Tips and Must-Have Equipment for Online Training and Live Auditions
Like it or not, this is our new reality: online voice lessons, workshops, masterclasses, and college auditions are a thing that will be staying around for the foreseeable future. Having hosted and participated in several of these online workshops and master classes over the past few months as part of The College Audition’s Masterclass Series, I have come up with this list of tips and must-haves to prepare you for your upcoming online events, from single-day workshops to summer programs, and ultimately your upcoming college and theatre auditions. For your convenience I have included links to purchase these items on Amazon.
Please note, these recommendations are for events that you will attend live online, and not for pre-recorded auditions/pre-screens. Stay-tuned for an upcoming blog post about preparing for your prescreen auditions.
Set yourself up for success.
The first thing you need to do to get the most out of your online training is to make sure that you prepare yourself physically and mentally the same way you would prepare yourself for in-person training. In many cases, you are investing a great deal of money in your online training, so it’s important to make sure that you are giving your online training the same respect and attention you would face-to-face training.
Don’t roll out of bed and log in to your online workshop. Shower. Do your hair. If you normally wear make-up, do your your makeup. Wear your audition clothes. I suggest this not only so you look good on camera, but because doing so will put you in the right head space for a lesson or workshop.
Be sure your internet connection is stable.
Remember this: WiFi is not reliable when you’re doing online training. It is best to hard-wire your computer directly to your router. This means that using mobile devices for your online training is not the best option. There’s nothing more frustrating for the student or the teacher than having your video feed “freeze” right in the middle of a performances or instruction. A desktop or laptop computer, hardwired to your router is the best way to reduce the risk of freezing or dropping your internet connection. Get yourself a good Cat6 high speed ethernet cable to connect your computer directly to your internet connection, like this one. There are options for short different sizes, up to 100 feet.
Find a spot in your home conducive to learning.
First, I want to get this out of the way. As an educator who has worked with students for 16 years, I want you to know this: I don’t want to see the inside of your bedroom. I don’t want to see your unmade bed, I don’t want to see your dirty laundry on the floor, and I don’t want to see the stuff on your dresser.
Find a spot in your home where you can sit at a desk or table for the workshop, with enough space for you to stand when you’re singing or doing your monologue. For a dance workshop, you may need to find a larger space in your home (or outside!) for movement. In most cases, a space the size of a 5’x8′ carpet is enough space for online dance classes. The instructor should let you know if they need you to be prepared with a larger space.
It’s important that wherever you choose in your home is a place that is free of distractions, both for you and the other people who will be attending the workshop. Find a place where pets and other people in your home won’t be walking on camera repeatedly as it will draw attention to you while others are speaking or performing, or even worse, distract you while you are performing. The easiest way to accomplish this is to get yourself a a pop-up curtain background. This way, if the only place in your home is your bedroom, we won’t have to look at your dirty laundry or unmade bed.
Here’s what I suggest for a background:
Make sure they can see you clearly.
Be sure the brightest source of light is in front of you. Since no artificial light source in your home will be brighter than the sun, make sure that there are no windows behind you. Natural light is best, so facing a bright window will provide you the best lighting. To ensure you always have the best lighting, I suggest a ring light (good), a pair of video lights (better), or both (best). If cost is a concern, a ring light is totally fine. This ring light even includes a stand for your cell phone! Here are my recommendations:
In most all cases, the camera built-in to your computer is fine for live lessons, workshops, or master classes. If your camera is less-than-crystal clear, and you have a live online audition, I highly suggest you use an external webcam to make sure you have the clearest picture possible. Remember, these recommendations are for LIVE events online. There will be an additional blog post coming soon about an at-home set up for recorded auditions, and college pre-screens. Here is the webcam I suggest:
Make sure they can hear you clearly.
The built-in microphone on your computer is usually not adequate, especially if you’re going to be singing or performing a particularly loud microphone. Internal mics tend to “max out” and your singing will either cut out completely, or become distorted to the person or people watching you on the other side of the screen. Here are three microphones, at different price points, that I suggest.
When needing to play back accompaniment tracks, do not use the same device that you are using to connect to Zoom (or whichever video conferencing platform is being used). I suggest having another mobile device (a phone or iPad) connected to a speaker. As with your internet connection, I suggest hardwiring your device to your speaker so you don’t have to worry about bluetooth connectivity issues. Also, connecting to a speaker will allow you to have better balance between the track and your voice. Be sure the the speaker is behind you, so that you (and your voice) is the closest thing to the microphone. Here are some great speaker options, at three different price points.
Incidentally, having a portable Bluetooth speaker is a great tool for your audition toolbox once the world re-opens.
Bare bones set up.
Please don’t think for one minute that I’m suggesting you can’t have a successful online masterclass, lesson, or audition if you don’t have these things. These are only my suggestions after witnessing online training for the past several months, as well as hearing feedback from both students and teachers. As long as you have the three basics covered, you will be fine. Just make sure they can see you and hear you clearly, without interruption, and you’ll be set up for success.