Voice Over Education Blog

Voiceover

Advanced Mythbusting 201. So you don’t bust your butt in the wrong direction.


When myths in our industry are discussed, the misunderstandings are usually those held by VO wannabe’s. In other words, Mythbusting 101. For example, “you need a deep voice” or “you’ll make a lot of money really easy.” Edge Studio students (and readers/users of our website) are quickly set straight about such things, right from our Introduction to Voice Over classes. (We don’t accept everyone, and among those we do accept, we want our students to be realistic in their aims and expectations.)

But some major myths still lurk among experienced VO pros. Here are some of them, of interest to voice over professionals and students alike. Think of it as Mythbusting 201.

“It’s all about acting.” Yes and no. What makes this interesting is that the statement is a valid response to “you need a deep voice.” What most clients and agents seek is real voices, from people who can relax and express genuine (and relevant) emotion while talking into a metal tube. That’s acting. But success in a voice over job – and especially in winning auditions – is not ALL about acting. There are also various practical technical techniques that help make a performance effective and distinguish itself from the friendly competition. Our Chief Edge Officer David Goldberg often surprises even established voice actors with observations about things such as pausing, sibilance, timing, etc. -- small changes in technique that, once you’re aware of them, can make your acting a whole lot more impressive to voice over casting people.

The Long-Practiced Practice of Dubbing


“Dubbing” is one of the oldest voice over genres. We all know dubbing from when a film crosses linguistic boundaries. It’s the alternative to subtitles. If the actors originally spoke English, the film might be dubbed into German, or Japanese, or Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Or vice versa.

But more broadly defined, the genre includes any situation where the voice talent is putting words in someone’s (or something’s) mouth after-the-fact, in a way that makes it appear the voice is actually coming from the on-screen character.

It might be to replace another actor’s voice, or it might be to replace their own voice. (For example, if conditions on the set were too noisy). It could be a talking-dog video, or a commercial where the on-camera model needs a different sort of voice or accent. This specialized voice over field has come to include all sorts of situations. The one thing it doesn’t include is Animation (a genre unto itself) because in animation the voices are often recorded before the characters are drawn. But there are many times where Animation is produced the other way around, and functionally, that sort of work is Dubbing, too.

We’ve said it’s a specialized field because it typically requires special skills and even special studio equipment. And it’s evolved over a long, long time.

You’d think that dubbing and dubbing technology would date all the way back to the invention of moving-picture technology itself. But first, whether the sound was to be recorded live or added later, the industry had to solve the problem of synchronization.

People did begin working on it right away, but practical synchronized sound didn’t emerge until 1926. Meanwhile, at first a live narrator explained the screen action, later replaced by on-screen text (“titles”).

How many types of Narration can you name?


The average person who knows what “voice over” means (and right off, that’s a small percentage of the population), after learning there are various “genres,” would guess there are maybe half a dozen genres. Actually, depending on how genres are subdivided, we count 26, or if you count some major sub-genres, as many as 30.

To wit:

Animation • Announcements • Audiobook • Biography • Character • Commercials • Corporate • Documentary • eLearning & Education • Exercise • Government • Imaging • Infomercial • Inspiration, Relaxation • Internet Audio • Kids • Medical & Pharmaceutical • Non-Profit • Podcast • Political • Promo & Trailer • Public Service Announcement (PSA) • Telephony • Tours • Travelogue • Video Games

Of these, Animation, Commercials and Audiobooks are very popular. But Animation isn’t always an entry-level field, Audiobooks require a special set of skills and capabilities, and Commercials is only 5% of the VO business.

What’s the largest genre? Narration, by far. In fact, Narration comprises 92% of our industry’s voicing jobs. Not only does it include a wide variety of obvious subgenres, it’s the catch-all for just about any type of voice-over that doesn’t fit elsewhere.

Here are just some of the various types of Narration. You’ll note that many of them cross over into other, more specific genres. However, none of these would be out of place on your Narration demo, if you’re very good at them.

