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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Transition from Stage to Studio

In the last blog post, I wrote a bit about the major changes that one would have to contend with when trying to transition from stage acting to voiceover work.  With all of that said, however, there are a lot of advantages that come with having had acting experience.

Regardless of how the scene is set, acting is acting.  A person who can successfully ‘become’ another person on stage will find it much easier to accomplish the same feat in the recording studio. However, it is not just the skills of an actor that you bring to the table.

Likely, if you have spent very much time at all working toward a career as a stage actor or actress, then you have had to contend with the audition process many times.  This will most definitely give you a step up from those who are new to voiceover with no acting experience.  You will, of course, have a better idea of what is expected of you when you walk into a casting call or audition setting. Furthermore, you have likely already experienced harsh critique and failure in such a situation.

Though no one wants to experience these things, they are a part of the business, and you have the advantage of already knowing how to contend with them.

There is much more that your stage experience will have prepared you for:

1. The need for practice.  Undoubtedly, you partook in many hours of rehearsal before each show.  You can put to use that work ethic when it comes to voiceover work, which will require regular practice.  Many jobs will also require multiple read-throughs, not unlike having to read through the script with your fellow stage actors over and over again.

2. The occasional audience.  There may be times, as a voiceover artist, when you will have to do some of your auditioning or recording in front of an audience.  Hopefully, you will be able to draw on your stage experience to find a level of comfort in such a situation.

3. Proper breathing and enunciation.  You had to control these things on stage and it will be even more important to do so in the recording booth.

So, if you are considering making the switch from stage to voiceover, you may just find that you are able to carry many of your skills into your new profession.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Three Tips for a Better Voiceover Career

This can be a difficult, and occasionally discouraging industry to work in.  Therefore, it is important to keep a positive attitude and to avoid making common mistakes that will only serve to set you back.

Below, I’ve included a list of three of, in my opinion, the most important tips that you can receive as a new voiceover talent.

1. Avoid Over-Obsessing. You will receive negative feedback from time to time.  You will be disappointed when you are not selected to be the voice for an exciting project. While constructive criticism is worth listening to, it is important that you avoid becoming too obsessed with the way your voice sounds. There are many reasons why I say this, but the top two are:

a. Every client will want something different, which means that today’s constructive criticism may not apply at all tomorrow.

b. If you focus too much on how you sound, you won’t focus enough on the script, and, ultimately, you’ll end up sounding robotic and unnatural.

2. Practice! There is a great deal of truth in the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’.  Perfection is an unachievable goal, of course, but practice will make you better and more comfortable behind the microphone.  If you find that you have slow days, as you work to build up your voiceover business, then take advantage of them. Practice reading into the microphone. Listen to it and on the next practice run try to improve. This may mean achieving a more natural sound, reducing popping, or steadying your breathing. As you practice, you’ll find that your comfort level behind the microphone improves.

3. Care for Your Instrument. Of course, you should definitely attend your son’s basketball game.  That said, remember that the other fans do not necessarily rely on their voices to pay the bills. Take it easy on your voice and cheer at normal volumes, rather than trying to scream over the noise of the crowd. Sporting events, concerts, parties, and other such loud events can be hard on your voice, if you are always trying to be heard. Take care to prevent damaging your instrument, as you will be expected to perform well in the studio.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Voiceover 101: The Importance of Hydration

If you have just started in the voiceover field, then you may not have encountered dry mouth yet.  But, I can assure you that you will at some point.  It is a problem that plagues every actor and voiceover artist at some point during his or her career.  The best way to combat the problem, of course, is to maintain proper hydration. 

Drink Water Regularly Even more so than for most other careers, this profession will make it absolutely essential that you get at least the recommended 8 glasses of water per day.  On recording days, you may find that you drink even more than that.  The hydration keeps your voice smooth and prevents the troubling dry mouth.  The best thing to do is to keep a water bottle beside you at all times.

Choose Snacks Wisely Eating frequent, small meals throughout the day is great for the health of your body and will promote more consistent energy levels.  Conveniently, most voiceover artists work from home, which makes it easier to accomplish the many-meals-a-day plan.  This can also be a great way to increase your hydration, if you choose the right foods.  Many fruits, for instance, carry large amounts of water per bite. That said, you probably want to avoid salty foods and those that are overly dry, which may increase the chances of suffering from dry mouth.  For instance, crackers and pretzels will not help your hydration goals. A rather funny exception is potato chips ( I prefer kettle cooked). The oil in them actually coats your mouth lubricating the inside to battle mouth clicks. 

Invest in Mints Not only will they keep your breath fresh, in case you should have to meet face-to-face with a potential client, but they will also keep the saliva forming in your mouth.  That means less risk of dry mouth.  In particularly, look for mints containing Xylitol, a natural sweetener that does promote saliva.

Entertainer’s Secret If you do ever suffer with dry mouth, you will be very happy to know this secret.  The aptly named product is truly an entertainer’s best friend when dry mouth strikes.  It uses safe ingredients to mimic the natural mucus produced at the back of the mouth and in the throat.  A spritz of it can ensure that you don’t get that uncomfortable dry mouth feeling while trying to record a script.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Voiceover 101: Do You Need a YouTube Channel?

