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Monthly Audition Contest!

Archived contests

Contest ending Monday, September 30

Contest Title:

New York Life

Director's Notes:

We want the kind of delivery you would expect from a trusted friend. Low dynamic range, easy, relaxed tone. We want to give a feeling of safety and comfort with this read.

Script:

Peace of mind is waiting to meet you all across the country. In towns big and small, there's a New York Life agent who can help you to secure your future and protect your family. New York Life--The Company You Keep.

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Congratulations to our winners -- rich summers, stanleyj, and chrisb.  They hit the sweet spot that the Director's Notes requested; they read smoothly and confidently, conveying the confidence that you would want in advice from a trusted friend, yet in a relaxed manner.  Here are some tips on how to approach that target next time you're asked to give a feeling of safety and comfort.  
 
Don't read. Instead talk. And in your head, talk to a friend.   Talking to your entire audience ("all of you out there") tends to sound unrealistic.  Why? Because in real life, we never do that, unless making a speech, which is a very unreal situation.  At most, we converse with a handful of people – for example around a table or a conversation pit or in a quiet bar (do those still exist?).  And even then, you're probably responding to one of those people at a time. For many budding actors, though, this is more easily said than done. The solution is to choose one real person, someone you know well. Next time you're talking with them, observe your manner. And when you practice, practice that, and listen back. Do you hear the difference vs. your earlier recordings?
 
Read smoothly.  Why?  Many beginners pause much more often than necessary, or even logical.  Those extra pauses sound unnatural, and what's worse, they can be distracting.  In a commercial, they invite the listener's mind a moment for their mind to wander … or if they're following your thoughts closely, they might ask themselves, "Why did (s)he pause there?"  That's distracting. 
 
Avoid the two BIG pauses that almost everybody adds:  The first of these is after the first word or two of a narration.  For example, many people will say "New York City (pause) is a very big town."  Instead, say the complete first thought, then pause. "New York City is a very big town."  The second "everybody pauses" situation is in a tag line.  In this script, almost everybody said, "The Company (pause) You Keep"?  Wow.  They had already paused at the dash before that ("New York Life –").  Why break it up?  The words "The company" are not in themselves valuable. The valuable thought is "you keep."  Furthermore, some copywriter years ago was probably very proud to have come up with that double entendre.  As in "She is very educated, judging by the company she keeps." When you pause in the middle of those last four words, that extra meaning is lost. 

1st place winner: Rich Summers

162 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear Rich Summers's recording

Very good, although he rushes through the opening words. In addition to slurring them, this doesn't allow an instant to catch the listener's attention and let them get mentally up to speed. Once he gets into the read, he slows down and better clarifies his words. Notice how the last phrase, compared to the opening, is very slow.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/Rich Summers-New York Life.mp3

2nd place winner: StanleyJ

224 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear StanleyJ's recording

Very good, a comfortable read. Just what the Director ordered. But some spots need improvement. (1) Like many people, he said the phrase “to meet you” as “to mee-chew.” About this habit: There are many words where average Americans pronounce a T as if it were a CH. (For example., "mature." In some regions, it's typical in everyday speech. But it's also a pet peeve among some professionals. (2) In the phrase "secure your future and protect your family," the word “and” goes too high in pitch. And (3), the last word “keep” sounds like “key.” Take more care in finishing words, especially the final word. Don't lose energy, and don't just stop the flow of air. Recording technical quality is good, except that it's a smidge low in level, with a hollow sound. In professional shorthand, it's not "direct" enough.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/New York Life_1.mp3

3rd place winner: ChrisB

138 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear ChrisB's recording

Very good. But again we have three warnings. (1) The opening phrase (“Piece of mind”) should be declarative, ending confidently with a downward pitch, not up-speak. (2) and (3) Same concerns as with our Second Place winner regarding “to meet you” the phrase “future and protect.” Ironically, at the same time, he seems unnaturally extra-careful stepping through the potential tongue-twister "to secure your." Recording technical quality is pretty good, except for a slight "flangy," hollow quality that isn’t optimal.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/September 2019 Edge Studio Audition Contest.mp3

To view all entries from
Contest ending Monday, September 30 click below

Contest ending Friday, August 30

Contest Title:

No Garbage

Director's Notes:

This is a simulated audition for a TV commercial voice-over about a kitchen composter. The visual will show all the types of things that go into it – for example: peelings, apple core, bones, plate scrapings, etc. Sound proud, happy, even a little amazed. Why doesn’t everybody do this? Oh, and please don’t sound like one of those late-night commercials. Slate name or username after the read.

Script:

Stop taking out the garbage! Thanks to Crud Converter! The quick, easy, odorless kitchen composting machine. You have a sink, dishwasher, washer, and dryer. You need this, too.

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Congratulations to our winners -- Cecily, riffin1, and Melissaharlowvo. They avoided giving a stereotypical read and added some interesting twists of their own. When a script reads like a late-night high-pressure commercial, it can seem hard NOT to read it like a late-night high-pressure commercial ... really, really difficult to get the vocal stereotype out of your head.  But that decision is up to the client and director.  Your task is to provide strong alternatives. Because those work, too … often even better.  Here are some tips on how to clear your head and explore your options.  


EDGE STUDIO TIP #1:

Hit words so that they sound natural, rather than over-emphasize. It's virtually a given that you should emphasize the client's name and brand name.  But to make it sound natural, be careful not to pause before it.  Beyond the name, what else should you hit?  One rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "Where's the news"?  For example, if you've been talking about machinery, it probably isn't necessary to hit "machine" yet again.  But you can also offer the client options. For example, one entrant (jodithors) made an interesting choice. She did hit machine.  At first that struck us as illogical.  After all, isn't "composting" the news in this script? But then we thought, people know about passive composting bins. Is the news here that this is a machine?  Only the client can answer that, and we don't know if all audition screeners would have such a second thought. But it does perhaps show thought on the talent's part, and it makes the audition stand out.

EDGE STUDIO TIP #2:

Sound real.  We say that often, but what does it mean?  It means finding the sweet spot between fake enthusiasm and sounding bored. That's where normal conversational enthusiasm takes place.  Yes, you may push the "enthusiasm" if you're making a motivational speech, or emphasizing a point to a child, or having to make your point for the third time.  But usually, the person you're talking to would find that odd, even offensive. There's the clue.  Speak to someone you know (as if they're actually facing you), speak freely (as if you're just talking, not reading, relaxed, and without unnatural pauses), and smile. 

