What Makes You Stand Out As A Voice Over, by Kate McClanaghan

Five-Stars

 

At first blush, you might think voiceover is all about the ability to parrot famous stars, create cartoony characters at a moment’s notice, and authentically mimic any accent under the sun. And while these skills are certainly useful to us as actors and might be asked of us from time to time, it may surprise you to learn that they’re not the primary skills necessary to keep you steadily employed as a voice talent.

It’s ironic most of us spend a solid six years or more training to “become someone else” as actors, and the primary thing asked of us is to just be ourselves.

Or maybe you thought being a voiceover was solely dependent on having an exceptionally mellifluous voice that cooed each commercial, narration and announcement.

Well, it wouldn’t hurt, but to be honest, there are at least 7 things that make you stand out as a voiceover.

#1. The ability to be yourself. You being you is the most desirable thing you can be. You’re the only one of YOU! Bring it! Everything on the page should sound like it just occurred to you, rather than the client putting words in your mouth. Certainly your ability to assume a believable point-of-view that may be a dramatic departure from your own is the job of every professional actor. Most often with all affectations, accents, dialects, and heightened realities aside.

#2. Proper training. You’re expected to consistently deliver dynamic choices. If you’re not working your performance muscle, it’s going to atrophy, which means you won’t be ready at a moment’s notice. Training consists of proper conditioning. It’s imperative you maintain a steady diet of supportive, honest, challenging training. Work with people that are better than you. A LOT better than you. People you admire and trust. You must learn to self-direct.  This is a keystone to our training at SOUND ADVICE, because it’s unlikely you’ll get much direction at all, especially considering so many voiceover auditions are done from home on your own. Besides, no one can direct you if you can’t direct yourself.

#3. The ability to offer options. You’re capable of a limitless number of amazing takes. If you sound like a broken record on every project, no amount of direction will be able to chip you out of marble. No one is interested in hiring a robot. You’re paid to have a pulse! Master Improvisation to build your ability to think on your feet and stoke your imagination.

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How to Hire the Right Voice Over, by Paul Strikwerda

How to Hire the Right Voice Over

Mike’s corporate video looked like a million bucks.

The camerawork was first-rate. The captions were loud and clear. The whole package was a winner.

As long as the sound remained muted.

Why?

Because the voice-over brought everything down.

“Where did you find this guy?” I asked. “He sounds like he has no idea what he is saying. There are certain words I cannot understand, and there’s a weird echo that is very distracting.”

“That’s our Dave,” said Mike with a proud smile. “Dave works in Delivery, and everybody kept on telling me that he has a nice voice. I thought I’d give him a break. Why search for outside talent when the answer is under our own roof?”

“Because this is a professional production,” I answered. “Whoever is going to see this, doesn’t care that Dave is your delivery guy. His voice is now associated with your company. If people are perceiving him as unprofessional (and they will), what will they think of your business?”

“But I saved a ton of money,” tried Mike. “I gave Dave fifty bucks, and he was happy with that.”

“No Mike,” I said. “You just lost a ton of money by working with an amateur. Think of a voice as your auditory logo. What does it tell potential customers about the kind of company you are? Dave’s delivery is undermining your message. He just doesn’t sound trustworthy, and that is damaging your corporate image.”

There was an awkward silence as I heard a few pennies drop.

“So, if Dave’s not doing it for you, how do I find the right voice?” asked Mike. “There are thousands of people online who all pretend to be voice-over pros. How do I separate the wheat from the chaff, and how long is that going to take?”

”It all starts with you, Mike,” I said. “You have to…

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A recent article in the L.A. Times about how voicing video games can potentially be damaging to vocal cords, by Tyler Hersko

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Those blood-curdling screams you hear in video games might be causing voice actors permanent damage, union says.

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing actors and other performers in Hollywood, recently asked the state of California to open an investigation into allegedly unsafe vocal recording sessions held by companies in the video game industry.

