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Thursday, March 28, 2019

How to Deal with Live Directed Sessions as a Voice Talent

There are mainly two ways in which you deliver content as a voice talent.

You either go to a studio for recording or record at home with your own equipment and send the audio file to the client. However, live directed sessions are becoming common as a third way.

Here, clients ask voice-over (VO) talent like to have a system where they can listen live while you do the recording. New technologies like the internet (iPDTL , Source Connect NOW, etc.) and Skype have made this a viable alternative. Or with stand alone digital phone patch systems like the Telos system I've been using for years.
There are several ways a voice actor can set this system up if the client requests.    

Basic Phone Calls

The simplest and cheapest option is to use a phone call to set up your live directed session. (such as the Telos) Call your client on the phone while you record the voice on your home system.

Just remember to turn off notifications, alarms, and other sounds that may interfere with the session. Plugging your phone into headphones may be a wise idea as well, to prevent the mic from picking up any stray noises from the client’s end.

For cowboy storytellers like me, phone calls have the advantage of being cheap and easy to set up. However, on the downside, the audio quality is often quite low, and you always have to worry about disruptions and dropped call quality.

Skype for Voice Talent 

If you have a computer or tablet with a Skype account, you can use the free software to make calls as part of your live directed session.

The software has the advantage of advanced configuration options for your audio input and output interfaces. Skype calls can be recorded at your end as well as the clients.

You do not have to worry about stray noises disrupting your recording session, as all incoming audio from the client can be routed directly to your headphones. Also, it would be best if you did not worry about multiple mics, as Skype software can receive audio input from your main mic.

Skype offers better call quality and can be used to connect with multiple users simultaneously. However, it is a bit complicated to set up and is still vulnerable to dropped calls as the technology requires uninterrupted internet connectivity.
Personally, I still rely on my Telos unit for conference calls as well. Since many times the clients listening in are in various locations. And they use a conference call service to link all parties together to hear me.

Other Browser-Based Audio Calling Systems

You can use your computer browser to connect to your client. There are numerous services available online, from big names like Google and Facebook Messenger, as well as other smaller brands. And then there are the subscription based Chrome Browser based services that provide a quality link from your mic to another studio via the internet. Producing broadcast quality digital audio sent directly to them.

Many of these solutions are absolutely free and very easy for even beginner voice talent to operate.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

How to Avoid Mouth Clicks as a Voiceover Talent

If you are in the voiceover business, mouth clicks are a major annoyance. Any time one of these pop up on a recording, they can bother everyone involved, be it the voiceover talent or the producer and sound engineer.

And the worst part about mouth clicks is that it can happen to anybody, even the best voice over (VO) artists like Sam Elliot.

What Are Mouth Clicks Anyway?

The human mouth and vocal cords comprise of an incredibly complex sound-making system with many moving parts.

Three parts of this system are involved in the accidental creation of minor clicks and pops we call “mouth clicks.” The movement of the tongue and jaws create little saliva bubbles inside the mouth that often pop, creating small noises, or mouth clicks.

Why are Mouth Clicks a Problem for Voiceover

Mouth clicks happen all the time when we speak. But they do not pose a problem in daily life because the human ear is not sharp enough to catch the noises over our voices.

A high-performance mic inside a recording studio, on the other hand, is capable of catching and amplifying these faint noises. Once they become a part of the recording, they cause interference, distracting the listeners.

What Can a Voiceover Talent do to Avoid Mouth Clicks

Hydration is key to preventing the occurrence of mouth clicks during a recording session. Drink plenty of water starting several hours before your recording session to avoid having a dry mouth. Eating green apples can help as well. Also,... believe it or not... eat some potato chips. The oil from the chips can actually coat your mouth leaving a film along your teeth and gums that softens mouth clicks. 

Another thing that you can do is stay a bit away from the microphone.
But you have to be careful not to overdo it, as that can result in a fainter voice recording with plenty of ambient noise. To compensate, you have to learn to project your voice a bit further. This allows you to stay farther away from the mic without impacting the audio quality. But, of coarse, there's a delicate balance to achieve here when you're trying to speak in a natural way.

Sound Engineers Can Also Do Their Bit

If the role of the voiceover talent is to prevent mouth clicks, the role of the engineer is to clean up what has already been recorded. They can use digital audio workstation tools to draw out the offending waveforms from the recording. But this can be tedious work and not really the best way to handle the problem. 

This is a rather cumbersome process and can earn you the ire of sound engineers, even if you are a big shot like Sam Elliot! These days, modern plugins and sliders have automated the job somewhat, making their lives much easier. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Basic Mistakes Beginner Voice Over Actors Should Try to Avoid in the Studio

As humans, we are all capable of making small innocuous mistakes. In a professional setting like a recording studio, beginner voice over actors are more prone to errors and minor faux pas that make life hell for sound engineers and producers.

While some of these mistakes are unavoidable, there are many other minor quirks that can be easily prevented.

Voice Over Actors Making Unwanted (and Avoidable) Noises

The mics in recording studio booths are incredibly sensitive. They can pick up and amplify even the smallest clicks and pops.