There are many industries that have greatly benefited from the creation of YouTube, but few have benefited more than voiceover.  Not only is this a great source of potential work – with so many people creating YouTube channels for business- and personal reasons, there are plenty of potential clients to be found in this social realm – but it is also a great place to advertise our skills. 

Consider it this way, if a potential client wants to hear a larger sample of your voice, something above and beyond the demo that you submitted, where would he or she most likely go?  There are really only two acceptable answers:

1. Your Website
2. YouTube

So, do you need a YouTube channel?  It certainly isn’t mandatory, but there really is no good reason to avoid making use of such a powerful marketing tool.  Not only can you create short videos that tell your personal story and showcase your vocal strengths for websurfers to discover on the social platform, but you can then take them and embed them on your website.  So, whether that potential client opts for option number one or option number two, he or she is certain to find what is being sought out.

With it established that you should most definitely consider creating a YouTube channel, it should be further stated that you must be careful about what you post there.  Remember, this channel is dedicated to showcasing everything that is great about you as a voiceover professional.  That means that you don’t really want to include any videos that fail to do that.  Your kids are undoubtedly precious, and your hobby is certainly worth capturing on film, but create a separate YouTube account for those pieces.  The YouTube channel under your professional name should be just that . . . professional. As a final note on this topic, here are three types of videos that you should definitely consider including on this channel:

1. An introductory video: This piece is created to give visitors more information about who you are as a human being, perhaps a bit about what made you decide to become a voiceover artist.

2. A tour of your studio: You can be certain that the potential client is searching your name to determine just how professional and trustworthy you would be, if hired. A studio tour provides a glimpse into your work space that would be valued by those considering hiring you.

3. A voiceover sample: If there were a few things that you would have liked to have done on your demo that you just didn’t have space for, create a separate recording and post it to your YouTube channel.  This provides that little bit extra that a potential client may seek out. I've placed my Video Narration Demo on my website, YouTube and Facebook. On Facebook It has been viewed over a million times and is referred to often by my clients/potential clients.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Voiceover Glossary

In nearly every industry, there are certain terms that are used that are entirely familiar and commonplace for those working within that field, but that would be unfamiliar to those not related to the industry.  The same is true in voiceover.  Unfortunately, you can unintentionally give away your level of inexperience if you make it clear that you aren’t familiar with the common voiceover terms.  To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of works and phrases that you will want to know:

Automatic Dialogue Replacement (more commonly said as ‘ADR’): This refers to voiceover work that will be dubbed over pre-recorded film.  This may also be referred to as ‘looping’.

Announcery: This is a term used to refer to a particular style of voiceover, particularly that which is very melodramatic or reminiscent of announcer of earlier eras.

Arc: Like the arc of a novel, the arc of voiceover work refers to the way the piece progresses from beginning, middle, to end.  It can also refer to the way the voiceover artist changes his or her approach to accompany the progression of the story.

Cold-Reading: If you are asked to do a cold-reading of something, it means that you will not have the opportunity to study it beforehand. 

Level: In order to calibrate the equipment properly, studio operators may ask you for a level, which simply means read the script into the microphone at the volume you would normal read at.

Pick-Up: If there is a flaw in the recording, you may be asked to do a pick-up, which means you will simply re-record a short excerpt of the script, so they can use it to repair the original recording.

Punch in: The studio can use the pick-up that you recorded to do a punch in, which simply means that the new recording is substituted for a portion of the original.  A punch in is not always done for straight editing purposes, though.

Residuals: If you are so fortunate as to hear these words uttered in regards to your contract, then you’ll be happy to know that it is additional compensation paid for future use of the recording, beyond the initial recording fee that you were paid.

These are just a few of the words that you will come across that tend to be unique to this line of work.  Learning them now will make your transition into this field much easier.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Preparing Your Voice for Great Voiceover

Practice makes perfect.  We are told that from the time we are very young.  Similarly athletes are told that they must warm up before each and every sporting event.  The same life lessons can be applied to voiceover. The more often you practice your skills, the better and more refined they will become.  And, this practice should absolutely begin with warm-ups to properly prepare your voice and to avoid strain.

Warming up your voice begins with breathing exercises.  Remember, steady breathing is very important in this line of work.  When you gulp for air or run out of breath before the end of the sentence, the recording will not live up to the clients’ expectations.  Therefore, it is important to practice proper breathing.  A lot of this happens when you simply stop to consider each breath that you take.  Focus on the air reaching all the way to your lungs, inflating them, and then being expelled steadily.

In addition to breathing, it is important to remain relaxed, as this has a big influence on the way that we breathe and speak.  Though proper posture is going to help you in this profession, don’t focus so much on it that you tense up.  As you breathe, think about relaxing your shoulders, your back, and your jaw.  Let them move freely with each breath.

After focusing on your breathing for a few minutes, take a few more to stretch.  Move your head about to stretch out your neck.  Yawn a few times to stretch the muscles around your jaw, and lift your arms high above your head to loosen up your upper body. Literally push the skin around your face in a massage like manner. 

