I just spent the last 4 days in a sound booth recording phone prompts for Comcast Digital Voice. It’s rare that I spend 4 straight days in a sound booth and I learned a few things about myself, and about sound, that I never before considered. If you’ve never been in a sound booth before, you’re going to have a hard time understanding how differently it sounds in there. Let me paint a picture for you: first, go into your bathroom. This is roughly the size of the average vocal sound booth. Now say the following: “To record a personal greeting, say ‘record’. Or say ‘cancel’ to return to the personal options menu.” Hear how your voice kind of bounces off the walls with a little echo? Now get into bed and cover yourself up with blankets and repeat the line. Notice how the sound of your voice is more immediate and doesn’t travel as far? Take that and multiply it times 100. That’s what it sounds like to be in a sound booth.
Now to replicate the sound of headphones: take your left hand and cup it around the left half of your mouth. Take your right hand and cup it around your right ear. The palms of your hands should be facing each other. Say the line again. Hear how your voice sounds louder?
Okay, so now you have a reasonable idea of what it sounds like to be wearing headphones and speaking in a sound booth. Keep in mind that there is no air conditioning in sound booths (the fan noise would bleed into the recording) so it’s roasting in there. I always go in to a recording session with a bottle of water and an apple. (Think of the apple as a palate cleanser that helps you speak more clearly.)
Over 4 days, at 3 hours for each recording session, I averaged about 300+ voice prompts per session. I had to say the same line over and over and over again. Words start to sound really weird after you’ve said them 10 times in a row. Like, the word “temporary”. Just say it slowly, ten times in a row. Or “urgent”. Sure, you say it once, it sounds fine. Say it for 3 hours and pretty soon, you CAN’T say it normally anymore.
So there I am, trying to sound friendly and professional, soothing and informative, saying words that have lost their meaning because I’ve said them so much, when I run into my first problem that I never thought of before. I’d eaten about half my apple when all of a sudden I had to burp. I tried to mask it as well as I could but I still heard it a little in my headphones. Which means the audio engineer and producer HAD to have heard it. They gave no indication that they did and we moved on. But then I became hyper-aware of everything coming through my headphones! I took a bite of apple and it sounded like a horse chewing away in my ears! Seriously, do the trick I showed you with your hands and then take a bite of apple. Isn’t that ridiculously loud?? No wait, it gets worse! (This is all the same day, btw, the first day.) So, as girls, we don’t usually talk about this, but for the purposes of sharing my pain, I will. So I’ve burped, I’ve chewed loudly, and then, horror of horrors, I felt, well, uh… yeah, uh… oh, I’ll just say it: gas. Yes, I needed to *toot*. There is nowhere in the sound booth that I could toot discreetly!! Even if I asked to step outside the booth, I’m just stepping into the engineering area! Again, I did my best to mask it, and hopefully I was successful ’cause no one said anything. But seriously, a sound booth is NOT the place to hide bodily functions!! The mic amplifies everything! All of this on Day One!
Day Two goes by without incident but then, on Day Three, my most obvious bodily betrayal occurs. Day One and Two were afternoon sessions but Day Three started at 10:00am. I didn’t eat breakfast before going in because food can make your throat all gummy. I drank some herbal mint tea, lots of water, and had an apple for brekke and brought another apple for the session. We’re about halfway through the session and I’m literally in the middle of one of the voice prompts when I hear, “geeeeeerrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhwwwwwwwwwwllllllllllllll.” Oh God. What can you do but start laughing? I’m cracking up and I ask if the engineer and producer heard my stomach growling. They’re both laughing; they said it was so loud they thought it was one of their stomachs! How embarrassing! Luckily, they laughed it off and we continued the session. Once we were done recording, I inhaled a ham and cheese croissant!
I actually really enjoyed my time in the sound booth these past four days. I learned a lot (and not just about my bodily functions) and I think I made a good impression on both the engineer and producer. The three of us share a similar humor which made the work go by quickly. The producer was really happy with how much we accomplished in our 4 days together which is important when recording close to 1000 phone prompts! I might have some more work from this client in September, and if you know anyone with Comcast Digital Voice service, ask to listen to their mailbox options in about 2-3 months. You might hear my voice!