EDGE STUDIO TIP #3:

Check your enunciation and pronunciation by listening carefully (thoughtfully and dispassionately) to your final recording.  Is each word clear, not slurred or with unnaturally missing sounds?  Play it for a friend without letting them see the script.  Do they immediately get every word that you've said? If not, it's not your final recording.  If you have another take that you pronounced well, it's okay to edit them together, if you can do so imperceptibly.  But it might be easier to just re-record it.  Usually, if you cannot replicate your favorite take, it's not a representative audition anyway.

1st place winner: Cecily White

120 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear Cecily White's recording

We like the negative emotion in the opening setup line: she sounds grossed out in a friendly way! And then she switches to a nice, logical smile with "hey, here's a solution." Her last line has great confidence, in two senses: a) she sounds confident, and b) she sounds like she's saying it somewhat confidentially. However all this said, she's too dramatic, she's trying a bit too hard. Instead she should trust her voice and not try so hard. She added the word "the" in sentence two. There's a bit too much pause before "odorless." The technical quality of her recording is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/No Garbage_Cecily White.mp3

2nd place winner: riffin1

173 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear riffin1's recording

Generally, we like his tone, but there's room for improvement. He's too dramatic on the client name. He changed the words to "you've got a sink." In the list of appliances, the pauses between words are not necessary. In fact, they detract - these other appliances are not each important to the point. The point is that the listener has a bunch of other standard appliances. Highlighting each of them is distracting, and by dragging it out, makes the quick conclusion seem like an afterthought. Technical aspects could also be improved. The volume of the original recording, and/or at some stage in processing, was too high (hot). This causes distortion. Also, we could hear mouth clicks and a bit of background noise.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/Edge Studios - Crud Converter.mp3

3rd place winner: Melissaharlowvo

191 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear Melissaharlowvo's recording

She has a nice, friendly tone. It was a great idea to have a grunt in the beginning. But she rushes the grunt, so that the unexpecting listener might think it’s a random noise (especially once covered with music), or not associate it at all with what follows. Milking it could be artful and intriguing, or it could be obnoxious, so be careful. But that's where experience comes in, and is what can impress an audition screener. A bigger issue is that she also rushes "stop taking out the garbage" to the point of slurring it. (And "taking" sounds like "taken"). This is an important set-up line; if it's not clear, everything else might be lost on the listener. (Remember: it's a commercial, and the listener doesn't always pay attention!) On the other hand, there are too many gaps in "quick, easy, odorless." (An important side note: pausing between three adjectives makes sense if they are accompanied by changing visuals. But in that case, each adjective should be read declaratively … rather than upspeaking -– an upward inflection). But that's not the case in this script. She then pauses after "odorless." There'd never be a reason for that. Just as having unnecessary commas looks choppy to a reader, having too many pauses sounds choppy to a listener. Moreover, the pauses are accentuated by her many glottal stops (temporary closing of the airway), which increases a sense of tension. And finally, she added the word "one" to "You need this, too." The good news is that all of these issues can be improved through awareness and practice. The recording quality was good, except it was low in level. However, being slightly low is better than being too hot. Low level can be fixed; distortion cannot. In an audition, the bigger failing of low volume is that having to adjust volume annoy the listener, and if they don't raise their volume, you sound less dynamic.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/Melissa Harlow Crud Converter.mp3

To view all entries from
Contest ending Friday, August 30 click below

Contest ending Wednesday, July 31

Contest Title:

Movie "Conscience"

Director's Notes:

This is a simulated audition for a movie. Sorry, no, it’s not for an onscreen role. This is for the conscience of the main character, and we think we’d like it to be a character in itself, not the voice of the on-screen actor. It’s a comedy with some serious moments. The character is a concerned scientist, falling in love with someone who does not always share the same views. Slate your name or username first.

Script:

A floor wax that’s also a dessert topping? What was I thinking? I mean, okay, I was starting out, making a name for myself, but ... what if a kid gets hold of it? What if they lick the floor?

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Fans of early Saturday Night Live seasons will recognize "the floor wax that's also a dessert topping" as a line in an SNL spoof commercial.  It is a funny concept. So where does the fun lead this time? Or rather, what parts of this audition script hold the fun bits?  Assuming you've got the usual VO basics covered (some people showed the requisite enunciation, naturalness, emotional and/or physical energy, professional technical standards, etc., some people didn't), how can you show the casting professional you've got the optimal mix of comedy chops with emotional range described in the Director's Notes?  Here are some tips to help your performance stand out.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #1:  As with any script, identify what parts are most important. Presumably, every word in a script is important, or the writer wouldn't have included it. But, as when we are speaking, some thoughts are more to our point than others.  In short, don't rush or mumble the less important parts, but don't over-emphasize the more important parts. If you emphasize everything, you over-act, becoming "theatrical," melodramatic, unreal … and you emphasize nothing. 
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #2:  Work on your timing.  Many people rushed their delivery.  A proper pace – including changes of pace – is important in narration, and drama, and other genres, not just in comedy.  But in comedy, it's extra important.  Where is the surprise? Where will your listener tend to get mentally ahead of your words, only to have you correct their assumption with your next statement?  In this brief script, the answer is (ta-da!) the punch line; the listener would expect a kid to lick a dessert topping, but you say "the floor." 
 
We can't fully explain comedy timing in a brief tip. It takes practice, either through conscious attention, or  (if you're lucky) through a lifetime of doing it naturally in everyday life.  But we can direct you to some further thoughts on the subject, in Part 2 of our three-part blog article published last year. Click to read Comedy Timing. How does it work in voice-over?.

