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Monday, February 10, 2020

Tips for a Voice Actor to Become an Audiobook Narrator



The publishing industry has watched the market fluctuate the last few years, however, the one thing that is on the rise is the audiobook market.  Long commutes, busy lifestyles, mobile devices have made this market explode.  For a voice actor, this is a fantastic opportunity to make money working in this market.  Here is a guide of where to start.

Voice Over Actors as Audiobook Narrators

Voice over actors are the perfect fit as narrators.  We are trained in this skill. 

When you are narrating a book, you have to vocalize what you are seeing and hearing in your mind.
An audiobook listener relies entirely on the narration, painting the picture just right.  Which is what makes it different from voice-over work like commercials, where images and videos complement the narration.

Narrating fiction requires acting skills.  They are heavily character-based so you are going to have to handle different voices.  Nonfiction is a different challenge by keeping the content interesting even if the content is dry.  Whether or not you enjoy the subject matter is about enjoying the process of producing the book for readers.

Technique

While voice actors are great narrators, there are some techniques and practice time until you are a pro at audiobook narration.  It is all about practicing and realizing that it can not be done all at once.  It is exhausting and you need enough energy so your voice doesn’t drop.  Your error rate will increase as you become tired, so take breaks throughout and plan on several days of recording.

Find Your Niche
In voice-over work, in general, it is about finding your niche, the same is said for voice narration of books.  Your voice will naturally fit better in certain genres and you may prefer fiction or non-fiction style as well.  Once you realize what niches are best for you, the jobs will roll in faster.

Quality Recording

There are specific technical requirements to publish audio on the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX).  The quality must be excellent for the client and the listener.  Whether it is going to a professional studio to record or if you are like many voices over professionals in your own soundproof studio at home.

On a side note, you will need to read from an electronic device, you can’t make page-turning noises.  Also, turn off the wifi on the devices as they can make a static noise and it will get picked up by the audio when recording. Also, use a microphone that produces a "warmer" more intimate tone as opposed to a very "hot" broadcast mic like the Sennheiser 416. Which is a great industry standard mic but lacks that more intimate sound. Remember, you are often talking to the listener directly into their ear via earbuds or headphones. 

Producing and Editing

If you work through ACX, you will have to do the producing and editing yourself.  This might mean that you need to work on your technical skills if you don’t regularly do it for other voice over projects.  Audiobooks require hours of editing, making them more labor-intensive. You can also hire audio editors who may work for as little as $25.00/hr to go through your entire file. However, your budget may not be sufficient for using any outside editors.

Note: Although excessive breaths can become annoying when listening to audio book narration, I believe that excessive REMOVAL of every single breath leaves your narration devoid of life. In other words, having NO breaths in the narration can suck the life out of a good performance.

A great way to practice your editing skills is to look for smaller projects like promotional videos or corporate training.  It is a great way to work on editing on a more manageable sized project when starting out.  Online course videos are the next step in project size as they will take a few hours.  Audiobooks range from 10-15 hours of editing.



Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Voice Over Talent Guide to Getting Hired from Your Website



As a professional voice over talent, it is critical that you have a website that showcases who you are and what you can do.  Just having a website is not enough and having an older website not showcasing your work can be detrimental to booking new voice over jobs.  There are several components that your website should have.

Why Have a Website?

In this day and age, everyone has a website for everything. If you send someone who wants to hear a sample of you work to your agent or a voice-over talent website, they can always see your competition.  You are giving them opportunities to hire another voice-over actor. Not a good thing!

You also want them to be able to see all your work, credits, testimonials, your bio, your studio capabilities for them to get to know you.  People work with people that they connect with.  Give them the opportunity to know who you are and what skills you have.

Clear Content

When a potential client finds your website, they want to know what type of work you do within the first few seconds.  Be sure to say voice over talent, what you specialize in, and how long you have been in the industry.  There are so many websites that are beautiful, but the visitor has no idea what they do or if they are a good fit. Don’t make that mistake.  Be clear about who you are, what you can do, and how to contact you.

Demos

Demos and audio samples are crucial.  You want them to be very clearly placed on your website, no potential client wants to hunt to find them.  I suggest putting them right there on your landing page. They should showcase all the genres and types of work that you have done.

Put a link that allows them to download your demo with your name and demo type written on the file label. There are many clients that will keep a folder of the talent they like so when they have a project they will know exactly who to contact.  Be in that folder, so they come back to you.  Be sure to not give it a just a generic label “commercial voiceover”.  You want it to have your name, so they have a reference like, “Rick Lance-Commercial”.