1. TV/Video documentary (history, nature, travelogues, cinema verité, sports films, etc.)

2. Voice-mail and telephone automation systems. Although Telephony is a distinct and growing genre for obvious reason, many people lump it in with narration. Other forms of computerized audio, too. Either of these includes long announcements (e.g., on-hold promotional messages) and short phrases that are concatenated by computer, possibly based on user voice or touchpad input.

Be A Demo Cannibal! by J. Michael Collins


Pay to Play sites like Voices.com & Voice123.com are an essential part of almost any voice actor’s marketing plan. And like anything new, most people find they take some getting used to. You’ve already worked methodically to develop your talent and build your studio. Here’s a guide to Pay to Play, so you don’t have to learn it through the frustration of trial-and-error.
The online marketplace is hugely competitive, and talents who prepare themselves properly for it have a huge advantage. Don’t believe the naysayers ... people MAKE REAL MONEY from these sites, but only if they know the secrets of how to use them.

Here’s something a lot of people don’t know about P2P sites: 30-40% of the work being booked from these sites never makes it to a public audition.

What do I mean? Try using the search-talent feature on Voices.com or Voice123. Many voice seekers at these sites search demo categories or keywords. They then listen to a dozen or two demos, and send private invitations to the talents they like best. Sometimes 50 people are invited, but most of the time those private invitations go to no more than a dozen hand-selected people. Each of those talents suddenly has a far better chance of booking that job than they would in a public open call.

Often, I’ll get a private invitation where I am the only invited talent, which is almost a guaranteed job, and a chance to max out the voice seeker’s budget.

BUT ... if you have only one demo, listed in only one category, good luck getting found through a category search. If your demos aren’t tagged with keywords, (especially on Voices.com), you’re invisible when someone seeks a voice by clicking the word “Friendly.”

So make sure you have as many quality demos as possible on your profile, slotted into the appropriate categories, and tagged with good keywords.

Some Classic “Fake” Accents in Film and Television


Do you agree? Disagree?

1. Hugh Laurie plays Gregory House on “House,” an American doctor. Though he was born in Oxford, England, he was able to fool everyone during his audition and ultimately landed the role.

2. Who can forget the beautiful film “Shakespeare in Love?” American Gwyneth Paltrow portrayed the character Viola de Lesseps and ended up winning an Academy Award for her British accent in the film.

3. In the movie musical “Chicago,” Catherine Zeta-Jones played Velma Kelly, an American woman who is in prison for the murder of her husband and sister. When you hear her thick Welsh accent in real life, it is hard to believe how she pulled off an American so successfully.

4. Sacha Baron Cohen is known for his crazy accents, most recently seen in “Les Miserables” as Monsieur Thenardier. In my opinion though, his most beloved role was Borat, as he was able to maintain a consistent ‘Kazakstani’ accent in the film.

5. Remember the remake of “The Parent Trap” with Lindsay Lohan? Not only did she have a pretty believable British accent for a child, but she was able to switch back and forth seamlessly.

6. Though Daniel Dae Kim plays a Korean man with barely any knowledge of English on “Lost,” in real life he has a normal American accent. While he was born in Korea, he moved to Pennsylvania at the age of two.

7. Did you know that Health Ledger was actually Australian? You would never know from any of his films, as he immersed himself completely in his roles. Some say his most impressive film accent was in “Brokeback Mountain,” when he effectively played a cowboy.

3 Ways to Improve Your Voice Over Career in the New Year


Hi, I'm Kendra Baker, an educational consultant at Edge. My role is helping people break-in the voice-over industry and expand their careers. One of my favorite ways to do this is by devoting much of my time to our Weekly Script Recording Contest, Feedback Forum, and Checkups.

Consistently, I've seen newcomers go from 0 to 60 by uploading home-studio recordings to these three resources on our website and following the suggestions they receive. That is why we devote such a large portion of our website to the Free Career Center . We really want you to get better, and practicing with these resources is a great way to do so.

The New Year is upon us and this is a time when many plan on how to better themselves in the coming year. Vow to make yourself a better voice talent. Just create a schedule (even as simple as setting aside 15-minutes three times a week) and stick to it!!!