1st place winner: Mike_Booch

227 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear Mike_Booch's recording

Very good. Unlike our other two winners, he has the right amount of variety. That is, he's not melodramatic, didn't overact (as described in our Tip above). However, he rushed two phrases, slurring them somewhat, which impedes the listener's understanding: "What if a kid" and "What if they lick" Recording quality was okay.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/Mike Carbuccia Conscience Audition.mp3

2nd place winner: TheJediExile

222 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear TheJediExile's recording

We love her smile, energy, variety, vocalisms, and chuckles. But she delivers the script a bit too quickly. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/EdgeStudioContest_July_TheJediExile.mp3

3rd place winner: eddiethatvoguy

205 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear eddiethatvoguy's recording

We love the ad-libs, the vocalisms, and such. It's creative and overall sounds very much like someone's conscience. But it's a bit too melodramatic, especially the beginning phrases. Now, about those ad-libs: They show thought and flexibility, without actually changing the script. But that last one could be problematic. He augmented the last line, going out on a muttered "Oh, G-d…" (barely audible except on headphones or in a quiet listening space). That's in the same vein as the other ad-libs, and in a real job, if the director doesn't like, it, it can be changed or deleted. But in an audition, you can't know the religious sensibilities of the casting person. Since it's not scripted, we suggest saying "Oh, boy" or "Oh, my…" or something safer. Also the words "What if they lick" are slurred, which invites the wrong kind of listener confusion just as you get to the punch line. Recording quality is good, but he could have edited out a few clicks in the slate.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/EddieLeonard_0.mp3

To view all entries from
Contest ending Wednesday, July 31 click below

Contest ending Sunday, June 30

Contest Title:

Buddies

Director's Notes:

This is a simulated audition for an animated cartoon series. Two key characters are a tree and a patch of moss. In this scene, it is spring, and they are getting reacquainted, as they do each year. Please voice both characters, each in a different voice appropriate to their nature. The tree is big, the moss is small. But we want them to have unique, distinctive personalities, not just big and little voices. After, slate your name or username in your own voice.

Script:

MOSS: So, here I am again.
 
TREE: So, there you are. You planning to stay all summer?
 
MOSS: Don’t I always?  
 
TREE: Well, it’s always nice to say hello to an old friend.
 
MOSS: Yeah, but I forget --  Hey, which side of you is north? 

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Congratulations to our winners -- “TheJediExile,” “DonJacobVO” and “Michelle Giacopuzzi.” They appropriately incorporated a combination of energy, imagination, and personality into their character voices. Here are some other tips for getting characters across in an audition.

Define the characters’ personalities so that you can define where and how their energy might be expressed, and ultimately make their conversation more realistic.  Do this by asking yourself one question: “What’s the character's relationship with the other characters?” Knowing what’s in their minds will greatly affect what’s in your voice.  Our three winners serve as a nice demonstration.  In one case, the tree apparently finds the moss rather insufferable -- an unavoidable partner who must be endured.  With another of our winners, the relationship seems rather neutral. They seem glad to get together, but the tree sounds naturally reserved, and the moss is far from over the top.  And our third winner makes them sound truly like buddies, enthusiastically coming together again.  

Be sure to differentiate characters.  Granted, the listener has the benefit of also being a viewer – the “camera” will probably be on the character who’s speaking, and mouth movements will be enough to clue the mind.  But for the purposes of a voice-over audition, the characters should be as easy to distinguish as if this were a radio play. 

Build the character's voice by varying all components of your voice. Note that in this contest, many voice actors varied their pitches, but the Director’s Notes said to do more than that.  Some people varied their speaking pace (although most people spoke too slowly overall). Some varied the accent.  A few people varied voice qualities, which is an important technique to master … but that in itself may not be enough. Both are still your voice, and unless you’ve practiced and are very careful, one character’s low notes might sound like the other character’s high notes (or other vocal quality), which can confuse the listener. 

BONUS TIP: Tighten up - or even eliminate - space between characters. Doing so helps make dialogue sound like a genuine conversation. But don’t overlap the lines (even though overlapping is normal in everyday conversation, it makes editing more difficult for engineers. It's best to let the engineer overlap the lines as they see fit.)  You can butt one line right up to the other as if the other character is interrupting … as long as it works with the delivery “timing” and sounds like a real conversation, not a technical glitch. 

1st place winner: TheJediExile

240 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear TheJediExile's recording

She’s given us clear characters, which is a key point of this two-character audition. From an acting standpoint, she shows some emotional variety within each character, which is good. And she included nice giggles and vocalisms, and natural hesitations. We don’t know if the director will want moss that sounds like a Valley Girl, but you never know. (It’s been a long time since we’ve conversed with moss ourselves.) Additionally the recording quality is good, nothing to distract from the presentation.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/EdgeStudio_JuneContest_TheJediExile.mp3

2nd place winner: DonJacobVO

226 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear DonJacobVO's recording

The performance shows promise, but will need some rehearsal. His characters are interesting and vary from each other, but neither shows enough variety in pitch and pacing within itself. Like many of the entries, the overall performance drags, and could use tightening between characters in post. We love the thoughtful stumble before "Hey," but it’s disjointed from the preceding part of the sentence (“I forget”), which sets it up. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/Buddies_1.mp3

3rd place winner: Michelle Giacopuzzi

190 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear Michelle Giacopuzzi's recording

We love the moss’s opening sigh, and the tree’s giggle that follows. The “Hey” adds nice variety, but doesn’t logically follow from the “I forget” that precedes it. (It’s as if “Hey!” Is a change of thought entirely.) So maybe some other part of the script could be given that bit of extra energy? Another concern is that she misread the script there – saying “forgot” instead of “forget,” which makes the “Hey” even more confusing. The recording quality is okay, except for a tendency to pop. If use and proper placement of a pop filter isn’t doing enough, then we suggest rolling off the bottom frequencies so that they won’t intrude.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/MichelleGiacopuzzi_Jun19.mp3

To view all entries from
Contest ending Sunday, June 30 click below

Contest ending Friday, May 31

Contest Title:

Dry Skin

Director's Notes:

This is a simulated audition for a TV commercial about a skin moisturizer aimed at older people. But it could be voiced by someone of any age. If you clearly sound younger, it will take on an extra meaning, which we might like. If you sound older, that’s fine, too. But don’t fake an old voice unless it’s totally realistic, and not too old. We stress that sounding old is not important, one way or another. What’s important is that you sound real and sincere. Slate with only your username, before the script.

Script:

As you get older, your skin gets dryer. And your body doesn’t always know how to handle that. Bloshim Cream does. It moisturizes and protects dry skin, more effectively than some other products. I’ll remember that.

