The Skills of Voice Acting 2

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Voicing Television Commercials

All You Need To Know!

As those of you who’ve worked with me know, I focus on training voice artists in the skills and techniques for creating great voice over reads for radio.

There are two reasons for that.  One, radio is the domain of the disembodied voice.  On radio it’s the voice alone that carries the advertiser’s message to the half-listening radio audience, and the skills of great voice acting for radio are all about convincing the listener to do what you want them to, no matter what the script style.

Secondly, it’s where most of the work is.  Radio caters largely to a short shelf-life, low-budget advertiser.  In radio, often it’s on…then it’s gone.  So, it makes perfect sense that those I train are thoroughly familiar with the techniques for creating meaningful radio reads.

However, adding the voice component for Television Commercials (TVC’s) is a completely different kettle of fish.

So, what about TVC’s

I’ll begin by saying there’s a lot less work around in TVC’s. To begin with, ads made for television will often have a long shelf-life or be made to be shown across a wide area.  It’s expensive to make a TVC, so the advertiser will want to get the most ‘bang for their buck’.  However, you do get paid more, commensurate with the fact that is does have a bigger budget and a wider reach.

Voices for TVC’s are just as many and varied, as for radio, but there are certain voices that I would determine as more of a ‘television’ voice.  These are often voices that carry authority.  They’re the voices that have a listenable gravitas that you just believe and trust.

But the most important aspect of voicing TVC’s, as opposed to radio, is that the voiceover is just one of the three components that carry the message.  The other’s being the visuals and the sound bed or sound effects (SFX)

Often the scripted part of a TVC can be quite small.  These can sometimes be the most challenging to do from a voice actor’s perspective, because it is so completely ‘not’ about them.  It’s about the commercial as a whole and the voice actor needs to find a voice style that adds to the overall impact of the ad.

Copy for TVC’s can also just be a series of random words or phrases.  Of course these will make sense when you’re looking at the ad, but if you were to look away and listen to the voice over on its own, without the visuals to support the story of the ad, it might not make any sense.

The other thing about voiceover for television ads is that the scripts are often heavily stylized. That is, they’re not written in a naturalistic style, like a conversation.  The scripts are loaded with either concept words or information that is full of keywords and key phrases.

Have a listen to a read I recently did for Garnier to hear just how stylized the language is.

Hear how some of the script doesn’t really make sense because you can’t see how it relates to the pictures.

Dark Spot Corrector 30

When you’re booked to do a read for a TVC, the visual edit and the sound design, and sound effects (SFX) are almost always completed, so your job is simply to put the icing on the cake.

I love the process of working creating the right voice for a TVC.  It’s always done in a sound recording studio and there will always be a producer or more creative’s from the and sometimes the client will want to be a part of the session as well, especially if they are unsure about how the copy will sit with the pictures, SFX and music track or bed.

The reason I love voicing TVC’s is because it really is a collaboration, working with the Producer and the Engineer to ultimately satisfy the advertiser’s needs.  The ad agency with the client (advertiser) will have spent a great deal of time crafting the ad. It could have begun months prior to the voice record.

The process in the studio will be much more leisurely than it would be in a radio station, where time is of the essence.  When you first arrive at the studio, the producer will hand you a script, probably give you a brief, that is an idea of what they’re looking for from you, and then you’ll see the ad.  Often there’ll be a guide track recorded.  It could be the producer, the writer, editor or just someone from the agency giving you an idea of what goes where.

You then go into the studio where you begin to work with the script and the pictures. The guide track will then disappear, so you can begin adding your magic to the commercial.

I want to add here that the only kind of TVC where the voice is done first is retail.  Because retail ads are soooo wordy and fast paced, the pictures are always cut to the voice read.

If you’re working with a completed visual, you’ll have the script on the music stand. The screen with the vision will either be to the side of you or straight ahead, which is my preferred.  It just makes it easier to just lift my eyes, look at the screen, back to the script, back to the screen.  This is the set-up for an ad I did recently at Gusto Music in Melbourne.

TVC Studio Set-upThen you begin to play.  The engineer plays the ad and you begin to get a feel for the pace of the read.  This is completely governed by the images and the sound design.  If you don’t have to fill every second with words, as in the Garnier ad you heard before, you’ll be able to find subtler ways to ‘marry’ with the images and sound bed.

It’ll be about finding a particular voice level, a mood, and attitude, a tone and a rhythm that belongs to the ad as a whole.  Feel comfortable and confident about trying different things, especially different microphone technique.  You never know what might work!

I approach television scripts in this order:

  • Find out who my target market is?
  • Get my timing right
  • Give my attention to making the keywords ‘work’
  • Get my voice style fitting with the concepts
  • Really enjoy every precious little second

Listen to TV ads in a different way, next time you’re watching and start to notice just how many different treatments and approaches there are for every ad.