Why Some Voice-Talent Didn't Win:
We’re scheduling a re-do. Again. (Yes, this is the third week we are searching for a winner for this contest. No one has yet provided an audition that we feel hits the mark.) We feel that everyone could stand to improve, and are confident that many will.
The REVISED re-do ground rules:
1. You may submit an entry whether or not you entered previously.
2. You must re-submit a recording. The past weeks’ entries will not be automatically considered.
3. Don’t resubmit the same recording. Please read our tips and record again.
4. Note that the following has been added to the Director’s Notes: “Base one of the characters on your natural voice.”
WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND you review the comments and Edge Studio Voice Over Tips (and the two linked articles) on the previous two weeks’ entries. (Go to Archived Contests, select the desired week and scroll down. To hear past recordings, scroll to bottom of that page, click “Click here for all entries” and wait a bit for the collection to load.)
Everybody back in the pool; we’re extending this search another week! Here are some of the reasons we didn’t pick a winner, and ways to possibly improve your read. Don’t be intimidated by the length of these comments. They’re meant to help, and not all of them apply to everyone. But you're sure to find that some apply to you.
In addition to reading the tips below, also read and heed the comments we posted last week. Here are some of the things to do and avoid.
Many people had no smile in their voice, especially when they were using a version of their natural voice. Hey, this is a kids’ toy! Kids, especially the younger ones (who relate especially strongly to imagined visual cues), will enjoy hearing you smile. EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: This tip couldn’t be simpler. Simply smile as you speak. But to help make the smile sound genuine (rather than sarcastic, for example), think, “Hey, this is fun!” If you’re genuinely having fun doing your read, not only will you smile automatically, you’ll probably extend your range of vocal options.
Many, many people read very mechanically. We’re not sure why. Maybe it’s that they think a “toy” is incapable of producing sound clearly? If so, lose that thought. This is NOT “pull-string” technology. In terms of delivery, it’s sufficient to think of this as a cartoon, website audio or radio commercial. EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: In other words, enunciate as you normally would, don’t slur your sounds, do be sure you’re understandable. But ... don’t ... speak ... haltingly. Let the your words and thoughts flow.
Many seemed uncomfortable doing a character read, as if they were holding themselves back, very self-conscious. EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: Be an actor, not a reader. That is, rather than thinking of yourself as “doing” the character, think of yourself as “being” the character. If you have to think about what the character sounds like as you are reading the take, you haven’t thought and practiced enough at becoming that character. Find a paragraph, or various paragraphs, and read them as that character. Does it work? Is it still interesting (to you, as well as the listener)? Are you getting into the character’s head? Does it feel natural and automatic? When it does, then record your take.
Many people chose to use a nasal voice that sounds like they have a horrible cold. That’s a legitimate option, but the fact that so many others have chosen it should tell you something! EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: What other options might you explore, or add? Well, for one, the Director's Notes say you're a plush animal of a species as-yet undecided. Decide what type of animal you are, and base creative choices on that.
We’re guessing that some people may not have submitted an entry because they feared not living up to our criteria. If that’s the case, give it a shot anyway -- submit a new recording. EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: Make it your best shot, and let our judges be the judge. Talent may occasionally have self-doubt as to the suitability of their performance, but ultimately it’s the client who decides if they’re pleased with the take and when the job is done. If the client likes it and says “that’s a wrap,” you have your answer. But for you to hear us say that, first we have to hear your recording.
Some past winners may have not entered because the rules say they cannot win again for two months. That’s still the case, but please note that we’re counting back from this third week of this script, not from its first week. EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: In the case of re-do’s, this is always our policy. Also, note that past winners can always submit a recording they’re proud of, even if they aren’t eligible yet to win again.
Last week, we suggested basing one of the takes on your real voice, for various reasons. But it was only a suggestion. Some people didn’t submit a character based on their real voice. And the two characters they did submit sounded very similar. That’s why this week, it’s REQUIRED. EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: Even if you’re not blessed with an unusual natural voice, like, say, Tom Bodett or Yeardley Smith, your natural voice is likely to be more unusual than many of the hackneyed character voices submitted so far. If you add an interesting characteristic, that’s okay, even good. And we’re speaking about adding some sort of vocal quality or personality trait, not just an accent (see next point). Where’s the dividing line between “real” and “character” voices? In this case, we’d say it's this: if someone who knows your real voice will easily recognize the voice as yours, it’s your real voice.
Some people didn’t change characters, they just changed their accent. EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: If you want to make the character a Southerner or cowboy, okay, but it’s been done, and an accent alone doesn’t demonstrate much of interest in this situation. Besides, generally if a client seeks an accent, they’ll want someone who has that accent naturally.
Some people did not slate as instructed. Some slated at the beginning rather than at the end (slating at the end was specified). Some added words (the instruction was to slate your name or username). Some even included “Take One ... Take Two” or “Two takes.” (The client wrote the script and instructions. They don’t need to be TOLD that they asked for two takes, or where the second take begins.) EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: No matter how good your read, violating this directive signals strongly that you are NOT experienced at this. It suggests that you might wind up wasting the producer’s time, or that you don’t listen well, or you’re wrapped up in yourself rather than the job at hand. In a real-world audition, a busy producer may just pass you by, in favor of someone who seems more of a pro.
In many cases (probably most), the person’s second read varied little from their first. Only one thing was changed (e.g. accent or voice quality). The timing, inflection, speed, etc. remained the same. Being asked to submit two takes is a rare opportunity to show your range and ability to interpret a script in various ways. You don’t necessarily need to change everything from take to take, but do think further, and change more than one thing. EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: In most genres, you should read the script exactly as written. But in this situation, a bit of liberty is acceptable, even advisable. For example, someone included a chuckle. Very nice. Some people contracted “want to” to “wanna” or “we have” to “we’ve” or something in-between. If the words are clear, and it contributes to the character, it can even be good. But when taking such liberties, we suggest not taking the same liberty in both takes. The different approaches will show you’re thinking, not just sloppy.
Many people did a voice that could appeal to the younger kids in the specified age range, but not the older ones. How can you tell what’s appealing and what’s annoying? And how can you span the relatively wide age range? First – take heart. Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Kermit the Frog and Bullwinkle Moose appealed to entire families. It’s still possible, even if you’re not Walt Disney, Mel Blanc, Jim Henson or Bill Scott. Second – avoid voices that are already established as appealing to very young tykes. (Another reason to avoid semblances of Barney and Big Bird is that everyone else is doing them!) EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: If you have access to kids, try out some options and ask them. Which do they seem to truly enjoy? What do they say about your voices? Heck, maybe they’ll even have an idea!
Technical quality was often not great. In particular, many reads were very low in volume, requiring our screener to continually adjust volume when going from take to take. It’s even more annoying when some other reads are too loud, or rather, so loud that the audio became distorted. This becomes a chore, and in a real-world situation a screener is likely to simply move on to the next recording, one that sounds more professional. EDGE STUDIO VOICE OVER TIP: Two ways to determine correct volume:
a) Normalize so that peak volume is -3 dB, and if the average of your recording is far below that (i.e., much quieter than -3 dB), compress it to bring up the volume of the quieter portions (in other words, make the dynamic range narrower).
b) Listen to your final recording and compare its volume to that of many other files found online that you trust to be correct. (If necessary, download a few and play them on your computer, the same way you play yours.) If yours is much lower in volume, go back into your software and correct it.
TECHNICAL NOTE: When uploading your .mp3 file, use only standard characters (letters and/or numbers) in the file name. Non-standard characters and symbols sometimes confuse our automated system, causing failure of your file to upload, or failure to play when users click on it.