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Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Absolute Rules of Voiceover

While there are many tips and hints that will be offered to you as you begin your career as a voiceover artist, most are matters of opinion.  In some cases, those opinions are shared by the majority, but that still doesn’t make them a rule.  There are, though, a few matters that are not debated and that really are essential for building a profession of voiceover work.

Speak Clearly If you are regularly tripping over your words, have a tendency to fade off at the end of sentences, or speak at such a rapid rate that a person can’t decipher where one word ends and another begins… you are going to have trouble in this industry.  Speaking clearly is one of the Voiceover commandments that simply cannot be ignored. The exceptions to this are when a VERY conversational read such as characters in a video game, audio book, etc. are needed. Then you can ease up a bit on proper annunciation of every word. Real Voice Acting!

Find Your Inner Confidence I find this particular rule of voiceover to be so important that I previously wrote an entire blog post about it.  You have to believe in what you are doing and believe that you are capable of doing it wonderfully if you plan to sell yourself.  It is a competitive market that you will be operating within as a voiceover artist, so confidence is an absolute must.  If you don’t believe in you, the casting directors and potential clients never will.

Know the Material There are exceptions to this rule.  You may be asked to do a cold read as part of an auditioning session, in which case you can’t possibly study the material ahead of time.  However, whenever possible, you should pre-read scripts and really ensure that you understand the meaning of the message before you record it.  This will lend a level of authenticity to your work, and also help to ensure that you don’t encounter uncomfortable, reputation-ruining moments in the recording studio.

Practice If you want to do anything well, you have to practice it.  I’ve said it over and over again on this blog, and I will continue to do so.  Practice is essential in this profession, as it is in so many others.  If you don’t take the time to hone your skills, you will undoubtedly miss out on career-making opportunities.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Transitioning from Stage to Recording Studio

Many actors decide to give voiceover work a try.  This is a growing field and today’s technology has made it easier for the average person to try voiceover work without making a huge commitment to the profession.  Already having honed the acting- and improvisation skills, many actors believe that they can make the transition rather seamlessly. 

It is true that many of the same skills will be employed when recording voiceover scripts as would be used on the stage, but there are also key differences between these two types of work.  You should be aware of these before you begin, so you can adjust your approach accordingly.

1.    Volume If you start to record a voiceover in the same volume that you would use on stage, you will likely end up scaring anyone who plays the recording back.  Unlike stage actors, who must project their voices to fill a theater, voiceover artists must learn to speak into the microphone at the same volume they would use in day-to-day conversation.  At least, that is the case for most jobs in this profession.

2.    Interaction Many people find it easier to act the part when they are able to read and react to the expressions of a fellow actor or members of an audience.  This comfort is taken away when doing voiceover work.  In the vast majority of cases, it is just going to be you and the microphone in the studio.  You have to be able to imagine those reactions and change your tone and approach accordingly.

3.    Physical Expression Stage acting also allows for a lot to be expressed through body language and facial expression.  When you are sitting behind a microphone and the only part of the performance to be witnessed by the intended audience is the audio, you can’t rely on that any longer.  You have to really test the limits of your voice to get every ounce of feeling out of it, so the full story can be told without physical expression. But don't be afraid to move your body, hands, etc. as you normally would in real life... just maintain your proper distance from the mic.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to Naturally Ease Your Sore Throat before Recording

I feel that it is important to start this blog post by saying that this is a difficult time of year to stay healthy.  You can be exposed to colds, the flu, stomach bugs, and a number of other contagious illnesses that can really wreak havoc on your voiceover work.  The very first thing that you should do, if you find that you have come down with an illness is to seek medical care.  Many conditions will require prescription medications, and the sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you will be able to get back to the studio.

That said, sometimes it is just a cold or a virus that is making you feel tired, groggy, congested, and sore in the throat.  If this sounds familiar, then consider these helpful hints that may allow you to get back to recording faster.

Gargle with Salt Water The salt combined with warm water actually has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the irritation in the throat.

Drink Hot Beverages with Honey and Lemon Typically the recommendation is tea, but if you are really adverse to tea, then consider putting honey and lemon in your coffee or even in hot water.  The honey will coat your sore throat providing some relief, and it can also provide natural anti-inflammatory action. Lemon can help clear mucus, and the warm temperature tends to be very soothing.

Eat Garlic (As Long as You Aren’t Planning to Audition in Person) Despite it’s not so pleasant effect on a person’s breath, garlic is a natural bacteria fighter and can help you kick your illness faster.

