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Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Makes a Great Video Script Great?

We have all seen or heard the commercials that are uncomfortable, awkward, and obviously lack natural conversation skills.  That is, most definitely, what you want to avoid as an advertising professional.  As in most things, the best way to figure out what works for video scripts and what doesn’t, is simply to consider the competition.  In this case, maybe not the work of direct competitors, but rather just the body of videos and commercials that you come across. 

Make a List As you watch and listen, write down what you like and what you don’t.  You’ll be amazed at how clearly you can define what you want from your script by doing this.

Consider Everyday Conversation If you would not converse on this topic, and, more importantly, your customer wouldn’t converse on this topic in the course of a normal day, then chances are it will come across as awkward in the video.  So, you might have to change your approach, creating a monologue, as opposed to trying to pass it off as normal dialogue.  If it is a discussed, topic, then really consider how it is discussed.  In what setting?  Using what sort of language and by whom?  If you can write a script that is very closely based to real life interaction, then you will be far more successful with it.

Hire a Professional Am I biased?  Of course I am.  I work in the voiceover industry and I have the utmost faith that I can create a more believable voice for the dialog than the untrained individual can.  However, to take it one step further, you really should avoid using friends and family members for the voice acting in your video.  Just as people can be camera shy, they can be microphone shy, which can cause them to alter the tone, tempo, and inflection of their speech, resulting in an awkward form of speech that is far from convincing.  This is exactly why we see and hear so many ‘awkward’ commercials.  Avoid the discomfort and allocate some money for professional voice services.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Why Voiceover Artists Love Editors

If you have a manuscript or novel that you are considering passing off to a voiceover actor, you may want to consider seeking the help of an editor first.  Because of the self-publish movement, many writers have found that they can simply write, review, and publish, skipping right past the professional editing phase.  For a few, it works out fine, but for most, the lack of editing is immediately evident.  So, when these pieces of writing reach the voiceover artist, there can be frustration on both ends.  Why?  Because, voiceover artist rely heavily on proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Spelling The beauty of spelling is that many forms of software, such as Microsoft Word, have built in spell check programs, so it is much more difficult to misspell a word in a manuscript than it once was.  However, it is important to note that the spell check will not catch every word.  If you meant to type ‘off’, but mistyped, forgetting the final ‘f’, the spell check might not pick up on it, because ‘of’ is a recognized word in the dictionary. This is just one example.  Our brains do odd things at times, causing our fingers to type a word that we hear someone speak, instead of the word that we intended to write, or just a random word that is spelled similarly to what we wanted to type.  This is not uncommon, and one can see how it would cause some frustration when doing voiceover, because it would be read as it was written, unless it was caught ahead of time.

Grammar There are many grammar mistakes that are commonly made and not easily detected, unless by the trained eye of an editor. These issues can cause added editing time for the voiceover artist, if they are not caught before the reading.  That means you spend more money, and it can be much more time consuming to fix audio than it would be to simply have the text edited in advance.

Punctuation This is, arguably, the most important reason to seek editing before voiceover.  Punctuation tells a person a lot, and when reading such text aloud, the punctuation can make a big difference in the tempo and volume of the reading.  An exclamation point versus a period, for instance, would change the volume in which the voiceover actor reads.  And, a comma, can change the tempo of a sentence, causing a pause midway.

These are just a few of the reasons why edited texts are preferred in the voiceover community.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What Do You Need to Get Started as a Voiceover Artist?

If you are trying to break into the voiceover industry, then you very likely have a lot of questions.  Some of those answers will simply come to you naturally, over time, and as you gain experience, but before you can get to that point, you have to make a start.  That means that the first question to answer is what you will need to do so.

Microphone Obviously, if you are going to record yourself, you need some sort of device capable of capturing your voice.  That means that you will need a microphone.  Please be aware that they come in a wide range of prices, but you may just get what you pay for.  A lot of beginners will attempt to cut costs when buying the microphone, and this isn’t the best idea, especially if you don’t have a soundproof studio to record in.  Some of these have the capability of automatically filtering out the background noises, while detecting the finer nuances of your voice, and that can ultimately mean a much better product to send off to clients. Take the time to match the right mic to your vocal qualities. Visit you local music store and comparison test several of them.

