15, 30, 60,... The Art of Voice-Over Timing

Every voice over artist can benefit from being skillful at timing: It reduces the number of takes required, it impresses clients, and you can use it in your marketing (e.g., "Hi, casting professional, if you need voice talent who has killer timing, your search is over!").

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With enough practice, you develop an internal clock that tells you very closely when, say, 30 seconds is up.

Try it. Begin by listening to recorded passages and guessing how long it was. Use a stopwatch to check yourself.  (Reminder: your wristwatch and cellphone probably have a stopwatch function.)

Those long blocks of commercials on TV are suddenly useful to you!  You can also listen to recent recordings submitted at our script library.

Be sure to guess at small phrases first, then longer passages from documentaries and audiobooks, for example.

Next, once you're able to judge pretty well, record yourself, listen back, and see how you did. Gradually increase the length of your passage.  Practice reading from our selection of practice scripts, till you develop that sense of time. Our 3,500+ scripts include various lengths.

Learn to approximate NOT ONLY the entire voice-over performance, but also the space between spoken passages. So if at a recording session your client requests, "Give me an extra second between these two sentences," you can do it.

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Suppose your client requests a passage to be 30 seconds in length, but your time is off.  Practice the following solutions, so that you can put them to work for you:

1) Elongate or shorten some of the words.

Read the following at different speeds. Your reading can range between 1.5 seconds and 3 seconds long.

"You know that tired feeling you get?"

2) Adjust the pauses between phrases and sentences.

A 60-second spot may offer a couple dozen logical opportunities to pause. Pausing at all of them may test the listener's interest, but adding just a quarter-second second at half of them adds 3 seconds to your read! Sure, the engineer could add pauses somewhere, but why make work when you can be the judge?

Don't vary the space between words, except in lists. Even slight gaps will sound choppy.

Practice reading the following example with different spacing between the listed items. It can easily range from 7 to 10 seconds.

"Simpson Plumbing Corporation has pipes, fittings, bathroom fixtures, ventilators, tile, tubs, and shower doors."

3) Include or omit dramatic pauses.

This is like the tip above, except that the pause is dramatic, and by that we simply mean that it's noticeable. Practice the following with different amounts of dramatic pause, without significantly varying the speed of the words or other space between phrases. Your read will range between 4.5 and 6.5 seconds.

"Simpson Plumbing Corporation -- where nothing goes down the drain unless you want it to."


IMPORTANT: as you use these methods, don't forget to adhere to the rest of what you know about good voice-over technique.


As you probably know, the engineer can speed up your performance or slow it down digitally... but doing it too much begins to sound unnatural.  And, more importantly, if you understand the opportunities and limitations that this skill affords you, you can take advantage of them in your performance. So it pays to practice, and always be aware.

It will also help make producers aware that you're truly a pro.


Want help honing this skill? Call us at 888-321-Edge or email training@edgestudio.com.

September 1, 2010
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Better your skills being able to vary your timing.
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Voice over, delivery, timing, skills

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