In a letter sent to the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health on May 25, SAG-AFTRA said that long hours, coupled with the need to record loud and strenuous noises such as violent screaming and inhuman voices, were damaging the vocal cords of its members.

David White, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director, sent the letter to Cal/OSHA regional manager Hassan Adan after collecting months of feedback from the union’s members. SAG-AFTRA began reaching out to the agency in early February after receiving a strong response from its members concerning unsafe voice acting practices in video games.

According to the union, its members have suffered from issues including cysts, polyps and cord hemorrhaging. SAG-AFTRA warned that the practices would cause permanent and “career-ending” changes in vocal quality or complete vocal cord paralysis.

White added that the union’s members were given insufficient time to warm up their voices and, in some cases, were given special candies to stop the actors from feeling the damage they were inflicting on their vocal cords.

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St. Luke’s & ASR Media Productions Document Journey of First Medical School Class

I recently narrated a documentary, Doctors Wanted: Healing the Shortage, which aired Sunday, March 27, 2016 on WFMZ TV – Channel 69 (serving eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey).  Produced by ASR Media Productions and St. Luke’s University Health Network, it follows the inaugural class of Temple | St. Luke’s Regional Medical School as they become the first physicians trained at the only medical school in the region.

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Zootopia: Jason Bateman On The Challenges Of Voice Acting For The First Time, by James Viscardi

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By now it’s no secret that Walt Disney Animation has a hit on it’s hands with Zootopia which stands to take home $70 million dollars opening weekend. The latest installment in an historic run of animated films, features top notch voice talent including Jason Bateman who is voice acting for the very first time.

Earlier this month ComicBook.com had the opportunity to head out to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and chat with the Zootopia star about how he got the gig, working as a voice actor for the first time and what the experience was like for him.

The family-friendly picture about Officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) attempting to solve a missing persons case, that turns into something much bigger and at one point, was something completely different.

I can’t believe this is your first voice job.

Jason Bateman: Yeah, and it’s sneaky tough. You know, my wife is a voice actor, and she gets stuff all the time. I’ve never been able to book stuff. There’s definitely a specific and subtle thing that one needs to do, and I’ve tried to learn how to do it for a long time. The directors were really helpful.

We heard that your character was originally the lead character, and it got switched up. Were you on the project at that time, or did you find out as you were going along?

Jason: Yeah. You know, it’s a really interesting thing, because they didn’t say anything to me about the switch. I started to kind of sniff it out in the scenes a bit. At one point I said to them, because we started redoing some stuff from the beginning of the movie, and it was clear that the perspective had switched. We start with Judy’s character and we follow her journey, this optimistic and enthusiastic character going to the big city to make it. I said to them, “it seems like you guys have done a bit of a pivot here and you’re going to follow a brighter end to the movie than starting with the guy who hates Zootopia and is very reluctant to admit that anything can come out of here.”

They said, “Yeah.” They explained the obvious reason why one would want to do that. I felt like an idiot for not thinking of it earlier. Of course, that’s why they get the big bucks. It’s a neat process, what they do. They really are open and honest about what’s working, what’s not working, what is the best path to communicate the things that they want to say and get the plot points across. It’s a big family endeavor over there.

It still works as both their stories. You start out, and you’re leaning a lot toward Judy and you’re kind of suspicious of Fox. Then the second half, it flips, where Judy’s doubting herself and you understand Nicks back story and this feeling of empathy. Were you excited to bring that story to the screen?

Jason: Yeah. It’s a fun structure, right? The fact that she’s the inside out kind of character and I’m the outside in kind of character. She’s all hard and I’m all shell, and then those things kind of cross. I usually end up playing these prickly characters or these ethically challenged characters, and it’s always fun to identify the scene or the sequence, or sometimes it’s just the line, where you can expose that soft, chewy center for this audience that this character’s trying to hide. You can kind of crack it and break it through a little bit, and it become very compelling for an audience. Like, “oh, I know something about that character that he thinks he’s hiding from me, and certainly the characters in the movie it’s hidden from, but I, the audience … I’m starting to feel empathy for this ‘bad guy’,” in quotes. That’s a fun thing to do, as an actor.