Headphones There are many reasons why you will want headphones.  The primary one is for playback of your recording.  It will allow you to really hear what the client is going to hear.  This is important for the playback, but also for any editing that you may do.  Of course, headphones can also be noise cancelling, which means that you are less apt to be distracted while working. Make sure they are studio monitor type and not those meant for music listening.

Mic Stand Some of the microphones are designed to rest on table tops, in which case the stand won’t be necessary, but if you intend to be standing during recording, or you need a place to store the mic while not in use, you’ll need to consider a stand.

Software You will need software for recording and also editing.  There are several options, so it is a good idea to do some research to discern what the best fit is for you.

A Steady Voice None of the above matters if you don’t have a clear, crisp voice, and the ability to enunciate and moderate your tempo.  Not everyone is cut out to do this job.  If you are easily winded, tend to lose your voice after speaking for a long period of time, or have a voice that regularly ‘cracks’, then this might not be the right fit for you.

Business Know-How It’s not all about the voice, however.  You can have the best voice, the best equipment, but none of it matters if you can’t sell yourself, manage your finances and run a day-to-day business professionally.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Creating Your Own Voiceover Ad for Social Media

I recently read an article in a newspaper servicing a small local population, but the story contained within was really powerful.  A young voiceover professional was highlighted in the piece for her work.  It was stated that she has worked on many audiobooks, commercials, and even in film.  However, what was far more interesting about the story was the way that her talent was portrayed.  Far more emphasis was placed on her ability to mimic accents.  This got me thinking about the unique talents that we all have and how we can use them to spread the message about our intended career paths.

Remember, that the purpose of social media marketing is to spread word of your brand far and wide.  As a voice over talent, you generally opt for audio content as your source of letting your voice be heard (literally). However, it could be possible to use other media with just as great (or, perhaps, greater) success.  This article, for instance, didn’t feature any audio, but by the end of the article, I wanted to meet the young women, and here I am, writing about what I read.  That is the point – to encourage others to share your story, to share your content.

So, should you follow her lead and get an interview in a paper, or write your own piece about your talents?  Perhaps. Sure, if you have the opportunity to interview with the paper, do so, but that is not exactly the point I am trying to make.  What I am trying to say is that you should consider the various forms of media that are available to you, and think about how they might be used to highlight what you do well. 

In the past, I have also seen a fabulous advertisement for a voice over talent on my social media feed.  The advertisement was an animated short with several crudely drawn characters.  They didn’t have to be well drawn, because the real appeal was how the voices used for each brought the characters to life.  In this case, the voice actor called on his ability to do impressions of famous, widely-recognized individuals.  No direct reference was made to those individuals, but it was clear, nevertheless, exactly who he was mimicking. The effect was brilliant and, I am willing to bet, extremely beneficial to his career. It is yet another example of how you can use unexpected media to build your brand.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Understanding the Voice Actors’ Strike

If you are working in the voiceover industry, and art practicing your due diligence, then you have likely read the headlines about the strike taking place in the video game sector right now.  Many voiceover talents are involved in the strike, which was organized by SAG-AFTRA – the union formed as the result of the joining of the Screenplay Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. 

This union also represents voice actors, and that means that they formed this strike in an effort to secure better working advantages for the talents involved.  All union members involved in the making of video games on- or after February 17, 2015 will be impacted by the outcome of this strike.  So, what do they stand to gain?

The union is seeking better performance bonuses, better treatment of the artists’ instruments, and more project transparency prior to contractual agreement.  Additionally, any voiceover actors required to perform physical stunts, according to the union, should be provided proper training and assistance for the shooting of those scenes.

The vast success of so many video games has left many voiceover talents feeling as though they profited hardly at all from a vast empire.  The union agreed, so it has been requested that the voice talents receive a cut of the proceeds of successful video game launches, in the form of performance bonuses.  They have defined success as 2 million purchases, downloads or online subscribers.
As far as care of their instruments, the union refers to the protection of the professional’s voice.  They have requested that challenging vocal scenes be shot in 2- hour increments, as opposed to the typical four hour segments.

Finally, transparency is a very important aspect of the negotiations.  Currently, some voiceover talents sign contracts for video game deals before receiving any real information about the game being created. In some cases, they may not even be told the title of the game.  The union is fighting for improved transparency, so the voice actors can have a better understanding of what they are signing on for.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Getting Your Feet Wet in Voice Over

If you are new to the voice over industry, then you likely have countless questions swirling round in your head.  The answers to many of those will have significance in your career as a voice over talent.  However, not all of those questions have to be answered right this minute.  There are a few that you should allow to take precedence, and the majority of those that are most important can be answered by you.

