When recording in your home, it’s common to have ambient and reflected sound problems. If so, you should consider getting a reflection filter.
Recording your projects at home is sometimes a challenging task. This fact is why you need all the help you can get. Reflection filters are handy for voice over artists using sensitive microphones that pick up unwanted sound. Since it blocks the background noise and the sound reflection, you will end up with crisper and clearer audio.
You probably have a lot of questions right now. Is a reflection filter really necessary? Does a reflection filter cost a lot of money? Maybe you should just make one yourself? Here’s a look at what you need to know about this device.
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What Is a Reflection Filter?
Try to clap your hands in an empty room. Do you hear an echo? Does it repeat itself a few times until it disappears? This is called sound reflection and it happens when soundwaves hit one surface and reflect to another until it loses energy.
You may notice reflected sound that ends up back in your microphone when you record in a makeshift studio. Although this sound is not extremely bothersome to the naked ear, highly sensitive microphones pick up this sound. So this problem makes your recording less than ideal. But when you use a reflection filter, it will block this noise and keep your sound nuisance-free.
The first models of this device used to be flat and only worked by absorbing the reflections behind the microphone. Now, there are curved designs that are more effective in getting rid of the sound reflections from all around the microphone, including the sides.
Many manufacturers even go the extra mile of shielding the back, bottom, top, and side of the microphone from sound reflections to ensure that the output is sharp and free of unwanted sound. However, this would make it hard for you to read a script because you won’t have anywhere to put it. Keep in mind that the farther you are from the reflection filter and microphone, the more your sound will be reflected.
How it works
A reflection filter preserves audio clarity. This task is accomplished by preventing unwanted sounds from behind and around your microphone to get picked up. A reflection filter acts as a physical barrier between the areas of your studio where unwanted sound can come from, and your microphone.
Your reflection filter can hold back the unwanted noise as it moves through the air and the walls. Aside from blocking these sounds from all directions, this filter is also useful in decreasing the reverberations which occur in a small recording space. The best part is, it’s very easy to carry around and set up for those who have portable studios.
So Do You Really Need It?
Every voice actor wants their talent to shine in all projects. Since you’ve spent thousands of dollars on your studio equipment, the last thing you want is to waste your effort in recording takes due to the ambient noise coming from sound waves bouncing off surfaces.
If you always work in your home studio where there is no unwanted sound, you can forego getting a reflection filter. But keep in mind that even in a well-constructed studio, other noise inside the house or building can still enter, such as those coming from cooling vents and plumbing pipes. Your microphone even picks up noise from closing doors and your housemate’s footsteps. All of these noises will adversely affect your recording. Even if you already have acoustic foams, it’s not a guarantee for seamless sound.
If you do live recording sessions on your social media, getting a reflection filter becomes a necessity since you won’t have the luxury of editing the clarity of your work before it your audience hears it.
About Your Recording Studio
It can be extremely expensive to rely on professional recording studios for your demos, audition pieces, and final outputs. This fact is why many professionals invest in their home studio to have a stable recording environment where they can repeat the quality of output whenever they desire. By having a stable recording environment, one can achieve consistency in recordings. For example, if you are working on a project on Monday, and your client requests an additional line on Thursday, both recorded sounds can match even if it was recorded during different sessions.
A recording studio ideally does not have any sound ingress or egress and minimizes any noise and unwanted sound reflections that go into the microphone.
The sound ingress refers to the external sound coming in the recording area. The only sound picked up should be your voice, not the passing cars, footsteps, or even your dog barking. On the other hand, sound egress refers to your sound bleeding to your bedroom kitchen, or living room. You don’t want to confuse your housemate when you’re recording narration for a serial killer audiobook, right?
All of the aforementioned problems become an issue because ideally, your microphone should only pick up the words you are speaking. It can be pretty overwhelming to think of all the stuff you need to get for your home studio. But if you do not have a reflection filter, you’ll face the problem of having sound reflection – your main nemesis.
