You are here

Session Notes: Recording Voiceovers At Sea

The Practical Craft Of Recording
Published March 2019
By Jason Bermingham

Rumbling engines, crashing waves, a creaking hull, live music, exuberant neighbours — unless your cruise ship is docked and most guests are on shore, it's impossible to find studio-like silence when recording at sea.Rumbling engines, crashing waves, a creaking hull, live music, exuberant neighbours — unless your cruise ship is docked and most guests are on shore, it's impossible to find studio-like silence when recording at sea.

Find out how a professional VO artist kept his business afloat during a 12‑day ocean cruise!

My wife Simone and I have been working commercially as voiceover artists for over a decade, and it's an industry where you have to be able to keep working even when on your travels. To that end, I've written in SOS about our experiences of recording commercial voiceover work in a home studio (https://sosm.ag/sos-0611-voiceover and https://sosm.ag/sos-0711-voiceover), and in hotel rooms and even cars (https://sosm.ag/sos-1217-voiceover). In fact, given that we spend so much time cooped up in the studio, we tend to jump at the chance for adventure any new gig outside the studio may offer — but the 'gig' I'll write about here promised to present more surprises than most.

We had to figure out how to keep our business running while enjoying a 12-day cruise holiday with Simone's parents Luciano and Beatriz aboard Regent's Seven Seas Explorer, an ocean liner christened in 2016 with a capacity for 750 guests. Now, this was first and foremost a holiday and we therefore planned to take on as few new jobs as possible. But we couldn't risk being unable to meet the needs of our regular clients, who expect to receive recordings at short notice. If we couldn't deliver, they'd have to look elsewhere, so we knew from the outset that we'd have to spend part of our 12-day voyage around the Iberian Peninsula in front of a microphone. The question was, with no studio, and with all the noise and motion of the sea, the ship and its passengers, how on Earth would we mange to produce professional-quality recordings? Where there's a will there's a way...

All Aboard!

Prone to seasickness? Then try to book a room mid-ship and mid-deck. The views won't rival those from the upper decks, but ambient noise and ship movement will be substantially reduced.Prone to seasickness? Then try to book a room mid-ship and mid-deck. The views won't rival those from the upper decks, but ambient noise and ship movement will be substantially reduced.Boarding the cruise ship in Portsmouth, on England's South coast, was a lot like boarding a flight — in fact, throughout the trip, I was surprised by how much modern-day seaports resemble airports. We checked our heavy luggage outside before wheeling our hand luggage through the door to a security checkpoint. When packing for air travel, I'm always careful to organise my recording gear for easy inspection. Unfortunately, I hadn't taken the same precaution for my first ocean cruise, and the boarding process was slowed down for everyone behind me when a guard at the X-ray machine asked about the electronics inside my carry-on. I had to unpack and repack my mobile studio: a Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun mic, an Apple Mac Mini computer, an Apollo Twin interface, a pair of Sennheiser HD 380 Pro headphones and several zip‑lock bags full of cords, plugs, wires and adaptors. I was also carrying two medium-length XLR microphone cables instead of one long one, figuring I could join the two for longer runs and use one as a spare if the other broke.

Cabin Location

We stayed in suite 732, which was an ideal spot for a voiceover studio on the Seven Seas Explorer. Not only was it mid-ship and mid-deck, but it was also located well away from any noisy recreational and dining areas.We stayed in suite 732, which was an ideal spot for a voiceover studio on the Seven Seas Explorer. Not only was it mid-ship and mid-deck, but it was also located well away from any noisy recreational and dining areas.Where are the quietest suites on a cruise ship? Obviously, you'll want to book a room far from the engines (on the lower decks at the rear of the ship). But you should also keep in mind less obvious noise sources. For example, cruise ships have motorised propellers (called bow thrusters) both at the stern and at the bow. Also, expect heavy foot...

You are reading one of the locked subscriber-only articles from our latest 5 issues.

You've only read 20% of this article, so to continue reading...

Option 1: Buy and download this single SOS article in Adobe PDF format

  • Buy this article now and immediately download the PDF file to your computer.
  • Single article PDFs look identical to the printed magazine layouts (but exclude advertisements).
  • Note: Some shorter articles don't always have a PDF version.

Option 2: Buy the Full Issue PDF **NEW**

  • From the January 2018 edition onwards, it is possible to buy a FULL ISSUE PDF 'replica magazine' (with adverts) for the price of a handful of single PDF articles, and instantly download it. More info...

Option 3: Buy a Digital subscription from our shopstore and open ALL web articles instantly!

  • A DIGITAL sub can be bought from our online ShopStore and used immediately. It opens ALL web articles, the tablet edition, plus Full Issue PDF download... or contact our Subs staff to discuss an upgrade price to add Digital access to your existing Print subscription.
Published March 2019