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Barcelona Voice Adventures: A Malaysian Voice Actor Abroad

Updated: Jan 28

Last year marked the realization of my decade-long dream: to live and study in Barcelona.


During my uni years, I minored in Spanish and had planned to study a year in Madrid as part of an Erasmus program. But it fell through. Numerous trips to the Spanish embassy in London and visa application complications set me back and I ultimately gave up. To make up for that, I traveled around Spain for 2 weeks and that's when I fell in love with Barcelona. Ever since, it's been a dream to return and stay for a longer time.


Sam standing on the rooftop of Casa Batlló
Summer of 2014, Casa Batlló

Fast forward 7 years, after resigning from my job in Singapore, I once again planned my long-awaited Barcelona trip. Alas, COVID blew up, borders were closed, and I embarked on a different journey instead = my voice acting career.


As 2022 dawned, my work was finally gaining momentum. Although Barcelona wasn't a 'now or never' thing, there are always reasons to postpone our dreams. It's never the right time until you make it the right time. With that, I decided to go for 3 months despite having worries about how this will affect my career progression.


I booked Spanish classes with Speakeasy, arranged flights and accommodation, and began searching for recording studios in the Catalan capital. Sadly, a total of nine inquiries (even with follow-up emails) led to a disappointing few responses 😮‍💨.


However, I did find a singing school, Espai Coriveu (literal translation from Catalan: Space Heart and Voice) that rents out Studiobricks cabins for their students to practice singing at €11 per hour. The place is a 20-min bus ride from my apartment.


There was also a Studiobricks branch in Barcelona where they can rent you a booth (Transport and Set up: €500, monthly rental: €120, Transport back: €500, a total of €1360 for 3 months; Deposit €1000) but I wasn't sure if that would be appropriate considering I'm renting a room in an apartment.


Even with these 2 options, I still needed a proper studio for important recordings and live-directed sessions.


Lucky me. On the second day in Barcelona, I stumbled upon Here Comes The Sound (HCT Sound for short) on Google Maps. The founder, Toni Torres, warmly responded to my email. The studio is a mere 7-min walk and is located on the basement level. It has a vintage-Japanese-Spanish vibe with a few well-treated recording rooms varying in size. The per-hour rate is €50 (common in Barcelona), but I was given a discounted rate of €25 since I had my own equipment and only needed the space without the assistance of an audio engineer.


Over the subsequent weeks, I balanced my four-hour daily Spanish classes with testing 2 recording spaces: the Studiobrick booth at Espai Coriveu and HCT Sound.


Setup from inside the Studiobrick booth

While the former was cheaper, it was inconvenient:

  • Each time, I had to bring all my equipment

  • Each time, I had to set up the chair, makeshift tables derived from script stands for my laptop and audio interface, microphone on mic stand, cables etc

  • There is no suitable area to use my mouse, making it difficult to edit audio

  • Renting only in the morning and when someone was there to open the door

  • Outside audio bleeding into my recordings


I've heard good things about Studiobrick booths, but they didn't quite meet my needs. I could hear murmurs of the staff's normal volume conversations which got louder with laughter, and the audible sound of the main door opening and closing. Nothing wrong with them laughing, obviously, but it shows that the booth isn't THAT soundproof.


Acoustically, it worked well for narrations, but I had reservations about doing character work that required loud reads and effort sounds. The glass panel between me and the staff made me uneasy too, knowing they could observe my every expression. After a week or two, I decided it wasn't the ideal fit for me. It's worth noting that the staff were generally friendly.


Workstation for 10 weeks in HCTSound

On the flip side, even though HCT Sound was more expensive (as it should), it was the better option:

  • Close proximity -> 7-min walk

  • Flexible rental timings -> till 11pm and on weekends

  • Readily available equipment: tables, chairs, mic boom arm

  • I could leave my equipment there


Toni gave me a discount since I was going there 3 times a week, 1-3 hours each session. He also loaned me his microphones -- I got to test out different mics and used the AT4033a for the majority of the time.


With Toni's generosity, I witnessed a diverse array of sessions:

  • Katana-Ichi using the big room to practice for the Barcelona Matsuri festival performance (I coincidentally saw them performing live on stage a few days later)

  • Live singing competition by 3 Chinese singers on Cultures of China Water Cube Cup Chinese Song (2:51:30 timestamp)

  • Kai Kai Filu band recording new music; I helped take videos of them in session

  • A Spanish female footballer recording several lines for a football video game

  • Multiple video and audio podcasts recorded between 2-3 individuals


Dan-Bi from My Time at Sandrock, Venomess from Wayfinder, Kimberly from The Will of Arthur Flabbington
I suck at arranging. Sorry they look so awkward.

On another note, I recorded:

Video Game


Infomercial


YouTube

Escape Room poster of Haunting at Haruka High
Escape Room at Sunnyvale, California

IVR

  • TADA Singapore


Escape Room


Commercial


Plus a couple of eLearnings, internal videos, or projects that I can’t share due to NDA or it’s unpublished. But wow, only as I listed these down that I realized I did quite a bit of work.


To manage costs, I imposed a longer turn-around time for jobs. These are usually paired with one or 2 auditions, so the session was 'paid' for. I became way more selective and only auditioning strategically based on the likelihood of securing the role. To be fair, I didn't have time to do any more than that. I was in Barcelona primarily to improve my Spainsh, immerse myself in the culture, and visit Gaudi's works (Casa Vicens is my favourite).


Work-wise, my primary aim was simply to sustain work availability. If I vanished for 3 months, clients might venture elsewhere and my career progression would be 'broken'. I'll admit, before heading to Barcelona, I was scared. Even the first few days in the city, I was questioning myself, "What. Am. I. Doing. Here?"


Although I did miss out on a few local jobs that required physical presence, it was a compromise I was willing to make. On the financial front, the work I undertook during that time did help alleviate some of the associated expenses. Reflecting on my voice-over experiences in Barcelona, the amiable and hospitable Toni played a pivotal role in making the entire process delightful -- we even worked on a session together where I provided Malay dubbing for an overseas client. the only bummer was that we forgot to snap a photo together 🥲.


Beyond the work setting, here are some memorable moments:

Sam in the smoking room of Casa Vicens
Summer of 2022, Casa Vicens. This 'smoking room' is filled with papier maché tiles.
  • Dragging my luggage for 40 minutes to my apartment on the first day because there was a taxi strike

  • Seeing Castellers (human towers) in Vilafranca del Penedès

  • Visiting Gaudi's buildings and structural works

  • Attending an Alpargatas workshop (traditional shoes made out of natural fibers)

  • Joining roller skating outdoor classes and events with an Argentinian teacher

  • Meeting my university friends Aleida and Mimi

  • Witnessing someone getting robbed in broad daylight

  • Witnessing a shoplifter getting caught

  • Getting harassed in broad daylight

  • Visiting nearby towns and beaches on school trips

  • Using the Too Good To Go app to get reduced-price food



There is plenty to share but since this is technically a work blog, this is the end 🙂 Till next blog, ¡hasta luego!


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