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Thursday, May 16, 2019

How To Build A Budget Recording Studio For Voice Actor

A home recording studio is something most VO professionals need to have. A professional-grade studio setup might seem out of reach for most beginners in this field.

After all, quality audio equipment does not come cheap now, do they?
However, it costs are much cheaper than previous years.

But these days, even if you are a rookie Voice Actor on a tight budget, you too can set up a decent recording studio with minimal investment. Here is how it can be done.

The Lynchpin - A Decent Mic

At the heart of your home recording studio lies the mic. This is where you should spend most of your budget... starting with a top notch mic. In these days of podcasting frenzy, you can find tons of mic options in the budget and bargain basement segments online.

While some USB mics can be had for as low as $25, it is recommended that you aim much higher than that for a cleaner sound, more natural sound.

Ideally, you should be looking somewhere around the $200-$300.00 range for a decent recording mic. The keywords to look for are “cardioid condensor microphone.”

These microphones are ideal for voice recording as they have excellent noise canceling qualities. Audio Technica and Blue are two newer brands that have some strong contenders around this price bracket.

Essential Accessories - Pop Filters and Pre-Amps

Every aspiring voice actor should have a decent interface between their recording mic and the PC/mobile devices.

You can look for simple pre-amp interfaces that cost under $100. Although, the better pre-amp/interfaces will cost more. Look for devices that have a power rating that matches your mic specifications. If they can hook to both Android and iOS devices, that is another plus point.

If you are a beginner voice over talent, you will also need a pop filter to weed out the nasty “booms” that arise every time you utter a word involving a “B” or “P”.

These sounds create air bursts from your mouth, called “plosives” in professional VO circles. A good quality pop filter worth all of $10-$20.00 will put an end to your worries about unwanted booms in your recordings.  

Sound-Proofing Your Studio For Voice Acting

To produce the best quality audio, you need a sound-proofed recording space. This can be had by using some good quality acoustic foam. Numerous options are available in the market at various prices. For a small room, around $100 worth of foam might be enough.  

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Three Insights You Learn When You Work On Audiobooks As An American Voice Actor

Professionals in the field of voice over recording often get to work on different types of material.

Some are as short as a few seconds worth of ad scripts, while other gigs can involve reading an entire book (even boring non-fiction works no less!). Working on audiobooks can be a mixed bag.

Some can deliver a very pleasing and fulfilling experience, while others yield nothing but a dull, endless grind. Here are some pieces of wisdom that experience in audiobook creation brings to one’s mind:

The Importance of Time Management For Voice Over Recording Nashville, TN

An American voice actor once noted, the longer the source material, the more crucial time management becomes for a professional. It doesn't matter whether you are dealing with a piece of fiction or non-fiction.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the number of pages and chapters you have to finish. You need to plan in advance to get the job done properly. Mad dashes towards the end of the deadline will not work here. That will suffer your performances.

The World Is Full Of Things You Had No Clue About

There are folks all over the place writing about the strangest, weirdest things possible under the sun! And as an American voice actor you often get to read in-depth about some of them.

Not only do you get to learn about new stuff, but you might also turn into a bit of an expert on some of them as well. The whole process of reading the text aloud and then listening to the recording gives you a chance to absorb all that stuff into your brain.

Editing is Important & Underrated

When you buy a poorly edited book, you don’t have any compulsion to finish it off. In fact, many books in the realm of non-fiction are never completed by their readers, which is often not the case in fiction.

But when you delve into the world of voice over recording , you have no choice but to complete the book to satisfy your paying clients.

In the course of your work, you will inevitably come across long, rambling tomes that feel as though they were never put through the wringer that is the editing process. Once that happens, you will truly start to appreciate the effort put in by editors out there in the world of publishing!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Why The Art Of Storytelling Is Important For A VO Narrator

If there is one thing I have learned in my long years in the business of voice over work, it is the importance of storytelling. When working as a professional Narrator, you will come across scripts of all styles and lengths.

Regardless of whether it is an ad for a new product, or a PSA, or a work of non-fiction, a script always has a story to tell. As the voice-over professional, it is your job to find the story hidden inside and relate it the best way you can to your audience. 

A Good American Storyteller Always Analyzes the Script

Never look at a script as just something that you need to mindlessly spew out of your mouth in style. That is simply the wrong way of working as a VO artist. All scripts have an underlying message for the audience.

Look at the words that try to speak to the listener, and thoroughly understand what they are trying to tell. Your's will become a much more convincing and persuasive voice when you know the story you need to tell with your own unique way of telling it.

Understanding The Product vs Becoming a Character

Some scripts for a narrator simply involve you delivering a few lines about a specific product. The storytelling aspect may seem a bit thin in these scripts, but they are nonetheless present.

The story here is all about the product: you need to understand it and how it relates to the audience. Visualize the situations where the product offers maximum value.

