Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Professional Microphone for Voice Over

Just had to say that Santa was very good to me! He brought me a beautiful new Sennheiser MKH416 - P48 3U microphone! It's the state of the art microphone for film and national tv voice over. I'm anxious to work with it in my voice over studio on my next project. It's all hooked up and ready to go! I know everyone has their favorite microphone and it may or may not be this one, but since it is the industry standard I have been anxious to add it to my studio. So far, I think it sounds great!

If you have any opinions, advice or observations about this mic, please let me know.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Voice Over Classes - How to Choose

Should you take voice over classes? If you are a beginner, absolutely! Who should you take those classes from? The possibilities have certainly been expanded via the internet! Whoever you choose, make sure it's someone who has a great deal of working experience. As with any type of class, there may be those who want to teach, and could possibly do a relatively good job, but they don't have the actual working experience to back it up. Someone who has done voice over work for years or who has directed or cast voice talent will have more to offer than someone who has not. A full voice talent resume is certainly a plus! So much of acting and voice over performance is organic, and the more sessions you have actually worked, the more knowledge, tips, tricks of the trade, and professionalism you acquire. Does that make everyone who works a lot a great teacher? Of course not. Check resumes, but check around, too. Ask other voice talent if they have studied with a particular teacher and if they would recommend that teacher. Don't forget to check with local agents, too. They often know a great deal more about a particular voice talent or teacher than anyone else.

What if you're a seasoned pro? Do you need classes? Well, if you find the right teacher , it definitely couldn't hurt! Even though you may have been working for many years, there may be certain categories of voice over that you never seem to book, you feel you need help being more comfortable with different types of reads, you need to get out of a voice over rut - doing what you've done for years without challenging yourself - etc. I recently took 2 courses from Rodney Saulsberry: Promo and Trailers Teleclass and Commercial Intensive voice over teleclass. I can't tell you how long it's been since I took a voice over class! Since I stay very busy and often can't attend classes that I must travel to, these were so convenient because they were handled over the phone one evening a week. And Rodney is a generous, knowledgeable teacher who holds nothing back. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, validated my abilities and learned some new things along the way. I'll be implementing new ideas and leads and breaking new ground in 2008!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Matching Voice Over Revisions

We've all had to go back days, weeks, or months later to make revisions to previous voice over work to accommodate client changes or tweaks. What does it take to make those revisions blend seamlessly with the previous read style and recording quality? Well, technically, it's best to be in the same studio with the same mic at the same settings. For those of us doing it from our home voice over studio, those settings are important, too. Wondering if there are any voice over artists with their own studios out there who actually keep good notes as to these settings on each recording job? That would probably be ideal. However, many of us probably work with the same basic settings most of the time. Then, it becomes a matter of proximity to the mic, levels, and ultimately vocal style. A good ear is definitely a requirement!

I find that I usually try to edit in only the amount of voice over that is absolutely necessary to make the change needed. First, I listen carefully to the previous read as many times as necessary to get the style, tempo, and voice. By voice, I mean whether it's full voice, softer, stronger, higher, lower, etc. The attitude of the voice over delivery is very important and would refer to the style as well. Then, I read a portion of the script that includes the changes several times to recreate the same style, pitch, tempo, etc. When I get one that I feel is closest, I'll edit the change into the original using only as much as I need to blend for sound and style and make a clean edit - after a pause, breath, or at a plosive works best. T's, D's, B's, P's generally edit well providing you're matching all the voice over details mentioned previously. After making the edit, I listen carefully through my headphones and then through the monitors in the room as well, and when I'm satisfied that the match is seamless, it's done.

A note about revisions to files to which you have edited music for your clients. Always, remember to save a dry master of the original voice over. Note the title of the music you used as well or even save a copy of the music in the file folder for this client and project for easy reference. Then, if revisions are necessary, you can edit the new voice over to the original dry read and mix again with the music. Keeping well labeled, easily accessible audio files makes life so much easier. If only I could keep up with my paper filing as meticulously as I try to keep my audio files!

For those of us who work in other studios and via ISDN, the process of matching a previous voice over read is the same but without the worry of the technical side of things. Although we have an engineer who is working on the technical aspects of the actual recording of the voice over match from his end, we still have the responsibility of using our highly trained ear, acting ability, and professionalism in matching our previous voice over read as closely as possible. It's always so gratifying to hear an audio engineer say, "you're matching your previous read perfectly and making my job so much easier!".

Monday, December 10, 2007

As Voice Talent - Do you need an agent?

A voice talent agent is often necessary for you to work in any given city. Ad agencies and casting directors look to talent agents to provide master demos, recommendations, and voice over auditions for specific projects. Where do you start? Talk to several AFTRA and SAG franchised voice over talent agents – they are the most reputable as they are bound by agreements to the performers unions. They can't require that you purchase classes or photos from them. They can make lists available to you with the names of photographers and teachers, but they may not provide the services themselves. They are certainly not allowed to require the voice talent or on camera talent that they represent to purchase services such as those in order to be represented. They do not charge you any fees for representation, although many agents do ask you to pay a portion of the expenses incurred for your inclusion on their master demos.