Being your first voice over job, what was the biggest challenge that you faced?

Jason: You know, just trying to figure out how much or how little to do with my part of the process. Do I just read these lines and speak into the microphone? Is that enough? Like you’re just leaving a message for somebody? Am I supposed to talk like … How much of it are you supposed to do, and how much are you supposed to just trust will be finished later? You just defer to the directors. You just say, “I’m your soldier. Tell me what you need from me.” Those guys obviously know exactly what they’re doing, and I’m just a part of what they’re putting together and working on every day for years. I go in there once every few months for a couple of hours. Just do your part and leave the rest up to them.

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Voice-Over Narration: Do It Yourself or Pay for a Pro? by Debbie Grattan

A silly Lab puppy looking like he just got caught getting into paint cans and making a colorful mess.

Your corporation could have one, two or even dozens of video ideas in your lineup, from how-to instructional videos to those providing a description of your company or a rundown on specific services or products. You may also have an in-house team that typically takes care of all your production needs.

But, is that team using a voice that can really “cut it” when it comes to keeping your viewers fully engaged?

If you’re tempted to tap the smoothest-sounding voice from your staff to narrate your corporate videos, you may think you’re saving time, money and the hassle of searching out a full-time voice-over pro to hire for the job. But you could instead end up wasting time, money and creating an even bigger hassle when the smoothest-sounding voice doesn’t necessarily produce the smoothest final result.

As a longtime professional voice-over actor, I often get contacted by clients who have already completed their narration with someone that just didn’t work for them. The companies have already shelled out money as well as enormous amounts of time and effort – only to be saddled with a video they couldn’t use – due to shoddy and substandard narration.

The shoddiness may have come from any number or combination of problems. These are problems you simply won’t face if you hire an experienced full-time voice-over pro.

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To Be or Not To Be a Voiceover, by Kate McClanaghan

One sign reads 'Come over here'. The other reads 'How?'.

Let’s say, hypothetically, you come from a business background and always wanted to transition to voiceover. Let’s say you’ve been doing a bit of “fact finding” and finding a lot of contradictory information about this business. Not the least of which, will any one tell you honestly if you can cut it as a voiceover?

Careful what you wish for. There are plenty of people of varying degrees of expertise who are more than happy to quickly tell you “you can’t”—sight unseen, without ever testing your mettle.

What you really need to know is whether you’re applying yourself or not. You need to know what you should be doing and how to apply yourself in nearly any situation in this field. That’s proper coaching, provided the experienced source offering the advice is offering more than just their subjective opinion.

Ideally, your coach/demo producer is in this industry for the long haul and you are too. But, if you’re asking, “Will you tell me whether or not I can join this very exclusive club called voiceover?” then maybe you need to ask yourself something else, such as, “Do I want to be in this industry?” Because NO ONE has the right to tell you whether you can or cannot have a career in this business—or any other for that matter! It’s elitist. And, to be perfectly honest, you don’t have to take that form of browbeating from anyone. Ever.

Granted, a great many people are not all that forthcoming with information in this industry, and hold their cards very tight to their chest. It could be that they’re afraid you may discover how little they actually know about the subject. Or maybe they view you as a threat to their livelihood. Perhaps they’re laboring under the misconception that there is “not enough quality work to go around” and you might cut in on their business. To add to this, what if you know something they don’t?  What then?

Frankly, there’s plenty of room in this industry for everyone—provided you’re trained and make yourself available to the work. In fact, there’s been more than a 2000 percent increase in the amount of voiceover being produced annually than there has been in the last two years. This can be attributed to the rapid expansion and consolidation of media through Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, cable, network, Internet, interactive games, ADR (looping), animation, commercial and corporate/industrial, e-Learning, and various forms of new media. This explosion of media has become commonplace in today’s entertainment industry—all of which require voiceover of some capacity or another. To add to this, the demand for corporate presentations and the necessity of continually updating various content, in order to effectively and professionally forward brand message and represent various industries on multiple platforms, has become a given. They all require professional voice talent who are trained, reliable and available to deliver their best in order to properly embody a successful vocal brand.