Finally, do some light vocal warm-ups.  There are many that can be used to get your voice ready for the day.  This is where acting classes or singing lessons can come in handy, as you will learn a lot about vocal exercises.  However, if you are not familiar with any, then consider visiting videos like this on Youtube.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Unexpected Benefits of Improv Classes

In several past posts, I have written about the advantages of taking improv classes as a voiceover artist.  Most of those, of course, pertain to your ability to think on the spot, either when auditioning or recording for a particularly picky client.  However, improv classes can also assist you in the other side of the business.

Remember, as a voiceover artist, you will have to wear many hats, and many of those have little to do with the recording studio.  You’ll have to create a business plan, market your brand, manage the business accounting, and network.  These more business-oriented aspects of the job can be positively influenced by improv training too.

Learn to Accept Change Imagine yourself walking into an interview with a prospective agent.  You have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, but shortly after greeting you, the agent expresses ideas that vary substantially from yours.  Perhaps it won’t be the right fit, but you also don’t want to burn the bridge.  Improv classes can teach you to accept criticism and unexpected changes with grace.  With that sort of training, you will likely find it easier to let go of those preconceived ideas to consider, open-mindedly what the agent has to say.

Work Better with Others Facing a project that will involve working with other voiceover artists?  Working with an agent who insists on getting his talents together multiple times per year?  Need to hire office staff to keep up with the business end of the job?  Improv classes teach you to hear out others before reacting.  You can’t continue with the scene if you don’t hear what the other actor or actress is saying.  Thus, you learn to listen more carefully and to respond rationally in the moment. 

Accepting Failure Both general acting- and improv classes come with a healthy dose of critique (which can, at times, border on criticism). Though difficult to hear in the moment, that prepares you for many situations you will face in your career.  There are times when it will seem like agents, clients, and prospective employers have nothing good to say about your performance.  You have to accept those moments of failure and continue moving forward or your career will be doomed.  Improv will help you be better prepared for those difficult moments.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Three Costly Mistakes that Could Kill Your Voiceover Career

A career in the voiceover industry can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.  However, it can also be volatile.  You must avoid the costly mistakes that could cost you the career that you have learned to love.  Though there are many mistakes that one could make – from producing bad demo tapes to no proofreading cover letters – there are three that are extraordinarily common and often overlooked.

#1. Skipping Out on Classes You majored in performing arts, so the skill set is already there and honed, right?  That depends.  How long ago did you graduate with said degree?  The truth is that everyone can benefit from further acting classes, but the more time that passes between classes, the rustier your skills can get.  It is worth considering regular improv- or acting classes.  Each and every class will be unique and you're bound to learn something – about yourself, about your career, or about becoming a character – that will help you professionally.

#2. Overburdening Yourself It is tempting, when starting out in the voiceover industry to take every job that comes your way.  However, this can ultimately lead to your schedule being so bogged down with poor paying jobs that you don’t have the time or energy to seek the better, high-profile spots that would give your resume a big boost.  Of course, you don’t want to constantly turn down paying work, but schedule yourself at a reasonable pace, leaving block of time each week dedicated to networking and growing your business.

#3. Becoming Complacent This is sort of an extension of #2.  It isn’t just a lack of time and energy that can cause a person to forego important business building activities.  Complacency is the voiceover artist’s biggest enemy.  While the job you are working on right now is allowing you to live very comfortably, it isn’t going to last forever.  If you stop networking, building connections, and marketing your brand, you are likely to suffer a dangerous slowdown in the future.

Remember, you only get out of your career what you are willing to put into it.  Don’t forget to hone your skills and market your brand.  Doing so is the only way to ensure a future for your business.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Voiceover 101: Beware of Bad Advice

As with most things today, if you have a question pertaining to voiceover, you will find an answer online.  The trouble is that those answers don’t always contain the most accurate information.  There is both beauty and danger existing in the World Wide Web. Anyone can publish content and, in most cases, it is not fact checked or even proofread.  You can start working as a voiceover artist today, and publish a related how-to article tomorrow.  If you can do that, so can millions of others starting out in the industry. You must be aware of this.

That said, it doesn’t hurt to read through the content available online.  Just don’t stop reading after the first article or blog post on a topic.  Keep reading.  You’ll likely find that there are many different ways to accomplish the same goal.  For instance, one voiceover artist will tell you that you absolutely need headphones and you must stand while recording.  In an entirely different article, another author will tell you that headphones are not recommended because they make it difficult to detect background noises, but that sitting to record is the best way to go.  If you take the time to hear others out, then you can begin to create your own approach, finding the best method for you.

Bad advice comes in many forms and at many different price points.  There are several things that you will have to (or want to) spend money on to get your business going.  Those might include acting- or marketing courses, pay-per-click advertising, demo editing, website design, etc.  The one thing that you don’t have to pay for, though, is information.  It is readily available online, if you simply take the time to seek out the accurate and worthwhile.  Some will try to convince you to spend thousands of dollars on training courses and demo recording sessions.  Avoid the money traps.  Much of this you can do on your own, without breaking your budget. Look for information put out there by well respected talent whose reputation can guarantee accurate, honest information. Learn who those folks are and stick with them for reliable facts and info!