Voice Over Education Blog

June 2016

6 Ways to read VO copy faster or slower, still naturally. Part 1 of 2

NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 2!

When a producer hands you the script, they may specify how long your recording should be. This is especially the case in the Commercial and Promo genres, not so much in Narration (such as telephone messaging systems, training films, audiobooks, educational material, and long programs.) When timing is specified, your “internal clock” should automatically turn on. It’s up to you to bring in the finished recording at the desired length. In a recent article (“Put time on your side...”), we discussed the importance of being able to do this, and ways to tune your sense of elapsed time. One of those ways is to practice reading faster and slower.

Now let’s discuss how to actually do that – to read faster or slower.

Note: Digital recording enables you or the engineer to adjust speed up or slow down a recording by as much as 10%. However, sometimes the sound quality is degraded, particularly when pushed past 6 or 7%.

How to alter your timing

Method 1: Speed up or slow down the entire read.

When the script is a poem, how should your read roam?

A while back, EdgeStudio.com’s Weekly Script Recording Contest involved a radio commercial script that was in limerick form. Although “Poetry” as such is not a distinct voice-over genre, there may be times when you’re asked to read a bit of verse. In Commercials, for example, copywriters sometimes resort to rhyming, often in silliness. You might also encounter poetry in Audiobooks, where authors sometimes use poetry or song lyrics to convey a character’s personality. So let’s revisit this subject in a bit more detail than we were able to include in our contest comments.

First, let us hasten to mention the obvious case – an audiobook version of a poetry collection. If you’re hired to read a long poem or a collection of serious poetry, or are seriously interested in pursuing such a project, you probably know a bit more about poetry than we’ll deal with here. (And you should also check our past article, “ How To Read Poetic Copy Poetically.”)

Here, we’re dealing strictly with drivel (no offense intended; it means “silly” or “nonsense”) – poetry that should be read poetically, but not necessarily as serious poetry. In fact, if it’s in a commercial, the writer may have taken significant liberty with the poetic form, since the product name and message are generally paramount.

Our contest (a simulated audition for a hypothetical client) was such a situation. Here is the script: (Incidentally, “Llawn” is not a typo; it’s a hypothetical table manufacturer.)

5 reasons many people read voice-over scripts too fast

Do you read copy too quickly? Many beginners do. Even experienced entertainers do. It’s a natural phenomenon when under pressure in a new situation. As Jay Leno has advised comics, "If you think you're going too slow, slow down."

But maybe that advice is too easy. It needs to be part of your psyche when you’re on the job. So let’s think a bit more about why people read too quickly – why you might be reading too quickly, particularly in the case of narration. Maybe understanding the reasons will help counter that urge to speed up.

Reason 1: The job is exciting. To a voice actor, that’s good. A VO job – every acting job -- should feel exciting. Translate that feeling into the energy that helps you engage your listener. Energy also maintains their interest – and yours.

Reason 2: The text is exciting. Whether it’s about otter moms, a murder mystery, or new technology, exciting subject matter may seem to merit extra enthusiasm in the form of speed. But speed is not the only way to express enthusiasm. More important is the expression of “thought.” Emotion. In fact, if it’s a narration, it generally requires a bit slower approach than some other genres, because the listener needs time to observe visuals, share in the emotion, and let the thoughts sink in.

Financial planning for the voice-over professional

Where will you be financially 10-20-30 years from now? If you’re a U.S. taxpayer, you may or may not be confident that the Social Security system will still be around when you retire. In any case, it’s best to think of Social Security Income as a foundation, not your full retirement income. So you most likely want to do some additional retirement planning. Whatever your age, the time to start on that is now.

We’re not financial advisors, except to advise everyone to educate themselves on financial planning issues, or seek the advice of a reputable expert. If you use an accountant for your taxes, they may be able to advise you, but be aware that a tax preparer may or may not also be a financial planner. Or they may not view overall planning to be what you hired them for, so they might not give you important guidance unless you ask. Discuss that with them – ask if there is anything that you as a solo practitioner should be aware of, or should be doing, that they just assumed you have covered elsewhere. Meanwhile, here are a few more planning tips ...

Reading is good. With the Internet, self-education has never been easier. But so is self-inundation. Be sure what you’re reading is current, and that the author has no particular axe to grind. For example, the array of self-employed and employee retirement account options (IRAs, 401(k), etc.) has changed over time. So has your age. For a dry but dispassionate overview or your options, breeze over to IRS.gov, starting at www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-sponsor/types-of-retirement-plans-1. And while you’re there, click around further.

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