In other scripts, you are not just a floating voice, but an actual, concrete character. These scripts are easier to grasp as the storytelling aspect is often quite deep here. Character stories can be much easier to read and analyze.

If you want to become a great American storyteller, you need to learn the words and phrases in the script that need maximum emphasis.

The Art of Pause and Emphasis

Some bits of dialogue come across better when you say it with added gravitas and emotion. Often, slowing down the speed of your speech or using vocal dynamics is a nice trick to grab the attention of the listeners. To make the most of this technique, you need to focus on the keywords and phrases in the script.

This is where analysis of the script becomes so critical. When you start to look at every script as a kind of story, you learn to zoom in on the richness of content within the script.

But that kind of awareness does not happen overnight. It takes time to perfect, and that is why, as an American storyteller you should focus on the art of storytelling when you embark on a career in voice over acting and recording. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Recording Studio Set Up Guide For Professional Voiceover

In another blog post, we examined how you can easily get all the equipment you need for a beginner recording studio for just a couple of hundred bucks or so. But having professional-grade equipment at your disposal is only half the battle won.

To get the best out of your voice over Nashville, TN studio, you will need to know the best way to create a recording environment.

Ideal Space For Recording Voiceover 

VO recording is best done is small, intimate spaces. All you need is enough room to comfortably accommodate one person, namely, the professional voiceover talent... which is probably YOU! When it comes to selecting the ideal space for your recording studio, always keep in mind that less is more.

Giving All Surfaces The Foam Treatment

This is a very crucial aspect of prepping your chosen space for professional-grade VO recording.

There is no such thing as too much soundproofing. If there is an open surface inside your recording space, cover it with foam. And we are not just talking about windows and doorways here. Get some foam over the walls, the ceiling, and every other surface around.  

You can use acoustic foam panels, bass traps, throw pillows, and even thick comforters to get the job done. Although, I highly recommend installing profesional acoustic foam such as that made by Auralex Acoustics.

One important area that many beginner voiceover talent miss out on is the wall surface behind them. Since the mic is positioned towards this space, you should be looking at making this surface as acoustically dead as possible. 

Where To Place The Mic

There is no single right answer to this conundrum. There are many different ways in which you can place a mic in your recording space to get the perfect sound. Some folks place it in a corner facing the rest of the space, allowing the person to speak into the corner, reducing reverbs and reflections.

Another option is to place the mic in the center of your recording space, ideally 7-8 inches away from your mouth, depending on the mic itself.

Make sure that the mic is angled away from your mouth, but still pointing towards it, This will help it avoid catching your breath (plosives)while still capturing the sounds coming from your mouth.

If you want to do pro voiceover you will also need a pop filter in your studio. Keep it right in front of your mouth so that it can deal with any plosives that you emit during your speech.

Of course there is more you will need in terms of recording/editing gear which I'll cover in another blog article.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

How to Get Noticed in the Voiceover Industry - Part Two

Although there are more opportunities than ever for voiceover actors thanks to the technology boom, the competition is stiffer than ever. Sometimes it can feel like you’re lost in the crowd, despite your enormous talent - and you know that if you could only be noticed, your career would instantly take off.

One very important thing to keep in mind is that no matter how much you feel like you’re trying and trying with no results - there remain far more people who don’t know you than who do.

Contact Prospective Clients Directly

When questioned, many producers surprisingly say that they don’t often receive direct communications from voiceover talents who want to introduce themselves and get known - producers go on to say that they are completely open to these sorts of prompts from voice actors, and are shocked that it doesn’t happen more frequently.

We exist in a modern era where people expect immediate results. To stay relevant as a voice actor, it’s key to respond as quickly as possible to emails or phone calls. If you’re unavailable when a potential client wants or needs something from you, they are liable to simply move on to the next person on their list.

Utilize the Internet to Get Noticed

The internet is one of the top ways for people to do business these days, and as such maintaining an appealing, up-to-date website and intelligent sounding blog are imperative. Starting a YouTube channel and posting videos that showcase your talent are another excellent way to establish a strong voiceover presence on the web.

If you don’t have a demo - create one; if you already have a demo, share it online in as many avenues as possible, using popular sites like SoundCloud, Twitter, VoiceBunny, VoiceRealm, Bodalgo, and FaceBook. Don’t forget to mention your contact information when sharing, and also include your name in the file name of your demo.

Sending newsletters via email can be helpful, but tend to be cumbersome and too long for a potential client to read thoroughly. An effective alternative is writing emails once every few weeks that highlight your most recent works - this will assist in keeping you at the forefront of the minds of potential voiceover employers and clients.

Don’t Disregard Snail Mail

Sending out personalized postcards with your photo alongside a hand-written note can be an easy and personal way to grab a potential client’s attention. Producers will enjoy connecting your name and voice with a face - giving you a huge edge over those who contact them exclusively through text and email.

This old-school method of communication is underrated in the current digital age - but it gives you an excellent shot at standing out from the pack.