The Biggest agency in town is not necessarily the best place for a newcomer. If the agency handles a large number of working voice talent, you may not get called for as many auditions. On the other hand, if you go with a smaller voice talent agency with a small voice talent pool, they may not get as many of the calls from the advertising agencies or casting directors. Experiences of other performers you talk to, common sense and your gut feeling will have to prevail. When you interview with an agent, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you!

If you’re going to seek voice over work via the internet, you’ll probably want to list with several voice talent sites which in many ways act as an online voice talent agent. They generally don't negotiate for you or represent you in the traditional role of a real world agent, but they function as a virtual voice talent agent in that they provide a place to list you and your voice talent services. Of course, they are not franchised agents, more like listing services, and most of them charge a yearly listing fee. Again, if you can check with other talent to see what their experience has been with listing on a particular site, it might be helpful. But keep in mind, that whether they’re getting work or not does not necessarily mean you will have the same experience. As with a regular voice talent agent, some of it comes down to trial and error. You have to test the water to see what and who works best for you. Some sites charge around $200 for a yearly listing including all the bells and whistles – your own web page with space to upload many demos, and some even allow video! There are other sites that charge far less – but may work out better for you! There are some sites that charge much, much more and may not get you any work at all! Know that these listings, like your real world voice over agent, help you get auditions and find work, but you still have to do as much marketing of yourself as possible. Many agents, like the web sites, basically just list you and your demos, but do not promote you specifically. They’re not out there on a daily basis representing just you to potential clients. They’re representing their “pool” of talent. However, a good agent will, of course, recommend you specifically for projects for which you are well suited. Still, you can’t just sit back and wait for that phone to ring!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Voice Over Today

Things used to be simple in the voice over business. You had an agent in the city in which you lived, you got a call, you showed up at the studio, voiced the commercial or narration, and you went on your way. Your agent sent the invoice and followed up on the payment and finally, sent you a check. Of course, you probably did some marketing to ad agencies in your city. Maybe you even sent out a few demos. Maybe you did a lot of work, maybe you didn't.

Today, to stay competitive, a voice over artist needs have a presence on the web, which often means you are your own negotiator, engineer, web designer, bookkeeper, and promoter in addition to being voice talent. You need discipline to stay on top of all the management duties you have. You need to continue to learn and grow in the technical aspects of recording and editing in addition to keeping current with voice over trends - and run an organized business. You need to stay focused on a daily basis in order to stay in top form. What do you do if you aren't booked with wall to wall sessions for the day? Play hooky? Or do you dig into that filing that's been backing up? How about touching base with clients you haven't heard from in awhile? Take care of those pesky "housekeeping" chores in your studio/office that always get put on the back burner - make those calls, take care of business so that you can put that mound of papers into the next mound - the to be filed stack? Ah, yes. It's a glamorous business we're in!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Real Person vs Announcer Voice Talent

Today, it seems the most popular voice over style requested is the "Real Person" read. To those of us who have been working as professional voice talent for many years, this presents some interesting challenges and opportunities. If we want to keep working and continuing to improve and expand our business, we have to keep up with the current trends in the marketplace. Although, our professional announcing abilities and golden tones are what propelled our careers in the beginning, we may find that we really have to work to give up the very things that used to make our style desirable! Of course, we don't want to totally lose those abilities, either, because they are still called for on occasion. We want to provide the best and most versatile voice over services possible.

The dilemma for me comes when receiving an audition that doesn't specifically state whether the client is looking for a "real person" read or more of a traditional straight announcer read. Which way do I go? Fortunately, I have the ability to do both, but therein lies the problem - which to choose? You might say, do one reading of each. Good advice, however, some auditions state that we may only give ONE reading. Without proper direction given, as is so often the case, the client may be cutting him or herself off from receiving some of the best auditions possible from some of the most experienced talent. The copy itself may sometimes give us the clues, but in my experience, that may not always be the case.

Will the "real person" read continue to be the most sought after in the advertising marketplace or will the pendulum swing back to requiring some sort of well modulated, pleasing, professional sound?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Welcome to Melanie's Voice Over Studio

Welcome to my new voice over blog! This is a new area for me, but I look forward to sharing voice over information and experiences with you. I look forward to hearing from you, too! First, a bit about my background. I've been a working professional voice over performer and actress for 25 years. I live in Texas and up until about 5 years ago, that's where I did most of my work. I've been fortunate to have been able to keep busy in this market all these years.

I created my own digital home studio about 5 years ago. It was the best move of my voice over career! It has put me in touch with so many more potential clients and other fine voice over artists as well. These days, I stay busy with recording and uploading files daily. I also have ISDN and have begun doing more "live" sessions, too. It is a constant learning curve and I've continued to update my studio and marketing materials continuously. Since I can edit my own demos, I'm constantly tweaking my demos for different prospective clients and agents and adding new material as soon as I have a copy of the finished product. Although I still love working in other professional audio studios in my area, having my own studio has opened up so many more avenues of employment for me!