Here is how I've seen people get better with these three resources:

Feedback Forum : This is a really cool resource, and it's free!!! You just upload a practice recording to our site and then you receive insightful, candid peer reviews and suggestions. It's amazing how much better people sound after they use the forum!

Weekly Script Recording Contest : Every week, we run a new script reading contest. It's free and there are even prizes! But more important is how much everyone learns. At the end of each contest we select winners and we post an article telling you why the winners won. We also post an article telling you what the common errors were that we heard among all the entrants. This article is like a free training session every week!

Why Are You Still Waiting To Explore Voice Over?


People who fail to investigate a career opportunity often lose out on a lot of self-satisfaction. That can be even more costly than not making the money the opportunity might offer.

If you’re still waiting to investigate voice over, why? You’ll never know the opportunities if you don’t look into it. And if you carry that burden too long, you’ll kick yourself when you finally do determine – maybe years from now? – that a voice over career has been (or not been) in the cards for you all along.

So, here are some reasons why people procrastinate, and ways to get beyond these excuses. Rather than having you kick yourself later, hopefully our little kick-in-the-butt will propel you into a wonderful new career!

I’m not sure I’m right for it.

  • Most people, even trained actors, aren’t great voice over artists right out of the box. (Or rather, right into the booth.) The profession requires a marketable voice, training, knowledge of the industry, and more. But let’s start with the question of your voice. Do you have it? Find out. Save yourself the anguish of wondering. Learn more.

I’m shy, nervous about performing.

  • Surprise! Even among actors, nerves are not unusual. Working with a good coach can help you get past it. And surprise again: In voice over, most work is done solo – just you and the mic! Learn more.

I can’t pursue a program because I’m always away.

Voice Over Client Pet Peeves


Knowing what NOT to do (and not doing it) can increase your chance of being the star. We polled many of the top creative teams, and asked what pet-peeves they had with voice over artists.

  • The most common pet peeve was about voice over artists who try to do jobs other than their own. For example, they tell the producer how the script should be read, they tell the scriptwriter that the script has grammatical errors, etc.
  • Many creative teams were bothered by voice over artists who did not invoice their services correctly. For example, they took too long to send an invoice, social security or business IDs were not on the invoice, invoices were handwritten, etc.
  • Another common pet peeve was that the voice over artist does not see the ―big picture‖ and therefore does not read accordingly. For example, if the script is for a documentary, the voice over artist may read too quickly, forgetting that the final product will be accompanied by a visual and therefore should be read slower, so that the viewer can assimilate the video and the audio.
  • Often, producers complained about voice over artists not giving it their all, and losing energy and concentration throughout the recording process.
  • Many creative teams also noted having problems with voice over artists not following direction or just taking too long to ―get it.‖
  • Producers often noted disliking when they need to tell the voice over artist how to do their job. For instance, the voice over artist would not know what to do if they had ―dry mouth‖, or they would not know how to emphasize a word correctly, etc.
  • Finally, a large complaint was voice over artists who think they know everything.

Would you record a voice-over for a Product, Service, or Candidate that you didn't believe in?


Recapping our TalkTime! phone conversation of June 24, 2012.

As a professional voice actor, you sometimes encounter jobs you would rather not do for personal or ethical reasons. But if you turn them down, you will lose income and you might miss out on future work from that client. Should you accept these assignments?

That’s the question we asked new and pro voice actors, in our TalkTime! tele-conversation.

Hypothetical case-in-point: Suppose a computer tech-help company wants you to record a phone tree system. Sounds like a great job, until they tell you to read the script extra slowly because they charge callers -- by the minute.

Almost everyone has a personal boundary at some point.

Would you do it?

Given the example above, let's assume the client tells you this when they offer you the voice over job. There's time for you to reject it once you receive their questionable direction. Yet what if they spring it on you after you've accepted and stepped into the booth?

Here are some of the thought processes that arose during the discussion:

NOTE: Comments have been edited to make them succinct or clarified.

Yes, I'd do it.

8 Voice Over Diction Guidelines For Voice Actors


Diction is always important, whether the script calls for a formal delivery, informal, or something in-between. Here are some general "diction guidelines" that almost always apply.

