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Who's this organized for a working VO vacation? Author Mandy Nelson's goal was to pack just one carry-on bag for her clothes and recording gear. And it worked!
Studio On The Go: Packing
For The Perfect 'Worktation'
By Mandy Nelson
Voice Actor

Recently I was on a mission. I took my first ever 'Workation.'
In the past I would contact my clients and say that Iíd be away for a week. They would tell me to enjoy myself, then send me a mountain of work that needed to be done before I quite possibly died while I was away.
Inevitably, when I returned, because I hadn't died yet, there would be more work to do because they rushed scripts and hadnít worded something right or left something out.
Well, this time I wasnít having any more of that. So I bought myself the pretty and stylish Micport Pro preamp. Then I packed the following gear into my carry-on bag and hit the road ...
  • Microphone: my trusted, tried and true pal, Shure SM58. Seriously, donít laugh.
  • Laptop: Toshiba with quirky Vista, Adobe Audition and Sony Sound Forge. I made sure my batch commands are all transferred to the laptop from my studio PC, and that Quickbooks was backed up and updated for invoicing purposes.
  • Centrance Micport Pro, on it's first mission to help me keep my clients happy. I just love another excuse to buy audio gear.
  • Portable vocal booth, which consists of one collapsible crate a la Target, in a not-at-all-lovely shade of bluish, as well as egg crate foam.
  • The most beautiful desktop mic stand I have ever laid eyes on - at least until the next version.
  • Cans: my much loved Sonyís, which have seen better days. They shed more than my dog.
  • A bright yellow pop filter.
  • My clothing, squished all to heckiehighho in a space bag (bathing suits, one dress, one pair of shorts, tank top, and one set of running/yoga clothing. Iím not going to mention the unmentionables).
The deal here was to go to Hawaii and back with one bag.
(Side note: I did check an extra duffle, but that was filled with my running sneakers and hand-me-downs for my newborn niece, who I was visiting. It returned with ukuleles for my little girls and the running sneakers. I was hoping the sneakers would get lost either coming or going so I could stop pretending to run.)

I also brought a D80 camera for making memories
The foam for the portable studio is condensed in a space bag, as is the clothing.
The portable booth collapsed perfectly and just fit its 14 inches into the suitcase.
The headphones are in their original bag, which looks beautiful considering it hasn't seen the light of day in 10 years.
The Micport Pro comes with its own plush bag so it sits in there. I had to keep peeking at it because it's so, well, sexy.

The microphone is in its own bag as well, perhaps not the original Shure bag, but it still says Shure on the side so let us just pretend.
And the cord that plugs the Micport Pro into the computer is snuggled right up in there with the mic.

And then there is the mic stand. Woohooo. Let's just call this the Dandysound mic stand and patent it already.
Dan, my partner in all things, took our standard desktop stand and dismantled it. He kept only the goose neck and the clip. By removing the base he also removed about .04 tons from my bag.
He then shaved down a wine cork and plugged it into the hollow base of the gooseneck.
In his infinite wisdom, while in the basement trying to decide what piece of wood could be cobbled into a base, Dan decided to start with a paint stirrer - the free kind that the paint store gives you when you buy, well, paint.
He broke it in half, layered the two pieces, and screwed through those and into the cork with a screw that could probably hold up my entire house. The man doesn't mess around.
He did include an extra piece of shaved cork for me to pack in case I need it. Sigh, he's so good.
The one thing he didn't do was file down the split edges of the paint stirrer, but never fear, I didnít put it anywhere near my bathing suits (eeep, wouldn't want snagging now, would we?) and I'm sure that, if it mattered, I could file it down with a nail file.
As you can see in the photo below, the pieces of wood went from being parallel in packing to forming an X. Nice, huh? Oh yeah.
This initial set-up made it tough to read copy on the screen while speaking into the mic. Easier: the left panel of foam was removed.

Once I had everything set up I had to really experiment to get the best sound in that room and in the dog-centric environment.
Trying to read off the computer gave me a headache since my mouth was pointed at the mic on the right and my eyes were looking off to the left. No good.
And if the computer was too close, then the fan added just enough noise to make me unhappy with the audio quality.
In the end, I removed the left panel of foam and placed it outside the box, extending it out toward me a little. I also put more room between the computer and the box and used my Blackberry to read the scripts.
When pulling up the file there would be digital interference, but other than that, nothing but silence. Golden.
The quality of the sound was not as great as from my home studio vocal booth. However, if I hadnít told a few clients when I emailed them that I was sitting in Hawaii and not in Central Massachusetts, they never would have known.
Every client who got files from me was happy and told me I could stay down there for as long as I wanted as long as my response time and files were as great as what they got in those five days.
My husband and kids, who were back in MA, would not have been happy, however. So, Iím back in my studio and looking forward to the next time I get a workation!
Mandy Nelson is a very active voice actor, who with audio engineer/husband Dan operate Dandysound. Based in the Boston, Mass. area, they serve many regional and national voice-over clients, including Travelocity, Sony and Cox Communications.


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Comments (1)
Roxanne Hernandez
6/14/2010 at 2:35 PM
Great article, Mandy. I'm printing it out so I can keep it handy as I put my kit together. Look out world--I'm taking my show on the road!!
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