What Do You Hope to Accomplish? Is this a bucket list item and something that you only want to try once or twice, so you can say that you’ve done it?  Or, as with most voice over professionals, do you hope to make a career of this?  You have to know what you are hoping to accomplish as you set out, because the answer to the question will help you choose the right paths along the way.  Many decisions will be based on the amount of time, energy, and dedication you have to offer.

How Will You Measure Your Success? Assuming that you do want to make this into a career, you will want to gauge your success along the way.  For some, that means, simply, a steady income.  For others, it means the building of a voice over empire, so to speak, that allows you to build an entourage of talented voice over professionals so you can bid more jobs as a company of talent.  For some, success is measured by the caliber of the projects signed.  Again, your measure of success will often dictate how-, where-, and when you seek new work.

Can You Handle Rejection? No?  Then quit now.  You cannot do this type of work expecting that you will never be rejected, criticized, or put down.

Can I Afford to Put a Lot of Time in Before the Money Starts Flowing?  As a general rule, when starting any sort of company, it will take time and investment up front to build a clientele, a reputation, a brand.  That often means putting a good amount of time into non-paying tasks in order to get the business where it needs to be to attract new jobs.  If you can’t afford to do that, you might want to consider other avenues.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Why Being Multilingual Will Be Beneficial as a Voice Over Talent

Decider.com recently ran an article that was very intriguing.  Included in the piece was a mini-documentary about the voice over actors and actresses that speak for some of the biggest names in Hollywood.  Remember, just because a film is made in America does not mean that the viewership is limited to this country.  Many of the box office hits here are just as well received in other nations.  And, many of those nations have a primary language that is not English.

Speaking French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and any other of the world’s languages really can open doors for you in the voice over business.  This video is certainly proof of that.  The lines, translated into the intended language are handed to the voice over talent, with the understanding that the timing of the spoken words must be made to match the movements (particularly those of the mouth and face) of the actors and actresses being dubbed over. It’s not an easy task, but one that is accomplished with the efforts of the voice over talent, in conjunction with the production crew, so that audiences all of the world can enjoy the films made here, in America, and, in turn, so we can watch films made elsewhere.

The Being George Clooney documentary touches on only one example of where the ability to speak multiple languages can be beneficial to your career.  There are voice over spots for the dubbing of commercials, educational materials, training films and much more.  Anytime you can arm yourself with something that will help you stand out against the competition, you are doing well.  This particular ability will also open many more doors for you as you start your career win the field of voice over.  If you are fortunate enough to be selected to speak for an entertainment phenomenon, you may just find that you are hired over and over again, as your voice becomes part of that actor or actresses brand in various corners of the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Changing Demographics of the Voice Over Industry

This is something I have read about, heard about, and even chatted about recently.  It occurred to me that if there is enough interest to justify all of that, then it certainly deserves mention on my blog.  This is an exciting time for the voice over industry.  I don’t say that simply because of the advancements in technology and communication.  There is also a major shift in demographics that is occurring, which is a very good thing for the industry.

For many years, this profession had the stigma of being male-dominated.  Don’t get me wrong.  The stigma was deserved.  Up until a couple of decades ago, men did nearly ninety percent of the voice over work annually.  However, this is changing, and that is wonderful news for the young women who are looking to break into the field. No longer are women claiming just 10% of the work.  Instead, more recent statistics suggest that they are quickly approaching the 50% mark, hovering, currently, at an average close to 4 out of every 10 jobs. It isn’t just that they are winning more of the jobs, but that there are more women competing for them.  Once upon a time, for every dozen men in the industry, there were just three women.  Now, they make up 40% of the voice over talent being marketed. And it's alo true that the industry itself has become a bit more realistic and reflective of the consumer.

You might wonder why, as a man, I would be happy to see this transition, but this is a wonderful thing for our industry.  Equality is always a good thing.  Furthermore, it is one more indication of how healthy and thriving this industry is.  Not to mention, I will never be competing directly with a female talent's voice. If we were not seeing this sort of progression in these modern times, I would certainly be concerned that the industry was becoming stagnant.  That is not the case.  The field is growing and evolving to represent the modern culture, and that is exactly what should be taking place.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Making the Most of Your Voice Over Demo

If you are trying to get work in the voice over industry, and you continue to miss out on the various projects that you apply for, then you might want to consider taking a closer look at (or rather, listen to) your demo tape. 