Work With a Voiceover Agent

Working with a voice over agent to represent you is a great idea if you’ve already had some training and experience, and also have high-quality demos you to promote. Even if you have little to no actual experience doing voiceover if you have a solid demo an agent may be willing to take a gamble and represent you.

Agents find opportunities (such as auditions) and have excellent negotiation skills. They have a lengthy list of connections with studios and casting agencies, and usually know about upcoming auditions and projects.

To thrive in the cutthroat voiceover industry, agents must stay current with the hottest trends - meaning they're always looking for raw, undiscovered voices and talent. Finding the right agent can create a mutually beneficial relationship that gets you noticed and lands you your first big break.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Best Warm-Up Routine For Professional Voice Over

Warm-ups are incredibly important for professional athletes, dancers, and other professionals who are involved in physically strenuous activities.

Professional voice over involves a lot of strain on your vocal cords. So warm-ups can help you prepare your voice for a flawless performance.

The Ideal Time For Warm Ups

A seasoned voice narrator will usually perform warm-ups on two separate occasions: once in the morning, and often right before a live recording. When we wake up in the morning, our voices are usually not at 100%.

A short warm-up will help clear your throat and get your ready for the daily grind. And live sessions are incredibly demanding situations where you need to put your best voice forward. This makes a quick warm up immediately before a session well worth the effort. 

Rolls & Trills Involving Both Lips And Tongue

Lip rolls and trills are a popular exercise among professional singers. If your voice over work involves a wide range and diverse vocal registers, these exercises will help you sharpen those.

To roll your lips, close your mouth and create a constant “B” sound. This will vibrate your lips, creating a trilling sound effect.

Tongue trills involve similar mechanics, but instead of the lips, you will be vibrating your tongue.

To achieve this, keep your mouth comfortably open and try to create a “G” or “D” sound with your tongue pressed up against the roof of the mouth. When done correctly, the tip will vibrate, creating a trilling sound effect in the process.

Other Sound Exercises 

A typical warm-up for voice over can last anywhere from 5 minutes to well over 20 minutes. You can fill up all those minutes with a choice selection of sound exercises for your mouth.

Some of these require you to keep your mouth closed, while others give best results when you keep your mouth open. Remember to keep a constant pitch and move through your vocal range only gradually.

       “M” - works on the front part of your mouth, create sound with your mouth closed.
       “N” - works similar to “M”, but closer to the nose, keep your mouth closed when doing this sound.
       “L” - works on the space close to your throat/back of the head, keep your mouth open with tongue pressed to the roof of mouth when doing this exercise.
       “NG” - works on your nose and sinuses, keep your mouth closed for this one.
       “Z” - works on the front part of your mouth, requires you to keep your mouth open but teeth clenched for best results.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How to Get Noticed In the Voiceover Industry - Part One

Just as you must get into the water when first learning how to swim, you have to dive into the voiceover industry headfirst and gain real experience to ultimately get noticed.

Don’t be hard on yourself - the entertainment business in Nashville, TN is about as cutthroat and full of competition as it gets. Tons of people want a piece of the pie - but, if you are willing to work hard, use your head, and have thick skin - you will inevitably do well.

Know the Genres of Voiceover to Get Noticed

One of the most valuable skills in a voiceover actor is a thorough understanding of the different script genres, such as:

-       Announcer
-       Real Person
-       Spokesperson
-       Character
-       Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR)
-       Public Service Announcement (PSA)
-       Documentary
-       Promos
-       Audiobooks
-       Inspiration
-       Impersonation
-       Podcast

Each of these genres requires various sets of interpretive skills/talent. Among these (although there are several more) promos, animation, audiobooks, and ADR are the most in-demand. You will probably find that you have a natural talent for one or another (or perhaps several) - it’s wise to focus on these and strengthen them further.

Voiceover Training

In addition to familiarizing yourself with these genres, you’ll need to beef up your skills and get noticed through voiceover training. Things you will focus on in training include:

-       Timing
-       Relaxation
-       Using a Natural Tone
-       Microphone Technique
-       Lowering Inhibitions (naturally)
-       Breathing Life Into a Script

In stark contrast with acting on film, TV, or a stage, you won’t usually have any actors with which you can interact - this will come entirely from your heart and imagination.

Make a Voiceover Demo Tape

After doing a bit of research, begin crafting what you feel is your perfect demo tape. Once you’ve finished it, you can resort to it as an invaluable tool to showcase your talent after contacting potential clients.

If you still find yourself stuck even after taking all these steps, here are some additional recommendations to help you get noticed and seize your first dream job as a voice actor:

-       Take communications/broadcast classes at your a community college (this can help you learn how to use your voice and how the industry works - as well as being great for networking).
-       Do theater.
-       Take an acting class.
-       Spend time volunteering at Public Radio and make connections.
-       Study the habits of successful voiceover actors 

Be patient and work hard - you’re sure to get noticed for your voiceover skills!