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Congratulations to our winners -- billanciaux, lindalee, and Milena24. Their deliveries and interpretations were significantly different, but they were all “correct” and interesting.  This simulated commercial pitch itself is interesting because it allowed for a range of talent, and the sub-message would be affected by the client’s VO choice. Who says a moisturizer pitched at older people can’t be sold by a young person?  It adds an interesting extra angle to the last sentence (“I’ll remember that”). That’s meaningful if spoken by a mature person, but from a younger person, there’s a “remember years from now” subtext. That’s quite an endorsement!  Here are some tips that will help you choose a viewpoint and make the most of the distinctive qualities you offer.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #1:
 
Pay attention to technical matters. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot!  We usually overlook things like low recording volume, but maybe it’s time we focus on it up-front.  A lot of entries were so low in volume that we had to don headphones and constantly adjust the volume between recordings. On speakers, some could barely be heard above average room noise.  There are several reasons this is important: 
  1. With mainstream VO recording software, the volume is easily adjusted before sending. It’s best to check your levels at all stages of recording, processing and saving your audio. Granted, in digital recording a bit too low level is far better than too loud, and clients' dB preferences differ. But for an audition, unless otherwise requested, bring your final peak setting to about -5 dB, or -10 dB at the quietest.
  2. Although audio professionals know to take volume into account when judging a VO performance, we are nevertheless people.  And in most situations, everything else being equal, a louder recording seems to have more energy and makes a greater psychological impact. Just don’t compress it too much, and never go into the red (greater than 0 dB).
  3. In our contest, and especially in real audition situations, the client might figure “This person would be a contender, just needing a bit of direction or maybe some coaching and practice if there is time.”  But that assumes the contender is a professional, able to vary their performance, take direction, and respond well to coaching.  When you make a simple mistake like including a long silence before or after your cut or failing to slate as directed, or recording way too low, or misreading the client’s brand name, that kills that assumption. 
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #1: 
 
Before you record, as you rehearse, think about who you are, where you are, and who is your listener? This will help build the energy and enthusiasm that many entries were missing. In particular, in this script (as we’ve noted above), it will explain what you mean by “I’ll remember that.” Many people read that last line as just a tack-on, in the same voice and tone as the rest of the script. In contrast, some people set it off in some way -- with a short pause or an ad-libbed non-verbal expression (such as “Hmm).  That very short delay gave rationale to a slight change of voice.  Even if they had been sounding like a spokesperson (a “professional voice”), the change-up made that last line seem like personal thought, something not in the script. That makes it stronger.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #2 
 
Many commercials have what ad people call a "concept," an underlying subtext. Understanding it can help you define your character, voice, and manner.  For example, if the client casts a young person for a spot aimed at older folk, what are they saying?  Maybe you, the speaker, are showing respect for elders? Or confidently planning for your future? Or you’re a compassionate young physician? Or it’s a “family” thing? Wow! Suddenly this script is more interesting than dry skin!! It may not come out explicitly in your voice, but you may speak with more energy and naturalness if you have this in your mind.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #3:
In addition to technical details (discussed above), watch those script and direction details, too.  One of our finalists did not slate. This didn’t disqualify her, but it did complicate our screening process because her identity wasn’t attached to her recording. This could be awkward in a  real-world casting situation. Or it might be just the opposite; for various reasons, the casting crew might want NO slate or a certain type of slate. And they may not be so tolerant. Failure to follow directions might cause them to consider you less than a fully qualified professional -- even a risk -- and they’ll move on. When slating instructions are given, slate as instructed.

1st place winner: billanciaux

291 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear billanciaux's recording

Drumroll, please, because he managed to move away from his stereotypical radio-guy slate to sound like a real-life person, with a sincere, natural delivery. We love the smile, chuckle and variety in his voice. He still has a “spokesman” quality -- rather than an “average-person testimonial” image -- but before the last sentence, he shakes up even that: An adlibbed “hmm” rationalizes a change-up as he says “I’ll remember that.” Another “real” touch is the tiny dramatic pause between "than" and "some other" -- it sounds like he's speaking extemporaneously, thinking twice before deciding not to name the competition. A few things we’d want to hear in a retake: he voiced the product-name sentence as a question ... that is, "does" is up-spoken. (It works, but some clients might want an alternative where their brand name is concerned.) Without a “T” sound, the word "doesn't" sounds like "dozen," and there’s no need to pause after "moisturizes." Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/BloshimCream_BillAnciaux.mp3

2nd place winner: lindalee

227 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear lindalee's recording

For the most part, she has a nice, natural delivery -- a personable mature sound, nicely modulated. The last line is well delivered -- a slight pause, then given extra energy but not overacted. We’d like a bit more variety, and more attention to clarity. (Both instances of "that" sound like "tha.") And there's no need to pause after "moisturizes" As for recording quality, the volume is good, but there’s some resonance.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/LindaLee.mp3

3rd place winner: milena24

209 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear milena24's recording

Nice personality and very natural sounding. It doesn't sound like she's reading. That's good. Her voice has more than a bit of fry, but it’s not annoying and is appropriate to what appears to be her generation. As discussed above, that younger sound confirms the extra meaning in “I’ll remember that.” (Her “Valley Teen” sound is interesting because it defines her age, but it could limit her appeal for some jobs, so she should be able to turn it on and off.) But there are some important things that need fixing. One, the product name. Spoken too quickly and without clarity, the all-important name “Bloshim Cream” could as easily be heard as “Wash ‘n’ Clean.” Also, a few words jump out too abruptly (such as "effectively"), perhaps merely because her sing-song manner happened to hit on that word. But luckily, “effectively” is an important word, and the “song” is varied, so that’s a trade-off. Technically, her audio level is good, but there’s some resonance in her recording booth.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/Edge studio Auditon for Milen 5.17.19 .mp3

To view all entries from
Contest ending Friday, May 31 click below

Contest ending Tuesday, April 30

Contest Title:

Parks Department

Director's Notes:

This is a simulated audition for an animated series (still in development) about a family who is always traveling because the father or mother is a park inspector The other parent has some related job, too. As a result, the whole family travels and learns lots of interesting and fun things about nature, management, people, etc. The audience is kids, but there will be a coordinated online guide for parents and teachers to use in supplementing the program. This audition is open to everyone, since the line could be delivered by a parent or child (we’re casting the whole family). Sound happy, excited, even exuberant. No slate.

Script:

It’s spring! There’s still some snow, but Yellowstone is definitely warming up to visitors and totally changing. All kinds of colorful flowers are coming out. And so are the bears!

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Congratulations to our winners -- “Suzanne” and “Bhart0206” They won by giving their cartoon characters personality and variety. That’s not always easy. In the world of drawing and computer animation, by definition a “cartoon” is an exaggerated or highly simplified drawing.  Depending on the artist’s approach, there’s a wide range of possible cartoon visual styles, from fairly realistic to so exaggerated that viewers might not even recognize the characters they see. (At first glance, what ARE some of those SpongeBob sea creatures, anyway?)  

Now, not all animation is “cartooning” (for example, an adventure game is probably not ... although even that may be highly simplified).  But in a cartoon context, voicing an animated character is a tough target to hit spot-on, especially when you have nothing but a short printed description to go on. How can you know what the character’s voice and/or emotional expression should be?  Realistic, slightly exaggerated, highly exaggerated, what?  
 