Testimonials

Testimonials are powerful when it comes to proving your credibility as a voice-over talent.  They go a long way in establishing trust with a new potential client.  A single testimonial from a happy client can mean more than an entire page of information that you write yourself.

A Bio in the About Me

The home page may have some information about you, however, a strong voice over talent website will have an about me or bio page.  A detailed bio will provide a fuller picture of your background, experience, training, past, and current clients, and any other information that will give them a better sense of who you are and what you can do.

User Experience

A website that caters to a user’s experience is key for any professional or company.  Keep in mind that you want your website to look good on a computer or a mobile device.  Make sure that all the links to your samples and demos are working.  This is especially important if it goes to another website or client’s site. 

As a voice-over talent the visitor knows that you also know how to edit for jobs and if the website looks outdated or the editing looks bad, they may think that it is a reflection of your work as well.  Even though websites and audio editing are very different.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

How AI Will Give Voice Over Actors Opportunities



As a voiceover actor or voice over artist, you are uniquely positioned to influence how AI (artificial intelligence) technology will evolve.  The opportunities for voiceover actors to create both static and dynamic audio content are vast and growing.  As the smart speaker and home assistant revolution grow, the voiceover industry will see growth as well.

Americans love AI

One in every three people owns some sort of smart speaker.  We commonly ask Siri and Alexa questions and they each have a unique voice that is recognized.  Americans are constantly looking to upgrade their homes to “smart home”. The features of AI are constantly growing and expanding.  Its presence in homes allows for automation of appliances, the temperature in the home, and offering solutions to everyday tasks.

What does this mean for voiceover actors?  More jobs or less?

Creating “Sonic Identities”

Brands will be looking for voice actors to build “sonic identities” for their customers. A sonic identity is the brand’s proprietary sonic voice that conveys the brand story, enhances emotional connection and builds brand attribution.  It ties together talking points across communications, live and digital experiences.  Apple has Siri and Amazon has Alexa, companies, and brands that will need their own versions.

How Voiceover Actors Fit with AI

Artificial intelligence creates opportunities across the board, and this includes the voice over industry.  While you may think that computer power AI applications generated voices, the voices originated somewhere.  That somewhere is a voice-over actor comes in. Those automated voices will need to sound more and more real, based upon good VO actors.

For a voiceover actor, the art of making AI sound human is the key.  Computerized voices need a human voice to establish the foundation of the vocal database.  Siri is voiced by voiceover actor Susan Bennett.  VO actors will be able to help create a more meaningful connection between people and technology they interact with by replicating everyday conversations.

Virtual Assistants and Voice Apps

Any device, app, or assistant that has a voice response option has started with a human, specifically a voiceover actor.  The same is true for virtual assistants and voice apps used across a variety of industries.  A VO actor originally recorded the voices that are there.

While some AI apps currently do not have a voice response to date, they are planning on adding the feature in the not so distant future.  Brands like Google which means more job opportunities.

More Work for Voice over Actors

Companies will need voiceover actors' experience in reworking scripts, audio cues, and prompts.  The opportunity to be the creators of vocal artificial intelligence is there for VO actors. The voiceover industry is poised for an exciting new platform of personalized communication.  Companies realize that the relationship between personalized content and brand loyalty is critical.  It poses a new area for voice over actors.

Artificial Intelligence is an emerging line of work for voice actors and more and more brands will seek to develop their own branded voice.  This new year is the time to expand and hone in on your craft and look for opportunities in this growing job opportunity arena.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Business Trends in 2020 That Will Positively Impact the Voice Over Industry



Business trends and media trends for the upcoming year can help you as a voiceover actor plan and prepare to increase your business.  They will need voiceover actors more and more on specific projects and you may need to look at your demo reels and be ready to hit the New Year running.

Increasing Demand for Training Content

This includes the development of educational content from training employees to courses training their clients... E-learning.  Industries are feeling the pull to create more content to keep up with the demand of the ever-evolving workforce.

 The training videos require a lot of moving parts to synchronize, grab a hold of the learner’s attention, and achieve real learning.  A bad script can hurt the project, but the voice can make or break a project.  Which is why the demand for a professional voiceover actor is needed.

For voiceover actor training, content requires a range of styles, roles, accents, and languages.  The trained actor understands how to deliver a performance that values the brand but interprets the script to the audience and engages them. A voice that does not become distracting from the content and can convey the message clearly. Without "getting in the way" of the content.

Digital Audio Advertising

Digital audio advertising is growing rapidly as businesses are racing to place ads where people are.  This also includes podcasts, internet radio, streaming services, voice-enabled, and voice-assisted devices.  Including mobile phones, tablets and watches.