If you are doing a new project like a TV voice-over, always keep this in mind. If you have to make involuntary noises like coughs and burps, make them away from the mic. 

As for clothes and jewelry that make many rattles, rustles, and clinks, keep them at home if you have a recording session that day! Also, don’t ever forget to put your phone on silent before you step into the booth.

Messing With the Booth

Mistakes of this type can happen in different ways. Some voice over actors have a penchant for moving the mic and stand around inside the booth. Sound engineers usually keep the equipment in a specific position for acoustic reasons. Leave them be. 

Wearing heavy cologne or perfume can be quite off-putting in the cramped quarters inside a recording studio. Go easy on the scents as a matter of professional courtesy. You wouldn't want to step into a booth that smells heavily of someone else’s cologne either.

Trashing a place is a strict no-no in most social settings. The same is also applicable in the case of a recording booth. If you bring stuff like water bottles and other refreshments inside, pick the bottles and boxes up when you vacate it. Don’t make it the sound engineers job to clean up after you.

Other Miscellaneous VO Talent Sins

Not being punctual for a recording session is a big mistake, and not paying attention to the instructions while inside the booth is another common one - some people even get distracted by texting on their phones. NEVER use your phone in the booth!

Leave the phone outside if you have a weakness for texting and checking emails and stuff in between takes. Starting your lines without waiting for the prompt is another thing that usually irks the tech guys at TV Voice Over. Learn to take direction well, building on the previous direction that was given.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tips to Improve Skills of Beginner Voice Over Actors

The ability to create professional-grade voice overs is a handy skill to have, especially if you're an online content creator.

You could encounter several scenarios where you are unable to secure the services of talented voice over actors. Alternatively, you might be someone looking to polish your overall skills. Either way, the following simple tips can help make you a better voice over professional.

Avoid Unnecessary Charge and Heft

Announcers tend to have energetic, booming voices. While it is a cool feature to have, you don't need such a voice if you are looking for professional VO gigs. Most voiceover project scripts require a sound that is sharper and crisper than your regular voice. And more natural and authentic.

So instead of trying to supercharge your voice box to sound like someone you are not, you are much better off trying to find a safe zone within your vocal range.

Work on the Script in Advance  

I cannot stress this enough - previewing scripts is essential for professional-quality results.

This advice is especially valid in the case of long scripts for lengthy projects. Also, take a look at the source video to anticipate the flow of the script better. You should rehearse out loud if at all possible to learn the best ways to deliver that voice. 

Try to Deliver the Speech Standing Up

Breathing is vital for voice over acting - and you'll get drastically better results from your lungs when you stand rather than sit. Or at least sit on a stool with legs extended.

Standing makes it easier to breathe, and speak clearly, and also frees up your body, allowing you to create various body movements. Being animated like that can help you deliver a better character voice.

Protect Your Health to Sustain Your Ability To Produce character Voices 

Voice actors are very much similar to singers in this regard. Both groups are extra concerned about the throat, lungs, and nose area. Because of this, cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine are all considered unhealthy.

You should also maintain a healthy schedule with adequate sleep and water consumption to keep your voice in top shape. If you by any chance have any allergies or breathing trouble, take necessary precautions. But avoid antihistamines as they dry out the mouth. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Working In a Studio as a Voice Actor

The advent of internet communications and scaled down affordable equipment has helped the modern voice actor work remotely from their home studio - no longer are voice-over artists required to report to a third party recording studio for every single gig.

However, you will nevertheless come across instances where the producer demands your presence in the studio while doing VO.

Main Niches That Require Studio Work

Two types of voiceover gigs come to mind while thinking about studio work: animation and video games. Unlike commercials and audiobooks, these two media have a dynamic range and feel.

There are often multiple characters with a wide range of interplay between them. Directors usually prefer having different voice actors work together while creating the dialogues - this can help improve the overall quality of the recording.

What Happens When a Voice Actor Enters a Studio

Your first time in a professional recording studio might seem quite intimidating. When you arrive at the studio, they will direct you to a glass cubicle where they have the script, your mic, and headphones.

The creative and technical teams will sit on the other side, watching your progress and providing suggestions/improvements in real time.   

Sometimes, you might be dealing only with the engineer inside the studio. The creative types may be in another location, working remotely using ISDN networks.

In both situations, the director will give suggestions on how to effectively use your voiceover skills. They might also provide background stories of your characters to give you a more authentic feel for them. Cues will often be written on the scripts as well.

In other instances, especially involving games and some animated, the director might decide to show you sample reels or rough cuts of the source video. This process helps to give you an exact picture of what emotions you need to conjure up to satisfy their needs. 

How Long Does A Studio Day Last

The answer isn't cut and dry; however, studio sessions are indeed getting shorter than ever before. Very rarely will a session for voice acting go beyond the full workday. More often than not, the session is over within hours or less depending on the length of the script. Six hours per day would be considered a long recording session day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Best Ways to Find and Conquer Auditions for Your Documentary Voice

Finding voiceover auditions can be a tough task if you are still new to the field. However, thankfully, there are numerous ways to get started if you are an aspiring VO artist with a specialty, like a documentary narration voice.

