Talkback Blog

Are You Prepared for that Voice Over Job? Don't Risk Losing Clients!

Written Edge Studio Production Staff, after Hurricane Sandy.

Severe weather tends to shake things up in more ways than one. While thankfully our NYC, CT, and DC studios were not damaged, we went through an internal audio hurricane of sorts here at Edge, and in the interest of educating all you voice over hopefuls, I’d like to share my tale from the front lines.

We had a large-scale (high-profile client), long-form (11 hours of final audio), RUSH project, in the works before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. Even before the storm, there were several red flags that signaled rough seas ahead for this recording. First, the voice over talent, chosen by the client, was completely new to voice over. (As in, “may never have stepped in a recording studio before” new.) Second, we had 4 days to record the voice over to stay on schedule. Third, I was busy cranking on other projects, as were the rest of our go-to voice over engineers, so we had to add another “new” body into the mix, in the form of a pleasant (yet largely untested) recording engineer. Fourth, because of the tight production schedule and the good fortune of being a busy NYC voice over studio, we didn’t have the physical space available in-house to edit the audio, so we arranged for one of our partner studios to handle the post-production. The hope that the voice over would be completed efficiently and on-time hung by a thread thinner than the amount of musical talent possessed by Bono.

Pretty “high risk,” eh?

Well, recording in-house turned out to be a challenge. On a large scale project, speed is a concern, but all the speed in the world won’t add up to Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves if it doesn’t sound good. (Voice Over Talent: Here’s where proper studio training and technique come in.) Stay on mic. Don’t shuffle pages around while you’re recording. Drink plenty of water. And for the love of all things holy, please relax. There is no “nerve removal” plugin. (At least not yet. Neve sounds close...but that’s all outboard gear. RIMSHOT!)

With patience and perseverance, the voice over recording phase finished on schedule. Cue Sandy. Our partner studio on this project (also on the East Coast) experienced a massive equipment burnout and was forced to shut its doors for an undetermined amount of time. (Sorry guys!!) All of our local partners were either flooded out, without power, or generally overwhelmed with their own projects, and were unable to respond to our SOS. We realized we were staring down into an audio whirlpool, the kind that suck up ships who are never seen again, and immediately reached out to our end client, who politely told us hurricane or no hurricane, the deadline was firm and the project must deliver on schedule.

But wait! What’s this? Off on the horizon... is that a studio with power? And time to spare? We’re saved!!!

We sent the voice over to said studio to edit off site, having only lost a few days of our total production schedule. It was still going to be tight, but we were within range of possible success. Except for one variable we did not anticipate. Our charlatan savior did not immediately open the file and get to work. In fact, he sat on it for days. (My guess is he was cooking meth, as evidenced by his next actions.) He finally got around to opening the file, completed 1 hour of an 11 hour session, and decided to bail on completing the rest with 2 days left in the production schedule.

Words could not express my dismay. Well some words could, and in fact DID, but this is a family blog and we will not reprint them.

So what did we do? Well, luckily most of NYC was up and running again when this project started to power down. Our Production Manager, Kristen, is a take-no-prisoners kinda gal. Failure to deliver is NEVER an option. She made some calls, threw some money around, and got it done. Did we completely blow our margins? Absolutely. Did we make our deadline? ABSOLUTELY.

Here’s a rule. If you accept a project, plan out your work according to a time table and look at your calendar to make sure you are actually available. Know when your due date is. This isn’t high school. There, if you turn in your paper 2 days late, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Here, if you turn in a recording to your client 2 days late, they will likely not continue to work with you, their client might stop working with them, more people lose work, pretty soon the economy collapses, and then the world is in ruin just because some jerk didn’t complete the editing on time.

Longform narrations are very intimidating, from both a talent and editor perspective. If you are a novice, the idea of such a project can be appealing, until you get it in front of you, look it over, and realize you just want to run and hide. My point is this, run and hide AFTER it’s done. Or take a look at the required deliverable and scope of work and run IMMEDIATELY. Don’t screw us over in the process. Don’t screw ANYONE over in the process.

At Edge Studio, we’re fearless in the face of voice over. No matter the project, big or small, if it’s in our capacity, we’ll take it on. If not, we’ll let our clients know right away. Why? Because we’re professionals. Communication is key to success. Clear communication in the face of risk is just plain essential.

When taking on a risky project, there are a few essential factors to consider. Is the project within your capacity and skill level? What is the likelihood that it will succeed? If it fails, how effed will you be? How many factors do you have working against you?

The odds of easy completion were low from the beginning, and were staring us down like a rabid raccoon in the attic. But as a professional voice over studio, we asked ourselves all of these questions before we accepted the project. We knew what we were getting into. The point is, yes, you should try new and challenging projects, but know your limits. If you’re a scrawny dude, don’t fight a heavyweight champion. If you’re a pretty good cook at home, don’t offer to host a 200 person dinner party solo. The same rules apply to voice over.

Think before you speak, on and off mic.

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