Microphone Pick Up Patterns
Before you get a reflection filter, you need to be familiar with the various polar pickup patterns of your microphone since it would dictate the design of your reflection filter. Most microphones voice artists use is directional, meaning they only pick up audio better in a certain direction. There are also many microphones where you have to speak at a specific area, while some models pick up sound from everywhere.
One common microphone pick-up pattern voice over artists use is Omni in which the microphone picks up sound from all around it.
Another pattern is the Figure of 8. This device can pick up sound both from the back and front. This microphone is very beneficial if two voice artists are using a single microphone to record a conversation.
The Shotgun pattern picks up sound only from a narrow range and is great for recording artists who do commercial work. The last pickup pattern is called the Cardioid, where the microphone can only pick up sound from the front and a little bit on the side. This style has good application in voice acting since it picks up the fewest sound reflections.
Keep in mind that there are microphone models that can switch between these patterns. This tip is helpful if you want to explore different settings without buying two different products. For example, for a recording where you want to pick up room noise, you may want to try Omni, and if you want to restrict sound pickup, you can try Cardioid.
Sound Reflections You Want to Avoid
No voice actor wants sound reflections in their recording. But some reflections are worse than others. The first reflection is the most powerful. It refers the sound waves that bounce the first time, usually 20 milliseconds after the original sound. Since waves can travel as much as one foot per millisecond, it will cause problems if it bounces off something within 10 feet. The following reflections are referred to as secondary and tertiary reflections.
When the sound waves reflect directly between parallel surfaces such as opposing walls, it is called flutter echo. Since many studios have parallel walls, this can present a huge problem whenever you are recording with your microphone.
Lastly, there is the reverberant decay which is the noise left ringing in your studio after you stop talking. It is the remaining reflected sound that comes from the secondary and tertiary reflections. This effect is something you want to avoid if you don’t want to compromise sound clarity.
Factors to Consider When Getting Reflection Filters
Typically, the answer as to what kinds of reflection filter you need to use lies in your budget. This device usually ranges from $50 a couple of hundred dollars.
The setup of your recording studio would be the next factor you should consider. If you record in your home studio most of the time, you may not want to get a portable model. If you are usually on the road, a lightweight and portable model will serve you well.
Another important factor you have to remember is the noise level of your recording venue. There are reflection filter models that feature diffuser panels on its rear to both block sound from entering the mic, and diffuse the sound away from it. Meanwhile, models with a flat back panel work well for studio recording. If you love making live voice over recording sessions, the one with a diffuser panel is a better choice.
Alternatives for Filtering Sound Waves
If you decide not to get a reflection filter, don’t stress yourself. There are many ways to block off sound reflections, whether you want the sound the absorb or simply not reflect at all. For instance, any flat and hard surface will reflect the sound waves, whereas thick curtains do the opposite. Keep this in mind when setting up your studio walls.
Making your own reflection filter
If your budget does not permit a brand new reflection filter and you only have a few bucks to spend, you can make a do-it-yourself version that could work just as great for recording commercials, audiobooks, or anything else you need.
You will need acoustic foam, an old microphone stand, wireframe, chicken wires, and binding wires.
First, bend the wireframe into a U shape. Make sure it covers the sides and back of the microphone. Then, measure how much chicken wire you need to cover the U-Shaped wireframe and use a knife to cut it. Leave a minimal overlap to fold over the wireframe. Fold it neatly or else you might damage the foam.
Next, you can cut the foam before putting it in. Fill up the entire wireframe and check if there are any gaps in between. Use your binding wire to secure the frame and the foam through small u-shaped pieces. If you want it to look good, you can cover it with an old pillowcase or cloth. The last step is fitting your wireframe to your microphone stand, and you’re done.
Should You Invest in a Reflection Filter?
A reflection filter is a worthy investment if you want the best quality for your sound. Although it’s not a cure-all for sound reflection issues, it’s a good device to start with. If you’re not satisfied with its performance, you can move forward with other ways of mitigating sound reflection problems.