So this contest’s contestants accepted a challenging challenge, indeed.  Some managed to find a fresh path to an interesting read.  Others got sidetracked, some flew too high,  and yet others barely left the ground.  Here are some tips on how to present an animated character that viewers can relate to. 
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #1:
 
Know your character.  Many people were inconsistent.  They’d start in a character voice, then drift into their real voice, and sometimes back again. Or vice versa. Or lapse into a third variation.  One key to consistency is to develop a set of “regulars” who you can portray at the drop of a hat. Or rather, the donning of a hat. The more familiar you are with your character, the better you’ll know what hat you’re wearing and stay in that character as you change emotion, and vary tempo, pitch, subject matter, etc.  Many VO professionals even give back stories to their stock characters.  Once you’ve got a handle on them, you can more easily change one or two attributes (for example, age or personality) and still stay comfortably and consistently in-character.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #2:
 
Follow direction, and before you do, think about what it means. Envision the characters in the scene.  In this case, the Director’s Notes said to “sound happy, excited, even exuberant.”  Yet, many people sounded low-key. Or even bored or boring. (One generally leads to the other).  At the other extreme, some people’s excitement sounded forced. (That’s hard to define, but suffice it to say their excitement somehow did not sound natural.)  If you think about the possible reasonfor the direction, you’ll often find it easier to hit the zone that’s “just right.” And even more importantly, you’ll find ways to envision the scene, helping you to sound more real.  For example, why would a child be “excited, even exuberant”?  Maybe he or she just jumped out of the parked car, ran to the edge of the road or scenic overlook and is thrilled by the view.  If you’re portraying a parent (who, you’ll recall, is said to be a park inspector or such), you probably love your job and are showing these sights to your child for the first time.   And in either case, maybe the child didn’t notice the bears right away.  That last sentence is a wonderful chance to use a slight delay and display your sense of timing.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #3:
 
Make it flow and give it variety.  In this tidy little script, one thought flows nicely to another, but some people made it sound disjointed.  Others spoke much too quickly. By rushing through it, they didn’t let the emotions and visual aspects sink in to the viewer.  And whether from haste or inattention, many people slurred words, which pretty much killed their chances right there. At a reasonable speed, every word can be pronounced clearly yet naturally, and be understood.  A reasonable speed also facilitates changes of emotion, which adds to variety.  For example, consider the back-and-forth, up-and-down (and back again) emotional nature of the words: 
 
“It’s spring!    [up emotion] 
There’s still some snow    [a bit of a downer emotion, cautious]
but Yellowstone is definitely warming up    [up again] 
to visitors   [no pause, after "up" but add a smile – because of the double meaning .... you noticed that, right?].”
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #4:
 
Don’t let bad audio kill a good performance.  A bunch of recordings were so low in volume that we could barely hear them.  Some were noisy, or not recorded on professional equipment.  This contest is a learning experience, and we know that students who are just starting out don’t always have even a basic home studio in place yet. So we’re very tolerant of some technical deficiencies.  But that’s no reason not to make the best effort you can at technical quality.  Free software is available for recording on computer, tablet or smartphone.  A condenser microphone suitable for training (and even for some actual work) may cost as little as $100.  An audio interface, if needed, can also be inexpensive. And you can improve the sound of your room with blankets and pillows, and proper mic usage and placement.  Here’s a tip: Listen to a professional recording on your computer. It could be a professional’s demo, or maybe the audio from a TV cartoon show (recorded directly, not through a speaker).  Then listen to your recording, with the same settings.  Do you hear a difference in overall volume?  In the speed of your voicing?  In the sound quality?  If so, those  are areas where your recording method and/or performance should be improved. (Important note: By increasing volume, we mean the audio volume, not the volume in which you speak.)

1st place winner: Suzanne

281 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear Suzanne's recording

Overall, she has a nice happy, excited, and exuberant tone that is nicely maintained. There’s wonderful variety in the beginning and end -- very good. But in the middle (from "but" through "changing") she could use more variety. Her editing is good. By that, we mean that there are no awkward noises and such (like mouth clicks), and if there were any edits, they were not noticeable. Recording quality was also good, except for a bit of resonance. A bit more padding in her recording booth would be helpful.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/Its spring final for Auphonic.mp3

2nd place winner: Bhart0206

268 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear Bhart0206's recording

Overall, she infuses her recording with nice variety and personality. As requested, she is generally happy, excited, and exuberant ... except around the words "totally changing.” There, she lost a bit of her zest. Then again, maybe that was a conscious decision, to add variety? Also, "colorful flowers" is a bit slurry. Her recording does have mouth clicks, loud breaths, and noises that should be unnoticeably edited out or re-recorded. Some of these noises are loud. In fact, our first impression is a loud noise; the very first words’ volume is 100% -- possibly more when as she was recording, which causes distortion. Another faux pas – her audio, which was otherwise good except as noted, is on only the left channel. An audition should be monaural, but with the audio on both channels.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/BHartEdgeAprilContest.mp3

To view all entries from
Contest ending Tuesday, April 30 click below

Contest ending Sunday, March 31

Contest Title:

Postie

Director's Notes:

This is a simulated audition for a voice-over introduction at the start of a movie. The story is about young kids, but it’s narrated now and then by an adult -- one of the children now grown and thinking back. Sound like you’re just talking, thinking of what to say as you speak, not reading a script. Slate your name or username after the script.

Script:

Lots of kids have dogs. And, mostly, kids love dogs, right? Not so much with our Postie. He was in our family, but not really a member of our family. Until the day he ran away.

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Congratulations to our winners -- “ChrisB,” “JTsVoice.com” and “FredVO.” They won by sounding natural. That’s what the Director’s Notes asked for: “just talking, thinking of what to say as you speak, not reading a script.” And clearly a lot of people made a conscious effort to sound “natural,” not announcery or theatrical. But in most VO genres, that’s only part of the assignment. As usual, the performance also needed energy and authentic emotion. (Hey, this is a build-up, the start of a movie about a missing dog!) Here are some tips for getting those and other important qualities into your auditions.

EDGE STUDIO TIP #1:

Have and maintain appropriate energy. Many people lacked it. Maybe they were trying to sound sad? Or serious? Or “natural.” Those first two emotions might not have been necessary. (After all, the Notes don’t say how the story plays out. Maybe it’s hopeful, or about a joyous return.) And “natural” does not necessarily mean “low-energy” or “subdued” at all! After all, excitement, curiosity, and encouragement are all potentially high-energy emotions or actions. And all might apply in this introduction. Even sadness (crying or not) and worry involve energy. So ... start with energy (in addition to establishing authenticity, it catches the audition reviewer’s ear), sustain that energy (perhaps at varying levels), and retain the energy through your final words.