Take a Hot Shower Just before you have to go into the recording studio take a hot and steamy shower, or boil water on the stove and breathe in the moist steam that rises from it.  The steam can help to break up congestion, making it easier to breathe.  It can also ease a sore throat.

Drink… A LOT Above all else, it is essential that you get plenty to drink as the fluid will rinse your throat, and keep it moist.  This will reduce pain and speed the recovery process. Dehydration can cause even more problems.  Definitely avoid that by continually sipping water, tea, or other beverage of your choice while ill. This will also help you maintain your strong voice for recording.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Creating Your Voiceover Website

As a voiceover artist, you will wear many hats.  You will have to take on many tasks outside the recording studio.  That includes marketing yourself.  And, in order to do that effectively in this day and age, you will need a website.  Of course, if you are new to the industry, then you likely have many questions related to the creation of a website.

The first question is always, ‘do I really need a website?’  Yes!  You absolutely need a website.  This is how potential clients and agents will learn about you.  This is the face that you present to the virtual world.  While social media is a very powerful tool, ultimately, you need a home base, a place to send the social media traffic when they want to know more about what you do.  That is your website.

You may also wonder, ‘do I have to hire a website designer?’ There is no short answer to this question.  Chances are, initially, you will have a hard time affording a professional website designer, as the price tag can often reach several thousand dollars.  Fortunately, there are many website services that provide very attractive templates to work with, so you can create a professional site without professional help.  You will need to have a degree of comfort with technology, but you’ll need that if you are going to success in this profession anyway.

Should I pay for a .com?’ Yes.  Yes, you should.  You should absolutely get your own domain name.  It provides a much more professional image and it makes it easier for potential clients and agents to find you.  If you can’t get your own name as a domain name, then consider your name and the word ‘voiceover’ (i.e. ricklancevoiceover.com) or something similar (i.e. ricklancestudio.com).

As you start to create your site, you will undoubtedly have questions like, ‘what should I put on my website?’ The easiest way to figure this out is to visit other voiceover artists’ websites to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.  It is important to include your demo on the very first page, the homepage, because that is what you most want visitors to see.  Also, you’ll want to include other media – photos, videos, audio clips, etc. – in order to draw the eye and encourage visitors to explore more.  Do include a photo of yourself.  After all, people have an easier time forming a connection, when they can put a face with the name. And, as a final tip, do include a ‘call to action’.  This is an industry term, but its meaning is clear.  Tell your audience what you want them to do.  That may be to contact you, to download your demo, or to visit another page of the site.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Recording Auditions in Your Home

The good news for so many of us in this profession is that we can do a large portion of the work from our own homes these days.  The bad news is that that often means that we are creating audition recordings without any sort of coaching or direction.  That puts a little more pressure on you to carefully consider what the client will want and to create a very clean recording to show off your skill.  Here are a few things that you should do to improve your chances of making a good impression every time:

Take Time to Prep Yourself Warm up vocal exercises may sound a bit ridiculous when listening in on someone else, but there is a good reason that actors, actresses, singers, and yes… voiceover artists do them.  Warming up your voice, stretching, and, in general, taking time to prepare yourself before stepping into the recording booth can really make a big difference.

Limit the Recording Time I can be tempting to try to complete a large project or, in this case, several audition tapes all at once.  However, this isn’t always a good idea.  Your voice can wear out, as can your motivation, if you spend too much time in the studio each day.  So, limit the time you will spend recording, and take breaks as they are needed, especially to keep hydrated.

Read First, Record Later Above all else, be sure that you are familiar with the script before you start recording.  Read through it, at least once, before you take to the microphone.  This is your chance to check pronunciation and to determine the approach you will take. You may even want to record notes to yourself in the margins.

Be Your Own Harshest Critic Don’t send an audition recording off if you are not pleased with it.  How can you possibly sell something that you don’t believe in?

Label and Cover Be sure that you have carefully read through the submission instructions, so you know how to label your audition recording.  Every casting director will have slightly different expectations.  Not following those rules can result in your losing the job before your voice has even been heard.  You should also include a cover letter, unless it has been stipulated that you not do so.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The State of the Audiobook Market

Not long ago, I read an article that suggested that audiobooks are a passing trend, something that gained popularity simply because the technology allowed them to be easier to produce.  The author of the article seemed to believe that the growth in the market was short-lived and, further stated that the audiobook industry is already facing a decline.  I’m not sure where the author was getting his facts, but that is not the case.  This is, in fact, a very exciting time to be a voiceover artist, because the audiobook market, and many others that rely on voiceover continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

At the end of the first quarter of 2016, figures were publicly released about the audiobook market for the year before.  It was stated that the industry had enjoyed a 20 percent jump in a single year’s time.  By the end of 2015, the value of that market surpassed 1.75 billion dollars.  Assuming the average price tag attached to an audio book is $15, that figure is the equivalent of 117,000,000 audiobooks.  The growth continued in 2016, with more and more people signing up for subscriptions to services like audiobooks.com.