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What To Do When You’re Under The Weather, By Kate McClanaghan, www.voiceoverinfo.com

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As a voice talent, as an actor, maintaining your health can be a real challenge, especially when a variety of stronger than average cold and flu strains are circulating. We’re all susceptible to catching something that can put your voice and overall health at risk for up to two months or more after a simple trip to the local Supermarket, or an afternoon at the movie theatre. If you’re in contact with the public, you’re exposed.

If you feel you’re coming down with something, please don’t hesitate to see your doctor to ensure you’re not putting others at risk. We often think we have a cold, when in fact we have the flu. Whether you have a cold or the flu you’re generally only contagious within the first 24 to 48 hours. Here’s a link to help you distinguish the difference between the two ailments: http://goo.gl/GnWi08. A cold generally lasts only a week or two, while the flu can lasts 6 to 8 weeks or more.

Voice actors are most concerned with losing their voice by coming down with laryngitis, which seldom, if ever, is contagious. However, if your laryngitis is coupled with bronchitis, it can be contagious, so again-see your doctor as soon as possible to spare others, to save your voice, and to shorten the duration of your illness.

If you do have the flu, a dry, unproductive cough typically accompanies the chills, body aches, and a fever that turns on and off a few days at a time. The flu comes on very quickly and without warning. You can probably narrow it down to the very moment you got sick, but a cold can be a bit more gradual.

Beyond getting more rest, managing your symptoms with natural remedies can help avert added downtime that may keep you from bookings and performing at your best. I’ve found the following natural remedies to be particularly successful in lessen the discomfort of colds, allergies, and the flu alike.

Emergen-C is half the solution I refer to as my “flu bomb.” If you find yourself coming down with something, empty your favorite flavor Emergen-C (I prefer Tropical or Raspberry) and an orange Airborne into the same glass. Add water, hot or cold. Allow the ingredients to dissolve completely, then drink the entire contents. It tastes great and, if you caught the illness within the first 48 hours of your initial symptoms, you could very well prevent coming down with a cold. (At the very least, the duration of whatever is trying to take over will run its course in a fraction of the time you might ever expect.)

Follow-up is key. Be sure to repeat this “flu bomb” formula at least once more before you go to bed, and continue this regimen twice a day for two to three days. Then follow with one “flu bomb” a day for the remainder of a solid week-EVEN if you feel better. This tends to work well for allergies as well in many people.

If you find you have a cough, as simple as it sounds, at least 3 to 4 tablespoons of honey in a mug of hot water suppresses and soothes what ails you. Add a slice of lemon as you see fit. (Personally, I found the honey alone did the most good for me, but to each his own.)

Zinc dries you up when you need it, while vitamin C has the opposite effect. C allows your sinuses to open up and self-moisturize when your eyes, throat, and sinuses are too dry. If your eyes and/or nose are runny, try 50 to 60 mgs of zinc. In most (minor) cases, this will help you to get through an hour-long recording session, for example, without incident. Nothing shy of miraculous here. Again, if you have allergies, zinc can handle a world of woes.

In a nutshell, if you honestly don’t feel well, and you’re convinced you won’t be able to recreate what you did from your initial audition, or your auditions aren’t up to your standard professional abilities, then do the responsible thing, and book out with your agents. If you start to feel under the weather, pay close attention to your symptoms and see a doctor. Take care of yourself, get lots of rest, and do your best to stay healthy. It’s the professional thing to do.

