and put away when not in use.

If you would like to have someone to take a look at what you currently have and talk you through updating your tech setup, you can take a Zoom workshop that is being offered by Voice One. The workshop, called Home VO Studio Setup, takes place on Monday, August 17th from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

I give this advise to you as I give it to myself: Be kind and patient with yourself as you learn new skills and face tech anxiety. Breathe. You can do it.


Velina Brown  is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at velina@businessofshowbiz.com