The best way, if you can afford it, is to have an agent who maintains contact with numerous producers and casting directors in the industry. However, that may not be a viable option for many beginners in the field.

Look Online if You Are a Beginner at Documentary Narration

If you belong to the latter category, you can look up online listings on sites like 

There are also some specialized portals online that exclusively serve the voice over industry clients. However, you will probably have to pay some subscription fees for this kind of service.

What to Do On Your First Audition

If you have the opportunity for live private auditions, arrive as early as possible. Voice over auditions involve a script of some sort, and it is imperative that you get your hands on one as soon as possible and get very familiar with it. 

For instance, if a gig involves a cowboy voice, you can use the extra time to practice your voice and mannerisms. Learn as much as possible about the script and its context to deliver the best performance possible.

In VO, a slate is the self-introduction of a voice artist. When you start recording, you should have a flawless slating technique.

Usually your slate is recorded at the very beginning of the audition. Casting directors like to hear the slate before the audition to identify and place the voice they are about to hear - so it is essential that you get it right. 

Keep calm and deliver your regular voice, cleanly and crisply for best results. Confidence is critical when it comes to putting forth a “clean slate” for your casting director or producer.

Do it right, and you are another step closer to landing a dream gig, be it a cartoon, web series, or documentary narration.  

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Character Voice-Over - The Real Story Behind Rates in the Industry

The voice-over industry is governed by the fundamental law of economics, just like most other marketplaces known to humankind.

The equation is straightforward: when demand is higher than supply, prices rise, and the opposite happens when supply outstrips demand for that particular product or service.

If you are the only actor providing a character voice over service, you can expect a premium quote from your clients. At the same time, if there is a steady supply of American storytellers voices, the price will fall accordingly.

Demand is at an All-Time High
Digital technology has transformed virtually every aspect of our existence. For character voice over (and other VO acting pursuits), this has been incredibly beneficial.

There is a veritable explosion of multimedia content available right at our fingertips, from Major films, TV movies and commercials to radio, audiobooks, games, Web presentations and more.

It follows that if you are an American storyteller you'll have no trouble finding well-paying gigs.

And So is Supply!

Despite the increase in demand, the earning levels in the industry are falling. The same technology that fueled the explosion in demand is also responsible for increasing the supply of VO actors.

These days, just about anyone can set up a home voice recording studio for a minimal cost. Also, with the rise of Pay2Play sites, the supply may be overtaking the demand in VO. Also, with such a glut of vocal talent, companies and producers may try initiating payment at lower rates.

What an American Storyteller Can Do

Unfortunately, the present rate trends are expected to continue. However, as a character voice-over actor, you can still try a few things to help stem the rot:

Network with your peers and educate them about the need to combat low pay rates from companies.

    Always look to improve your market value through training and practice.
    Hold on to the clients you already have by developing meaningful relationships.
    Stay patient and remain confident in your unique abilities  

Change is constant, and there are plenty of positive developments to cheer about - things will likely get better soon as more opportunities increase. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

How Important Is Training for Voice Talent Career

Actors usually have the option to pursue specialized courses geared toward acting in higher education levels.

Beginners in voice acting may find it unusual that the profession does not have anything remotely comparable to that. Does this mean that training is not necessary for voice talent?

Not All Voice Over Skills Can Be Self Taught

At the basic level, voice over acting is a very forgiving arena. With natural aptitude and constant training, beginners can considerably improve their starting skill sets.

But not all those skills can be self-taught. Hiring a voice coach can be of incredible assistance if you are a beginning voice over talent.

Finding the Right Coach for Voice Talent 

Unfortunately, the world of VO training is also filled with its fair share of unreliable coaches and crooks. One way to counter this threat is by seeking referrals from other voice talents.

Your colleagues and other voice actors are the perfect sources of this information. To be safe, you should also do some online research on the preferred candidate to ensure that he is indeed the real deal. Try to research the body of work they've done in the past, there credits. The best teachers are those who are "doers" as well. See if they have a profile on IMDb. If possible, meet with several trainers to find out the best one for you.

The Most Important Qualities to Look for in a Coach

Experience should be the primary criteria to gauge the suitability of any teacher/trainer, including a trainer for "accent" or dialect voice over. Try and find someone who is contemporary and has been keeping up with the rapidly changing trends in the VO industry.

Avoid individuals who are unwilling to critique you often. A great coach is not someone who always puts you at ease, rather challenges you.

If you are with a decent trainer, you will be getting a steady stream of feedback regarding every aspect of your voice and voice over skills. Such coaches will help you get stronger, accept challenges and remain sharp as a professional.

Face to Face Sessions are Not Mandatory

In this day and age of remote chatting and video conferencing, your voice trainer no longer needs to be in a room with you. Quality is the main factor here, not convenience. His/her geographical proximity should not influence your choice of a voice coach. Provided they are willing to work remotely and have experience coaching that way.