This is a huge market and, despite what the other author might have suggested, not one that is likely to go away.  The average American has a 51 minute round-trip commute each day.  Many are spending even longer on the road, trains, subways, or other forms of transportation daily.  Audiobooks are providing a safe and effective form of communication for a large percentage of those individuals.

The good news for the voiceover artists is that the growth of that market means more jobs available.  Audiobooks are large projects for voiceover actors and certainly a desirable niche for those working in this industry.  The number of voiceover artists has undoubtedly increased as well, because technology has made it a career path much more accessible to the average person. As long as the growth of the audiobook market, and others like it, continue, this remains a very promising profession.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Three Great Ways to Network While Practicing Voiceover

When starting a career of this nature, it is important that you be able to call upon the connections that you have built throughout your lifetime.  The more networking that you do, the more likely it is that you will know the friend of a director, producer, marketer, or casting director looking for a talent just like yours.  But, it is also important to dedicate much of your time practicing and honing your skills, so you are ready to audition for those perfect spots.  The best thing to do, therefore, is to find ways to combine networking and practice sessions, in order to maximize your time.  Here are a few suggestions to consider for doing just that:

Join or Create a Voiceover Club If one doesn’t exist near you, then form one, or join on online.  Voiceover clubs provide the perfect environment to build relationships with others in the industry, but they can also be a great chance to try something new and get instant feedback on it.

Volunteer to Do Readings at Schools or Libraries Reading to kids has to be one of the very best ways to practice your acting skills.  After all, kids want to hear all of the characters in the story come to life, and they will gladly join you on your creative journey.  However, these readings are also a great way to network with teachers, administrators, librarians and parents.

Take Acting Classes Learn the skills needed to step into a new character role, to improvise in the moment, to control your breathing, and to take more natural pauses when reading.  While you are at it, meet and greet other students, instructors, special guests, and any others who happen upon the class space.   This is a networking haven, and it brings you into contact with others working in the same industry.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Argument Against Wearing Headphones for Voiceover

The studio set-up list posted by nearly every voiceover website will include a high quality pair of headphones.  This is the advice given to new voiceover talents trying to break into the industry, yet there are many in this business that would adamantly disagree with that addition to the list.  There are many (some with very long and notable careers in this industry) who suggest that headphones should not be recommended to the up-and-coming voiceover artist.

What is the argument for removing this item from the list?

Typically, for those who are not in favor of headphones for voiceover, there are two main arguments:

#1. Headphones Block Too Much Sound during Recording

Imagine that you are in your recording studio, excited to begin work on a big job that you just signed.  You slip on the large, well-cushioned headphones, and begin to read the script.  Things are moving along fabulously.  You feel entirely confident that you are in the midst of producing one of the best voiceover readings you’ve ever done.  An hour or so into the recording, though, a dog starts barking just outside your window.  The pitch of the bark is loud enough for your microphone to pick it up, but you can’t hear it because of the high quality headphones you invested in.  The dog continues to bark for twenty minutes, creating a long stretch of audio that is going to be particularly difficult to edit.  This is the fear of many voiceover artists – that the headphones will drown out those sounds that could be damaging to the recording process.

#2. Headphones Encourage the Voiceover Talent to Over Analyze Voice

The ability to block out so much background noise also means that your headphones make you focus on the sound of your voice.  Good news, right?  Yes and no.  While we do, as voiceover artists, want to be aware of what we sound like at all times in the recording studio, this can also be a big distraction.  It is very easy for the artist to get caught up on the inflections, breathing patterns, etc., making it difficult to remain ‘in character’.

So, should you have headphones?  Truthfully, it is a personal choice.  It may be wise to try sample recordings with- and without them, to determine which you prefer.  You may also find that you like them at certain times, and prefer to work without them at other times.  That’s fine too!  It is all about making yourself comfortable in the studio.

Personally, I've learned over the years to wear two hats when recording... one as the talent, one as the engineer. So that I can hear all the little things... mouth clicks, extreme breaths, chestiness, etc that can arise in a take. Once I got that down, I was able to achieve a balance and my performances were not interfered with by the technical aspects. It just takes practice.