Tips for Successful Voice Acting!

Posted in

Questions it’s Okay to Ask

Whether you’re new to voiceover and are building a career, or you’re someone who does occasional work, getting enough studio experience to feel really comfortable in that environment is not always easy, so I want to give you a few ideas of what you might be faced with…and some things to keep in mind when you are.

The first thing I need to tell you, if you don’t already know this, is that you’re never expected to have all, or indeed know all, the answers, when you first get into the studio with a script.

To begin with, you’ve just seen the script for the first time.  The producer will be well familiar with it.  The engineer will most probably have had it for a period of time, but you’re coming to it without any knowledge, so here are a few different scenarios you might be presented with and how to deal with them.

Once you’re given the script, hopefully the producer will give you a solid brief of what they’re looking for.  He or she may talk to you about style and target market.  They may have even cast you because of a specific read they heard on your demo and will often mention this, so you have an idea about what they’ve heard in your voice or your style of delivery that won you the job.

However, the script that you’re now taking into the studio with you and are about to read, has quite probably never been read out loud before.  Until now, it’s just been words on the page.  Now you are about to bring it to life…lift the words off the page and transform it into spoken word.  This is where the skill of the voiceover professional comes into play…helped by the skill of a (hopefully) talented producer, who is clear about what result they want and knows how to direct your performance, and a canny engineer who is used to working with voice talent every day and who is expert at guiding a session to a satisfying end result.

However, there are times when you’ll just be given the script and told nothing in particular, so here are a few things you may need to ask.

“What style of read are you looking for?”

Hopefully the answer will give you the clues that will help you.  That’s not always the case.  Sometimes they don’t know specifically what end result they want, but you’ve been chosen or recommended…or they’ve booked you because you are known for being able to offer different styles or reads.  If they’re not sure of what they want, I always say, “Well, I’ll just jump in and start working”.  Your job is to bring the script to life, to mine the text for meaning, alternative ways of delivering the text, trying out a style and adjusting it until it’s felt you are in the right area.  There’s never just one way to perform a script…but there’ll almost always be a way that feels right.

Sometimes, you come across things in the script that throw you.  Occasionally you’ll come across a word that is pronounced differently; especially in this global landscape where some of us no longer even know the difference between US and English standard.  This is a words and language business and there are many people who are quite pedantic about the notion of what is ‘correct’.  I’m always very flexible with this and often the Producer will have his or her preferred idea of a specific pronunciation.  So, it’s okay to ask…

How would you like me to pronounce this word?

When there is a preference and it’s different from the way I would normally pronounce it, I always re-write the word with a phonetic spelling to remind me.

I’ll give you some examples of some of those words phonetically, so it’s clearer to see the difference.  Words like data.  Is it dayta or darta?  Innovative.  Is it innovaytive or inavative?  Is it going to be plarnt or plant?  There are many more examples, but it’s always okay to ascertain which way they prefer it said.  Here’s a tip.  If you have a word that you keep tripping over or are having difficulty pronouncing, just go a little slower through that word.

Often, when I’m working with students, they’ll ask, “What if the grammar is wrong or the line or phrase sounds clunky and unnatural.  Can I change it”?  It does happen that for several reasons, words on the page appear to be okay when you read them, but when they are converted to spoken word, they suddenly sound formal, unnatural or just plane ugly.  Rather than suggest it be changed, if you do come across something that’s rhythmically challenged, try to solve the problem.  If it still feels weird and no one appears to have noticed, ask the question…

Does this sound right to you?

You also need to know who the script is targeted to.  Often scripts that target to a broad audience are written in announcer style, which is the style that’s full of information.  Those kinds of scripts are more often written for products we all need…paint for instance, electric blankets, …etc.  Often though, scripts are targeted to a specific group of people or demographic. This is when you need to ascertain ‘who’ you’re talking to.  You could ask this question.

How old is my target market?  Who am I talking to?  (For example 1 person, a dozen people or a auditorium full of people)

Sometimes, there’s a music or sound effects (SFX) bed planned for the ad.  There could even be a jingle written specifically for it.  However, sometimes you’re just handed the script and the read will be performed ‘cold’, which means it is voice only.  I have, on odd occasions, heard an ad I thought was just a ‘cold’ read, on air with a track I hadn’t realised was going to be used…and the read hassn’t, in my opinion ‘matched’ the track.  If I had have heard the track, I would have made some different choices, as to rhythm and style.  Music needs to work with the words and it can really help if you ask the question…

Is there a music track or jingle?

When you’re in the studio, creating a great final product is a process of collaboration.  I call it the creative triangle…between the voice actor, the producer and the engineer.  As I said at the outset, you’re never expected to have all the answers but you are expected to be a major part of the creative process.

So, when you are in the studio, relax and really enjoy that process.  Become really good at offering alternative styles or reads, change the rhythms, pace and energy.  By the way, you can change the pace of a script in many different ways and still have it time to what’s required.  It’s a technique thing!

If you want to understand more about the technique of voiceover, grow your studio expertise, and learn how to create great reads, then come and work with me privately or sign up for the first ‘One Day Studio Intensives’ in Melbourne February 4th or Sydney February 18thfor 2012.

Here are the links.

‘Private Coaching’

or ‘One Day Studio Intensives’