EDGE STUDIO TIP #2:

Incorporate a natural variety. One way to think about this is to use a variety of emotions. As real people, when we’re conversing, we rarely say every phrase the same way. Our words are a series of thoughts – thoughts that usually emerge even as we are talking. This often accounts for changes in our pace, an occasional pause, and for a change of emotion. For example:

“What do you think happened? I was worried, but right away I found it!”

That’s at least three distinct thoughts. With the first, you’re talking to someone, probably looking at them, and with your eyes as well as your voice, you are encouraging them to listen, think and answer. Energy. Then you’re recalling your own emotion. (This is a change of emotion, but it’s a past emotion, so be careful -- don’t overact.) And then you’re happy, astonished or proud ... whatever.

Here’s an exercise: Parse the Postie script and identify where emotions change. How does each change affect the way you feel about what you’re saying. And that’s a tip, too ... do this thinking before you record. Don’t think about these changes while you read. You should simply feel them as you speak.

EDGE STUDIO TIP #3:

Pause are useful. But don’t overdo them. In Tip #2, we mentioned pausing for thought. Yes, people do that. But not for every thought. Often, we are thinking while the other person is talking. Often we don’t think consciously at all – for better or worse, we just say what comes to mind (“stream of consciousness”). And, as VO professionals, we have to recognize that the situation we’re in is not entirely natural: we have no eye contact with our listener, they can’t see our body language, and they are often easily distracted by any number of things. So pausing too long or too often will, ironically, sound unnatural. Instead, speaking at a reasonable pace -- not motormouth-fast, not sleepy-lethargic -- will let you sound natural with barely any pauses at all, just your natural breaths.

EDGE STUDIO TIP #4:

Read and follow directions! This contest is a learning experience, so we tolerate amateurish mistakes, like failing to slate as instructed or saying “Pastie” instead of “Postie.” However, a professional casting screener will not be so understanding. In fact, although we’re far more tolerant, we’re not sure even we quite understand. What is so difficult about reading and following explicit directions? Please ... don’t make us ask this again!

1st place winner: ChrisB

309 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear ChrisB's recording

Nice. He sounds natural and spontaneous, with lots of natural variety that nicely holds our interest. But the first few words (“Lots of kids have dogs.”) are too fast, causing the listener to fall behind for a moment. Especially the very first word ... On a cold start, without benefit of script, the listener might think, “What did he say? ‘Otsa’? ‘It’s a’?” They’ll eventually catch up in a moment or two, once they have the next few words for context. (“Oh. ‘Lots of kids...’”) But rather than establishing a mental and emotional bond, he’s started out by confusing them. Ironically, also a couple of the pauses between phrases could be a bit shorter, to sound even more natural. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/March 2019.mp3

2nd place winner: JTsVoice.com

246 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear JTsVoice.com's recording

He sounds natural and believable, with some good variety. However, at times he is a little too theatrical, and his pauses are waaaay too long. Even a “dramatic pause,” which he places well, can be shorter than these. (If a pause or space between phrases happens to be too long on an otherwise perfect read, it can easily be shortened and sound much more natural.) Some people might consider his repeated uptalk to be annoying, but the tension that it raises is released when he comes down on the final words. His slate, on the other hand, is too announcery (trying to sound cool, maybe?), so our closing impression is not a good one. It’s usually better to slate in character. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/March edge studio By Jonathan Thompson.mp3

3rd place winner: FredVO

224 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear FredVO's recording

Good read. He sounds natural and spontaneous. But he could use a tad more variety. And his pronunciation is too informal for this narration. He says "Lotsa kids have dogs." It’s very common among American English speakers, but he should have cleaned it up for this story. Some pauses between phrases are a bit long, which make it sound less authentic. (Same situation as Second Place.) The last sentence is a tad too theatrical. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/postie_edge.mp3

To view all entries from
Contest ending Sunday, March 31 click below

Contest ending Thursday, February 28

Contest Title:

First Seconds

Director's Notes:

This is a simulated audition for an industrial video about worker safety. The point of this script is to remind workers to don their safety equipment. Slate your name or username and the words "for Safety" after the read.

Script:

It only takes a second for tragedy to happen. But it takes only a few seconds to prevent it. Remember – always put on your safety glasses. Spending that little extra bit of time is a smart investment.

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Congratulations to our winners -- “jennifercooknice”, “brettbender” and “polarqueen” – for passing along some good advice.  The Director’s Notes didn’t specify what tone to take in this read (Expert authority? Friendly advice? A boss or manager? Other?), but most people tended to make it conversational, as if from a friend.  That’s good.  Although the script and instructions did not indicate what the rest of this industrial video is like, you seldom go wrong in this situation by making it conversational.  But, just as the choice of tone offers various options, so does “conversation.” What kind of conversation? Some people went a bit overboard in trying to be informal; some others tried too hard to be dramatic. Here are some tips for sounding natural, yet still standing out from the crowd.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #1: 
Decide who you are, where you are, and who you’re talking to. Then put your head in that place.  As we’ve noted, there are many different conversational situations.  For example, a chat between you and your boss (or a subordinate) is different from, say, a conversation in the living room of an old school chum. And talking to your spouse in the car is different still. 
 
It’s not just about your tone of voice. It’s about pacing, confidence, or searching for words, smiling (or not smiling, or grinning) and more.  The subject matter, the situation, and everything (supposedly) around you affects your speech, your thinking, and your manner. Is there a point where your character is searching for the next thought? Or is this a story you’ve told other people a dozen times? Are you watching your friends face for reactions? Are you trying to get a reaction? If so, what? All these things can affect your delivery.  And, note that we didn’t say “can affect your read.”  It’s not about reading. It’s about speaking. Naturally. In conversation.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #2
 
If only for practice, memorize the script.  In many genres, you can’t memorize the entire script, and shouldn’t try. That’s a nice thing about voice acting – you always have the script to refer to.  In fact, the script is often too long, or the timeframe too short, to digest the script fully, let alone memorize it word-for-word.  
 