Copyright © 2016 by Kate McClanaghan, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

Getting Paid, by Rachel Fulginiti

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This week I received a delightful and unexpected gift. I got paid for a job I thought I’d gotten burned on. Let me backtrack. My business is divided into two parts. There’s the agented side of things: I audition for jobs with my agent (s) either at home, in their office or at casting places and when I book a job they send me to the studio. These are the “Cadillac Jobs”. Kushy and smooth. I am just a voice for hire. I go into an awesome studio, record for a half hour and then get a check sent to me a while later. No engineering, no invoicing, no call for pickups, (unless there’s another paycheck attached!); it’s pretty sweet.

But to make it as a VO in this day and age, you pretty much also have to have a home-based business, as well. On this side of things, I am not only the “talent”, but also the engineer, as well as the accountant and office manager. Most times, I am also the director and sometimes the producer. Jobs come to me through referrals from past clients, online sites, or by people finding my website.  Someone contacts me about a project, I provide a quote and tell them my policies, they send me a finalized script and I record it, either with them on the line or on my own depending on their preference. Then they may come back to me with one round of pickups. After that the job is usually (hopefully) just another good memory. Next. I fondly refer to these jobs (privately!) as “turn and burn”. No disrespect, they’re great. I get paid, complete the job quickly and it’s wrapped up nice and tidy with no unnecessary time and energy lingering. Everyone’s happy.

To this end, I always ask for payment up front, especially the first time I work with a client. I didn’t always do that, but I learned the hard way. Many times, clients seem to magically disappear after they get what they need, and understandably so; they are typically on tight deadlines and still have post production ahead of them. A few times I was stiffed completely. More often, I would eventually get paid, but it might take months and months…and that meant months and months of me following up with them, sending gentle reminders, more terse reminders…you get the idea. The whole process was a hassle, uncomfortable for me, a time suck and just plain not fun. So, I decided to adopt a policy that was in place at a corporate job I had years ago.

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Alan Rickman: It’s not all about his voice, by Edge Studio

AlanRickmanPictures

With the recent passing of the actor Alan Rickman, much has been made of his voice. Which is more than the vocal department at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art said he would make of it. Many years later, he told an interviewer that his voice had been “heavily criticized.” In fact, Rickman described one teacher as saying, “Alan, you sound as if your voice is coming out of the back end of a drain pipe.” So it would be tempting to make this article about pursuing your dream, never giving up, and not heeding the opinion of even a prestigious drama school.

But would that be wise?

Yes, and no.

No, in that if three people tell you you’re drunk, you should at least consider switching to soda, and if qualified professionals suggest you should consider a different line of work, maybe you should at least reconsider your game plan.

But we note that Rickman did not say his teachers discouraged him from acting. And his voice has been described more lately as seeming like a cello.

So there’s the “yes.” In fact, many a “yes.” Rickman’s acting career provides a wealth of examples to inspire the growing voiceover artist.

To begin with, Rickman started relatively late for an actor. Although he had been interested in acting as a youth, professionally he first tried his hand at graphic design, figuring it would provide a more dependable income. It didn’t, so in his mid-twenties, he got himself accepted by the Royal Academy. Then he spent a dozen years on the boards and British TV repertory.

It was soon apparent that Rickman had more going for him than his voice. It wasn’t just the voice, it was how he used it. That’s another valuable lesson to heed.

For example, in Rickman’s first movie role (in “Die Hard”), he not only ranged through that German-who-learned-English-in-England accent, it was his idea to connivingly switch to American. Rickman also offered (or maybe “insisted on” would be more accurate) certain creative views as to his character’s actions, revealing his judgment and ability as a director. (He went on to direct and teach, including here in New York City at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.) Throughout his career, from the first days in repertory, through to the end, he showed range and versatility in both drama and comedy.

And, as many have noted by now, Alan Rickman showed how he could use that voice. (Including off-camera; he voiced the depressed robot in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and the Blue Caterpillar in “Alice through the Looking Glass,” an animated film not yet released.)

Many obits have mentioned that in 2008, a scholarly study found that Alan Rickman had the “perfect male voice.” Well, yes and no to that, too.

The study was commissioned by Post Office®, the British government-owned entity providing retail mail, financial, telephony and other services. Why on earth were they investigating the perfect voice?

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