1. "The" and "a".

Pronounce "the" with a soft "e." Pronounce "a" with a soft "a". This is how we generally say these words in everyday conversation. Unfortunately, when reading scripts, we tend to over-enunciate and, inappropriately, use hard vowels, for a variety of reasons having to do with psychology or training. Ironically, this over-enunciation is the one of the biggest indicators that we are reading.

2. Complicated words.

When first looking at a script, it is often difficult to anticipate which words you might be likely to slur. Look again, for multi-syllable words and other potential pitfalls. Remember that your voice over is often mixed with music and/or sound effects, making it more difficult to distinguish slurred words. Also remember that listeners are rarely hanging on your every word, and are easily distracted.

So ensure that your delivery is clear enough for the most casual listener to understand.

To pronounce a challenging word, break it into separate syllables and concentrate on each one, pronouncing each of them individually. For example, if "particularly" is particularly difficult to pronounce, pronounce it with a space between each syllable, like this:

par...tic...u...lar...ly

Then, connect the syllables, while still concentrating on each one individually:

particularly

3. Complicated "tongue twister" phrases.

Tongue twisters are phrases in which similar sounds are connected. They often occur because the scriptwriter focuses more on the content than on the fact that someone will have to read it.

2011 Wrap-up - PART 2


Here’s a controversial move, I’m going to briefly discuss demos. Yes, I prefer to write about the production and studio specific side of the world, but lets take it out of the comfort zone for a minute. I’ve seen a lot of these things. I’ve recorded a bunch of demo sessions, and mixed enough of them to qualify me for a lifetime achievement award at the secret ceremony each year presented by That Dude That Imitates Morgan Freeman™ and the Ghost Of Gilbert Godfried. Its a secret ceremony, don’t try to get an invitation.

Most if not all of the normal studio rules I have written about apply to recording demo’s. All beginning voice talent is going to need one, but that doesn’t mean you should sound like a beginner. Recording a demo is basically an audition for an audition. The person coaching you is a professional voice talent, who makes their living that way. The engineer recording you is a professional engineer, who also works on non demo projects. The studio in which you are recording handles a variety of sessions. How great of an opportunity is that!? How are you not so excited right now!!!!!!??? It also means, be nice to these people. Despite my curmudgeonly demeanor in these posts, I’m very pleasant and encouraging to work with. As are all of my colleagues here at the studio. They can get you work. They can also NOT get you work. That’s not a threat, but just think about it. And if a horse head shows up somewhere, don’t look at me. (I guess it would be half a pop filter or one ear of headphones in this case)

2011 Wrap-up - PART 1


Well kids, its the end of the year and things are quiet. We did our year end roundup, and while I could write out my top 5 pork products I’ve eaten this year, I won’t. And its not because I don’t like you, it’s because I want to keep those spots uncrowded. So here are a few ideas I find to be very important.

Stop using PC’s. They’re not good for you. I’m aware that this is America and you have freedom of choice, but it will leave to a lifetime of heartache. You know how many problems we’ve had with the Mac’s in our studios? Not many. And nearly all were caused by someone spilling apple juice on them. No computer is apple juice proof. Every real studio in the world uses a mac. Do an independent survey, go ahead. There’s a reason.

Yes, I know you’re scared and it’s more expensive. You have to think long term here. PC’s slow down rapidly. They get filled up with spyware. Macs do not. The user experience is just so much better. Its all about drag and drop. So please, when you call me up and tell me you have a problem with Audacity on your PC and your inexpensive mic plug or whatever endorsed by well known VO talent, and I laugh a little bit, don’t be surprised, mmkay? Overall, investing in equipment that is worthwhile will save you money in the long run. This holds true for computers, mics, pre amps, guitars, shoes, drums, unicorns, pretty much anything. A little repair cost is way less than having to replace junk later.

These words hold up, I give you that guarantee. No one returns from the cult of mac. Not one person. There is scientific evidence, it just doesn’t happen. Its all about improving your own workflow, and this is the first step. Today is the first day of the rest of your life....and other well worn sayings. Go for it! I’m still not telling you my top 5 pork dishes.

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