But in a home-studio audition, you have a bit more leeway to put your best mouth forward. (As long as you will be able to replicate the performance when you land the job!) So read each sentence aloud once or twice, then close your eyes or cover the script and say it. This helps in two ways: 
(1) It encourages you to speak “thoughts,” not “words.” People naturally speak in thoughts.  
(2) It helps you pace yourself naturally.  You might even find yourself pausing or inflecting (very slightly) as you think of what to say. After you’ve tightened up your recording, be sure the sentences sound like they were recorded in a single take. 
 
One other caution: Some novice actors who have not yet got the hang of memorizing lines will pause unnaturally as they try to remember the next line, learned by rote.  That’s exactly opposite to what this is about. If you find yourself preoccupied with the memorizing, try a simpler approach instead: Pre-sentence.  Make up a lead-in to the script, to get yourself in character.  For example, ...
     “Look, I’ve seen someone lose an eye on the job, faster than you can blink.” 
When done, edit out the lead-in sentence.  And “proof listen” to your recording to be sure it agrees exactly with the script.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #3
 
Be accurate, but “don’t try too hard.”  Some people sounded too serious, others sounded too informal.  Both pose hazards.  
 
If you sound super-serious, you could lose the conversational quality and hit words unnaturally. There’s often a fine line between “announcery” and “serious friendly advice.”  
 
At the other extreme, when you get too informal, you can find yourself slurring words, losing energy at the end of sentences, dropping consonants (e.g., a trailing T sound), getting sloppy with vowels (e.g., “vurry” instead of “very”) or making other common VO errors.  
 
The solution to these errors?  Practice.  Make clear, correct pronunciation second nature in your own personality. Then, when you choose an appropriate personality for the character you are voicing, that character will tend to have these characteristics, too. 
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #4
 
Pay attention to detail.  Some people did not slate as instructed; either they didn’t slate, or forgot to say their name (and/or the words “for safety” as directed), or slated incorrectly. Some people didn’t notice that the two occurrences of the word “only” are different: “it only takes a second” vs. “it takes only a few seconds”. Each should be read as written.  
 

1st place winner: JENNIFERCOOKNICE

357 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear JENNIFERCOOKNICE's recording

Parts of the beginning are a little bit stilted, robotic. Yet as she gets into it, she sounds more and more human, and that’s great. The hint of gravel and the hint of smile toward the end are nice touches that humanize her recording. Considering how she perked up further in, maybe pre-sentencing will help (see Edge Studio Tip #2 above). The read could stand a bit more space between “it” and “Remember,” but it’s a clean break, so it could easily be extended. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/for safety Jennifer Nice.mp3

2nd place winner: brettbender

314 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear brettbender's recording

Good voice and solid performance. But he is inconsistent with his trailing "T" sounds. Some he pronounces, some he skips (or rather, uses a glottal stop or a “d” sound, or breathiness). For example, the last word (“investment”) ends with breath, not a T. It’s not egregious, but over a long script, it could become sloppy. He says words too quickly, so it would help to slow down just a bit, and have more space between phrases. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/Brett Bender - For Safety.mp3

3rd place winner: Polarqueen

292 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear Polarqueen's recording

A nice and pleasant voice. But her delivery is a bit stilted, robotic, making her sound sort of like an automated voice (artificial, computer-generated). The actual job might be a long video, and unless she brings more conversationality to it, listeners will tune out after a while. It sounds like she may have had a cold (her voice is a bit nasal, we hear stuffed-up sounds, and the word “time” is missing it’s “M” sound). This being a simulated audition, we didn’t count this against her. The pause between "time" and "is a" is too long. Becoming more conversational will help with things like that, too. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/safety.mp3

To view all entries from
Contest ending Thursday, February 28 click below

Contest ending Thursday, January 31

Contest Title:

Looking at you

Director's Notes:

This is a simulated audition for a TV commercial voice-over about investing. You are the parent of a young woman, as you reminisce about milestones in her life. You’re proud of her, and proud that you have planned for her future. You’re also just a little bit broken up about it. Please slate your name or username after the script.

Script:

The day you were born, we promised we’d provide for you. There were times it wasn’t easy, but we managed. We all managed. And now – look at you. As you look to your future.

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Congratulations to our winners -- “FlynnRachelM”  and “katydid7” – for standing out from a pack of very similar reads. This simulated audition called for "pride," but a delivery that runs a gamut of emotions.  Exactly which emotions was left to the talent, but logically they might range from regret, amazement and/or amusement to pride, tearful joy and hopefulness.  Maybe also a bit of concern.  How is a voice actor to cover all that ground in just a few sentences?  The answer, in part, is ... don’t.  A script like this does call for emotional variety, but don’t try to prove your ability by doing the unnecessary and virtually impossible task of showing more emotions than appropriate.  DO make some decisions, choosing real, relevant emotions that show contrast and credibility.  It has to be honest. Here are some tips for hitting that high mark.
EDGE STUDIO TIP #1
Decide how to read a scene by asking yourself a series of questions.  Some answers will be defined by the script or instructions, and some will be left to you, as you define your character.  Key questions are:
  • Who are you?
  • Where are you?
  • Who are you talking to?
Other defining questions you might ask include:
  • Why are you saying this? 
  • What action or response does your character want from the other character?  
  • How is unseen and unheard character reacting as you speak?
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #2
Begin and stay in an appropriate character.  But even a very experienced actor may find it difficult to lapse into a particular emotion without warm-up. Experience helps, but so does this:  Pre-voicing.  Write out or ad-lib a sentence or two that would naturally precede your line. That helps get you fully up-to-speed; your mind, your voice, your manner all making you sound convincing, natural, like a regular human being. 
 
In fact, you can do this for each change of emotion, just being sure you leave a clean break and that you don’t change your recording and mic’ing technique. When you have your takes, cleanly edit out everything except the script. 

Be sure that your characters are appropriate and realistic, and that they won't turn off the listener.  Many entrants in this contest used overly dramatic character voices, which sounded fake. And they dragged out those fake voices. (They either read phrases or sentences -- even the entire script -- in the same fake character, or they read ver-r-ry slowly with lo-n-n-ngbreaks between phrases). Either way, the recording dragged.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #3
Respect punctuation, but be your own person.  Almost everyone paused too long at the first comma (“The day you were born,”). Boring!  Yes, it’s a comma, but it’s not the complete thought. Rather than pause there, maybe respect extend the word “born” or use inflection?  
 
And the last sentence. It’s not even a complete sentence, so what’s going on there?  Many people came to a full stop before it. What is the point of that statement? What is your character thinking? Is it a warning? An afterthought? A shift of focus from “we” to “you”? (The questions in Tip #1 will help answer this.)  Did the scriptwriter mean to stop there, or is it an error?  As we said, you should respect punctuation, and respect the scriptwriter’s intentions. But some writers are not voice-acting experts.  It’s your job to help things make sense.