The demo tape is almost everything!  The hiring company wants to know that you have had training, that you have experience, and are equipped with the proper equipment to perform the job.  But, the demo tape is easily among the greatest tools in your arsenal, and you can be sure that every single potential employer is going to listen to it, before making the decision of whether or not to hire you.  Anyone who has listened to audio books, or even radio advertisements, knows that the voice can really make or break the project.  So, even with all of the experience and education in the world, you aren’t likely to be hired if you have an off-putting voice when recorded.

We all know that you don’t. You wouldn’t be putting yourself out there, in this industry, if you thought that your voice wouldn’t hold up to the job.  That said, you may want to consider how you can make yourself sound better in your demo tape, so those prospective jobs turn into real moneymakers.

Your demos should include the voices used in previous works, especially if you have experience working for well-known brands.  These voices may be recognizable to the person hiring, which would make you stand out.  Of course, not all of your work is going to be widely recognized, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give a taste of it.  Make sure all of your personal voice traits are showcased in your demo. These were jobs that you were hired for, which means that someone saw something of value in your voice talents.  And, ultimately, your voice will become your brand, so it is nice to maintain some level of consistency.

Now, forget, for a moment, that last sentence, because as much as you want to establish your voice as a brand, you will have to step outside your comfort zone a bit if you hope to present a wider range of option for the prospective employer.  Can you do voice impression?  Can you speak in different accents or inflections?  These are things to play with a bit, and if they are convincing enough, then you will likely want to include them on your demo tape.

The last tip I offer is that you get some help putting it all together.  Spend the money to have a professional blend the audio, remove any background sound, and ensure a seamless transition from one bit to the next.  This demo tape could be the one thing that stands between you and that paying work, so the investment is certainly worthwhile.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

5 Things All Voiceover Talents should be Doing

There are, of course, many tasks that you will have to complete when you go into work as a voiceover talent.  You’ll need to know how to market your brand, how to set up your microphone and recording software.  You’ll have to try to build connections with producers, audition, and bid on jobs.  And, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  However, aside from all of this, there are a few things that you can do each and every day that will greatly increase the chances that you are hired in the future.

Read, Watch, or Listen to the News! It is amazing how many connections are formed because of an ability to speak about current topics.  Your teachers were not kidding when they said that reading the newspaper would add real value to your life.  It can, and it will.  These topics are excellent conversation starters that can greatly amplify your efforts to network, particularly when the topics have something (even the most miniscule thing) to do with the voiceover industry.

Check Out Twitter Moments Don’t stop at the general news on television or in the paper.  Go to social media and see what people are talking about.  Some of the biggest, hottest topics are already laid out for you under the moments tab in Twitter, so take advantage of it, even if you haven’t found your stride on that platform.

Follow, Like, and Friend More People While you are visiting a social media platform, move on to others, and take the time to follow, like, or befriend more people.  The more connections that you have, the further word will spread about your experience and your talents.  Focus your efforts on people related to this industry and those closely linked to it. 

Search Keywords on Google News  For industry-related news and hot topics, Google News is among the best places to visit.  You can search keywords related to what you do – voiceover, animated, audiobooks – and learn a great deal about what is happening in the world related to the industry.  Take the time to read the stories, comment, and share them to demonstrate the fact that you are an expert at what you do.  This might even cause you to happen upon new, valuable leads.

Tell Someone What You Do Finally, take the time, every day, to tell at least one person about what you do for a living.  It is amazing how many people have friends and family members who can’t even answer the question about what you do for a living.  These are the people who are most likely to recommend you to others, so be sure they know what to recommend you for!

WARNING: It's advisable these days to NOT depend on social media for hard core news reportage. Given that we now are aware that false news is indeed a new reality for us all to deal with. Use discretion and caution.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Choosing a Voiceover Niche

Starting out in the voiceover business can be very intimidating these days.  There is a great deal of competition, and the number of voiceover talents is forever growing.  You could, of course, sign up for one of the voiceover sites and hope to secure some poorly paying work to build up your resume.  But, it might be better to just carefully consider the niche that you intend to serve.  Don’t say audiobooks!