As a VO actor, this will mean that it will be important to make effective audio ads.  Training in effective commercial communication and possibly updating your commercial demos should be at the top of your list, to land these types of jobs.

Podcasts Are Even More Popular

Podcasts will continue to rise in popularity as a form of entertainment, inspiration, and educational content.  The audience in 2019 grew and it will continue to have significant increases in 2020.  51% of Americans 12 years old and up have listened to a podcast.

For the Voiceover Actor, your technical recording knowledge needs to be current.  Make sure that it showcases your editing skills on demos.  Many podcasters will need help creating intros and outros for their podcasts as more and more outsource this to get the best voice possible.  These intros and outros will need to be short, clear, concise and possibly with music and SFX added.  They will look to you as the expert to help them.

Voice Powered Apps and Devices with Sonic Branding

Sonic Branding is the strategy of using music, voice, and sound, to help reinforce brand recognition and enhance the customer experience.

Audio content is at an all-time high and voice interaction is becoming the norm.  Brands are considering their audio branding based on the rise in popularity of podcasts, streaming services, voice assistant and other audio-driven media.  This trend will not only be for large corporations, but it will also impact businesses of all sizes.  Those who do not build an audio brand will get left behind.

The human voice has huge applications for voice-first devices and apps.  The computer-generated voice is based on a voice actor. Distinct voices that match the brand’s tone is what brands will need.  Which means more job opportunities for voiceover talents.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Trendy Speech Patterns Voice Over Actors Should Avoid



Voice over actors must keep up with current trends whether it is about technology, styles or even speech patterns.  However, just because a trend is popular does not mean that it is one that you would want to use at job auditions.  As a voice-over actor there are some trends currently that are not going to help you get a job unless it specifically is in the writer’s notes or part of the character.

What is Vocal Fry?

It is dropping the voice to its lowest natural register, which changes the way a person’s vocal folds vibrate together.  Those changes create inconsistencies in the vibrations and lend the speaker’s voice a subtly choppy or creaky quality.  The easiest way to listen for it is if the voice sounds creaky, choppy, breathy and at a lower register.

There are several celebrities that are noted for using vocal fry, which is why it is a current topic.
There is evidence that people respond negatively to vocal fry.  We consider people who use this being less competent, less educated, and less trustworthy. 

Men typically have a lower pitch than women, so their voice descends into fry more easily.

What is Upspeak?

It entails a rising intonation at the end of any and all utterances. Sometimes referred to as uptalk is rising inflection or high rising intonation.  The most common way that you will recognize it is when the ending of a statement sentence sounds like a question.

This results in listeners not taking them or their content seriously. They can perceive it as very passive-aggressive and it can hurt you in auditions.

Shotgun Speech Pattern

Like an actual firearm, shotgun speech is fast and furious. It is a rapid outburst of words. It is something that is seen in younger generations and common on TV shows. It can weaken your voice as you are not in taking enough air and can jumble your dictation.

Speaking too fast makes it hard for the audience to understand and they have to focus and work hard to get it all.  People perceive as nervous and anxious behavior.

This should not be your first choice unless you are directed to imitate an auctioneer.
  
Traditional Speech Patterns

When making a statement, traditional speech patterns automatically lower inflection at the end of a sentence. When asking a question, the inflection rises at the end.

The sentences need to end definitively.  Your voice is important to show you are confident and authority.  For a voice-over actor using traditional speech patterns can be the deciding factor in getting a second interview or the job over someone else.

Honing Your Craft

As a professional voice-over actor you already know the best way to improve your voice is practice and if need be lessons.  It is a craft that needs persistent honing.  With proper warmups and practice techniques, having a voice that is adaptable to the clients’ needs will always land you the job.  Knowing trendy voice patterns is good, but using them regularly could become a downfall in your brand.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Voice Over Talent for Podcasts



Podcasts are so popular that 44 percent of Americans 12 and older have listened to a podcast, and 80 percent of them listen to a podcast on an average of seven shows a week.  It is a huge opportunity for voice-over talent.

When someone is thinking about starting a podcast, they may overlook the intro and outro.
The podcast world is worth looking into as a voice-over talent.  Podcasters cover a wide range of topics and they have a good following.  It is worth exploring as a voice-over talent.

A Podcast Intro

The podcast intro is the show’s opening that introduces the show and the host.  It sets the mood and the tone of the entire show. The music and words are key factors.  However, a critical part is the tone and clarity.

The intros need to be clear, concise and to the point.  The voice needs to match the music and who can do that better than a trained voice-over talent.  The audience will come to identify the voice and the music with the podcast.  Like any good television show, commercial or radio program.  The podcaster wants them to hear it and know it’s their show. The voice helps to brand the show.