1st place winner: FlynnRachelM

280 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear FlynnRachelM's recording

She has all the right emotions, and there is some variety. But much of her manner is a little bit too dramatic, too contrived. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/January Edge Contest (Looking at You)_FlynnR.mp3

2nd place winner: katydid7

305 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear katydid7's recording

She, too, conveys all the right emotions, but they are all too dramatic, contrived. The recording is noisy, with a high-pitched buzz.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/K Brannan Edge Jan 29 2019 .mp3

To view all entries from
Contest ending Thursday, January 31 click below

Contest ending Friday, December 28

Contest Title:

Across the River

Director's Notes:

This is a simulated audition for a children’s audiobook containing fables and brain teasers. This script is from the old story about the farmer needing to cross a river in a small boat that cannot carry his full load – which is himself, a goose, a dog, and an open sack of grain. Speak in the narrator’s voice; do special voices for the characters, but make them still sound like the narrator speaking.

Script:

“If I take you with dog,” he said to the goose, “he’ll chase you all over creation while I come back for the grain."
“Then, by all means, take me with the grain,” said the goose.
“But he’ll eat all the grain!” warned the dog.

Remember to check Archived Contests at the beginning of each month to see the winners as well as feedback and tips from Edge Studio instructors.

Results

Edge Studio Tips and Feedback:

Congratulations to our winners -- “StanleyJ,” “DanIsgro,” and “Laurie Lane Voice” – for successfully walking a fairly unusual tightrope.  This month’s contest called for an audiobook narrator to do character voices, but always still sound like the narrator. That much is true with many narrated audiobooks, but not usually stated in audition directions. So actors' approaches will differ. Some voice actors, in addition to a “narrator’s” voice (possibly their everyday voice) are able to do a whole community of character voices that are sustainable and sound realistic.  Many other voice actors simply change their voice or manner in some way that differentiates each character from the others. So, why did this audition's Director's Notes explicitly ask for the latter?  And how do you find the right line? Here are some tips for hitting such a mark.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #1
Above all, the usual criteria still apply: Can the listener tell the characters apart, and apart from the narrator? Notice that in this script, it’s especially important, because the narrator’s “he said/she said” part comes after the character speaks. Once you’ve seen the script, it can be hard to ignore what you know from it. To tell if your characters are distinguishable, consider having a friend listen to your recording. See if they have any difficulty telling when one speaker ends and another begins.  
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #2
To get your head around the client’s instructions, try to understand where they’re coming from.  This advice applies to many VO jobs.  Although experienced directors know many ways to politely move talent in the desired direction, that’s not always the case. And even then, you may sometimes wonder, “What exactly do they mean by that”? If you aren’t able to ask for clarification, think of a possible scenario that matches what you’ve been asked to do. In other words, in the case of this assignment, ask yourself WHY would they want you to “do special voices for the characters, but make them still sound like the narrator speaking”?  Well, one clue is that this book is aimed at young children.  So a possible explanation might be that the client wants it to sound as if narrated by a parent – and parents are not generally great character actors. But remember Tip #1: You still have to differentiate the characters.
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #3
There are more ways to differentiate characters than doing “characters.”  This story (or at least, what we know of it) has four voices: The human (“he”), the goose, and the dog, plus the Narrator (the person who says “he said ...”.  When there are few characters, you can differentiate them simply by raising and lowering the pitch of your voice – up for the goose, down for the dog. Other ways to help tell them apart is to pause a bit before the character starts.  Or you might change their manner – maybe one character speaks more quickly than the other (but not too quickly to be understood).  Can you think of other mannerisms that would be immediately apparent, so the listener will instantly be clued which character is speaking? 
 
EDGE STUDIO TIP #4
When reading to children, bear their nature in mind.  Most kids love scary and nasty characters, but like people of any age, they would be turned off by a really obnoxious voice.  Which is why virtually no script or casting director calls for even bad guys to sound truly obnoxious. Although we didn’t encounter anyone who sounded that repellent, we did hear some rather gruff and harsh voices that would not appeal to kids. Or rather, the talent spoke in a harsh manner.  If your own voice or manner is naturally gruff, practice ways to mellow it out when necessary -- such as modulating your pitch, softening your “attack,” speaking more softly, raising your pitch, or being more vocally free (with less tension in your voice), and being careful not to add harshness in audio processing. Working on this with your voice-over coach may help.

1st place winner: StanleyJ

363 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear StanleyJ's recording

His performance favors the side of sounding like the Narrator throughout. He always has the same voice, but it works. For one thing, it is consistent, and the voice is clearly sustainable. His read does have some creativity and variety, it’s nicely paced, and his pauses help to designate who is speaking. If directed to add a bit more variety, say by changing pitch, he’d be right on the mark. One pause of another sort, between "warned" and "the dog," is a bit disconcerting, but it’s verrry slight and easily tweaked. The recording quality is okay, except for mouth clicks.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/Across the River_StanleyJ.mp3

2nd place winner: DanIsgro

283 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear DanIsgro's recording

He shows creativity, and tends to be vocally free. But he is also too loud at times. If a kid were listening on headphones, it could be too powerful. Actually, the final file is not entirely too loud, but some parts are much louder than others, to the point of being louder than 0 dB -- on the words “dog,” “back,” and when the goose is speaking. (This is apparent in software’s graphic representation, where the peaks are flattened, not pointy, or go off the chart.) What’s more, going “into the red” causes distortion that remains even when the overall volume is later lowered. The solution? After your first real take or two, check to be sure your recording levels are correct. Except for these overmodulated peaks and possible overprocessing, recording quality is good. We’ll presume that a director will advise him to lower his vocal and/or recording volume.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/DanIsgro_December_EdgeContest01.mp3

3rd place winner: Laurie Lane Voice

260 people have played this

Recording:

Click to hear Laurie Lane Voice's recording

The characters sound more like characters, rather than the narrator speaking, but not at all outside the bounds of direction. She has good pacing to differentiate them, and where the narrator herself was speaking (e.g., “said the dog”) she was consistently in her unaffected voice. In fact, she might have used a bit more exaggeration, the way a parent might read to a small child in bed. Recording quality is good.

/sites/default/files/script-recordings/user-[uid]/LaurieLaneAcrossTheRiverAuditionContestDec2018.mp3

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Contest ending Friday, December 28 click below

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