I know, I know… the growth of the audiobook market has been tremendous, and all of that growth has led to more paying voiceover jobs in that niche.  But, it also happens to be one of the most competitive areas in the voiceover industry, mostly because everyone starts with the intention of breaking into that market.  You don’t have to rule out audiobooks all together, but you should narrow your intentions a bit, so you can make the most of your marketing efforts.  And, you should also consider other fields seeking voiceover artists.

There are many to choose from – commercials, cartoons, radio advertising, how-to video scripts, video games, and much, much more.

Audiobooks, while they sound like the terrific place to start as a voiceover actor, can turn into nightmare jobs, if you don’t know what you are doing.  They are very time consuming projects, and many new voiceover talents wind up boxing themselves in with poorly worded contracts, or underestimated timelines. So, it might be a good idea to focus on shorter spots.

So, choose your niche and then focus your marketing efforts on just that.  Sure, it’s fine to field questions or requests from other channels, but when you are deciding who to aim your advertising efforts at, who to follow on social media, and who will be listening to your demo tape, be sure you have only your niche in mind.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Bringing Your Voice Over Talents to Social Media

Social media has impacted the voice over industry just as it has nearly every other industry known to this country.  And, while it has, in some ways, increased the workload of the average voice over actor or actress, it has also made it easier to create a credible and professional image for yourself.  However, you have to know how to approach the wide world of social media, or else you will simply find yourself spending hours per day with no real added value.

The first rule of thumb, of course, is knowing who your audience is and where to find them.  Keep in mind that, as a voice over talent, you may be able to find your niche on multiple platforms, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to attempt to balance all of those right off the block.  Instead, consider first which platforms cater to your audience already, and then weigh those options by comparing the capabilities of each.  For instance, you would likely find potential customers on Twitter and Facebook, but if you don’t have adequate time in your schedule to balance the upkeep of both accounts, then you might opt for Facebook over Twitter.  Why?  Because Facebook has a wider array of available tools.  It is more image friendly and it now features the live feed tools, or instance, and the latter, especially, can really work well for folks in this line of business.

Do not mistake the laid back environment on social media as an unprofessional setting.  Though people may be chatting with friends, sharing photos taken in their own living rooms, and liking cat videos, when they seek out voice over actors and actresses, they expect to find a professional profile.  So, be sure that yours is something to be proud of.  Part of this comes from having attractive photos and a well-written description of what you do.  But, there is also a lot to be said for establishing numbers.  Do not buy followers.  It is not worth the investment.  You will only have a large number of followers who care nothing about what you do, and likely aren’t even humans.  Instead, take the time to forge relationships.  Reach out to people in the real world and ask that they take the time to like, friend or follow you online.

Finally, you must continue to engage your intended audience.  A dormant social media account is a worthless social media account.  But an active one really can bring paying jobs to a talented and devoted voice over professional.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

According to Cornell Law, intellectual property is “any product of the human intellect that the law protects from unauthorized use by others.  Intellectual property is traditionally comprised of four categories: patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secrets.”

Your work is your intellectual property.  It’s not just your actual recordings that you have to be careful to protect, but also the blog posts, white papers, and articles that you write about industry-related topics.  Immoral persons will attempt to steal this material and pass it off as their own.  There are some that will go so far as to copy everything on your website, which you have taken so long to craft and care for.

There are several ways that you help to defend against the theft of your intellectual property.  For instance, there are plug-ins for website builders that will prevent people from right-clicking on a photo to copy and paste it elsewhere.  You can also employ watermarks in high-quality images to prevent theft.

Watermarking is an effective tool for protecting audio files as well.  Though it differs slightly than that seen in photography, the principle is the same.  It is possible to embed an audio signal so that it cannot be easily removed by those intending to claim your work as their own.  It is also possible to prevent your audio from being downloaded, if you fear intellectual theft.

Disclaimers are also surprisingly powerful.  Adding disclaimers that state that the posted material – photo, audio, or text – is the intellectual property of the website host and that all attempt to steal that content will result in legal action can drastically reduce the likelihood of someone attempting to pass it off as his or her own.  Follow up with appropriate actions if someone does attempt to do so.  If you discover that someone has stolen your intellectual property, ask your attorney to draft a cease and desist letter, requesting that the material be removed and suggesting further legal action will be taken if the request is not abided by.