Content of A Good Podcast Intro

An intro to a podcast should have several key elements to make it noteworthy. 
·         Name of Podcast
·         Episode Number and Title
·         Music or sound effects
·         Name of Host
·         Podcast Overview or Tagline
·         Intro of Episode

While the podcast host may know this as the expert, they may call upon you the voice over talent to help them with the details.  If they have ideas, you will want to make sure that they do not add anything that detracts without adding value.

A Podcast Outro

The podcast outro is the closing that wraps the entire show up into a tidy package.  It leaves the audience with a feeling of an ending... a summation.  This is the place where a tagline is the core of the podcast.  The outro is part of the branding that keeps the listeners loyal. 

Like the intro, the outro needs to be short and sweet with a call to action.  Inviting them to continue to listen, tell their friends, or share the content.  There needs to be a mention of a website name or address for them to go to.

What Makes Good Podcast Outro Content

There are key pieces to a good podcast outro that need to be included in the creation.
·         Thank the audience for tuning in.
·         Website address, Contact Info and How to Get More
·         A Call To Action (CTA)

Why Hire A Voice Over Talent for A Podcast?

The pressure of creating an intro and an outro is more than many podcasters want to handle.  While talking about a subject that is their passion is easy, these need to be fantastic. 

A voice-over talent has the experience and training to perfect, smooth out and records a flawless intro and outro.  You understand the key elements and dynamics in using a voice to capture and keep an audience.

When speaking with a podcaster, remind them that you lend credibility, professionalism, and sophistication to their podcast.  Like a speaker on stage, someone always introduces them before they start.  Same in the podcast world.  The intro and outro are the bookends of a podcast and help draw the audience in with great narration. An outside POV is always more impressive.

Who knows, once you get into the podcast world you may even think about talking about your passion and share your knowledge with the podcast world on being a voice-over talent.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Growth Mindset Can Take Your Voice Over Career to the Next Level



To have a successful voice-over actor career is to have the proper mindset. Of course, your skills and talent are important factors, however, your mind is a powerful tool.  A growth mindset is more than positive and negative thinking.  It's changing the way you think, your habits and behaviors.

What is Growth Mindset?

Having a growth mindset is the belief that learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience.  When a person believes that they can become smarter and better, their efforts have an effect on their success, so they put in the extra time leading to higher achievement.

Your basic abilities are a starting point for your potential.  Everything can be developed with effort, learning and persistence.

Don't see failures as proof that you are deficient, but as a lesson that will take you to the next level.

Steps to Take When Using the Skills of a Growth Mindset Develop Positive Habits

Your static beliefs will hold you back from making positive changes.  You need to readjust your thinking that habits are not fixed and they can be changed.  You can build a new skill, break a consistent habit that is not elevating you.

Acknowledge and Embrace Your Weaknesses

By changing the way in which you think your craft can improve drastically.  You will have the openness to work on a new skill set for your voice over career.  You can take your new way of thinking and expand your genre, your worklist.

Identify your weakness and then create habits that will improve it and help you tackle it.  For example, if you want to establish yourself as an audiobook narrator but have not worked in that area,  start by creating good habits for research, finding your niche, and before you know it, your weakness will be a strength.

Challenges are New Opportunities

Taking on challenges is part of development.  It can be overwhelming but the more you challenge yourself and hone in on your craft, the more success you will gain.  Venturing off the usual path will take your voice over career to a new level. You can work from your "root" voice and branch out from there.

Focus on the Process

As a voice-over actor you already understand focusing on the process.  You've focused on the process to become a professional in the industry.  It is important to learn the process and focus less on the results.  You will get more out of the experience when you are in it. The results will come.

Set A New Goal Each Time You Accomplish One

You will never be completely finished with learning.  There is always another goal to reach or more expanding to be done.  Set goals for learning more in the voice-over industry, marketing yourself, gaining new clients, creating new character voices or just stretching the parameters within your root tone. With each goal a milestone will be reached and more clients and business and satisfaction for you.

Growth Mindset Will Get You More Work

Mind over matter is an old saying; however, it is true.  A growth mindset will help you take your aim of success and lead you to develop it.  When auditions you send get no responses, seek advice from voice over pros or additional training to improve a weakness. At the same time, realize those circumstances regarding auditions that you cannot change. 

Over time, your career will have successes and failures, but each negative is an area to work on to turn it into a positive. You have the talent as a voice-over actor, with a positive mindset and working through the steps, you will make your career soar.