Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Voice Over Websites - What would you change?

Recently, I've received email from voice over talent regarding their performance on the largest voice over talent websites. The voice talent have been both experienced and unexperienced. In answering their concerns and questions I began thinking about the features that would make the ideal voice over website. I'm just talking about the mass listing websites for voice over talent rather than an individual's website for now. Those of us listed on one or more of these sites probably have a list of pros and cons, and I've just been musing about what would make a site really work for the professional voice talent out there. I've had many voice over friends who have tried some of these sites and finally given up because they don't get any work. Keep in mind, these are top notch working professionals! Are the websites running off the pros by trying to even the playing field too much in favor of the beginners? Are beginners lost in the shuffle because they can't compete with the pros?

Who is actually getting the jobs posted on these voice talent websites? Would it be helpful for the sites to post the winning audition, remarks/proposal, and bid? Now, THAT would be interesting! Maybe they could do that without actually listing the talent's name if that is a concern. It would just be really interesting and useful to see how the winning audition, remarks/proposal, and bid compared with what you sent, wouldn't it? You could listen to the winning audition and hear if you just really weren't right for the job - by the way, a great reason for these sites to require the clients to get really specific about what they're looking for rather than just "female middle age" or worse yet, "both" and not even an age range let alone any real description of voice tone and style! You could compare the technical quality of your audition to see if you're up to par, too. You could see the kinds of things written in the remarks or proposal sections of the audition response to see if it really makes any difference what you say. And the bid? Need I say more? Is the lowest bid getting the job? Are people bidding under the bid range the client is posting? Are you overbidding or are you underbidding! No kidding, that can sometimes be a factor!

Wouldn't it be interesting if the mass listing websites for voice talent would actually give this useful information? If listing the talent's name would be a problem, then leave that out. Or the talent listed on the site could agree to allow their winning audition, proposal, and/or bid to be posted. The audition is already won, and it could give some recognition to the winner! There are actually some sites who do this.

Let me know what you think.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #2 - Breathing for Voice Over

Before we discuss how to read copy or a script, you need to learn how to get your voice and articulators warmed up. First, breathe! Practice breathing from your diaphragm - that spot between your chest and abdomen just above your waist. To check yourself, you can lie on your back on the floor, and place the palm of your hand on your middle. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Your chest should not raise, nor should your shoulders tense, but your midsection should expand pushing your hand up. If you have a voice over buddy, you can stand and have her or him stand facing you and place their hands around your sides just above your waist. When you breathe in, expanding your diaphragm, their hands will be pushed apart– your shoulders should not move and your chest shouldn’t move much either. When you blow the air out, their hands will come closer together. Now, you’ve got the idea.

When you’re working as voice talent – all your breath should come from here. The diaphragm is what supports you. In my old cheer leading days, I could cheer all night and not have any problems with my voice the next day because I was not yelling from the throat, but pushing the air from the diaphragm. Now, as a mom in the stands, I have to be careful because I get too caught up in the action and just scream! If you don't support from the diaphragm, you’re going to pinch and squeeze your vocal chords and you will sound pinched and squeezed – and you’ll run out of air and be gasping through the spot.

Practice taking in deep breaths and then releasing them slowly while voicing “Ah” until you run out of air. When you’re actually voicing a script you will need to take short, but deep breaths to keep the copy moving while keeping the sound supported. Warm up by doing this deep breathing exercise, and as a bonus, it's a great relaxation exercise, too!

Next time, I'll talk about articulation exercises.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #1 For the Beginner

This is a voice talent "how to" for those of you out there who are interested in becoming a professional voice over performer. I frequently get emails or calls from prospective professional voice over performers. Some of them have had a little training or experience and others are only thinking about it. Occasionally, even someone who is working and has representation will contact me about certain areas of the business.

Since there is so much to cover and there are so many different aspects of this business of voice over, I'll just try covering one or two things in each post under this heading.

Today, I'm addressing the beginner. I've tried to gather my thoughts in order to address some of the basics of the voice over business, and to at least help point people in the right direction. I haven't written a book (yet), and I haven't had much time to teach classes or workshops although I have taught a few. I've just been a working professional voice over performer and actress for the past 25 years. Although I've read a few books and taken a few classes, most of my advice comes from years of recording in the studios and working and talking with many audio engineers, producers, directors and other voice over talent. This is an organic process.

What has brought you to the voice over business? Some of you have been told you have a nice voice or you sound great on the phone. Wonderful! That, in addition to years of acting experience, is part of what got me moving into the voice over arena, and it's turned out to be my bread and butter. However, having a nice voice (or these days a quirky or interesting voice) is definitely not all there is to becoming a successful professional voice over talent. The number one thing in voice over is the way you interpret the copy or in other words, your acting ability.

Your understanding of what is important in the script, what needs to be emphasized, finessed, or romanced and your ability to bring that to life will propel you toward your goal. So read every piece of advertising you can get your hands on whether it's actual commercial or narration copy or advertising out of a magazine or newspaper. Read it out loud, make it interesting, give it meaning. Read it with different attitudes: excited, happy, seductively, or even flat and bored - but not boring! Listen to commercials on TV (don't fast forward through them!) and radio. Hear what other people are doing out there. Pick and choose what you think works best and might work for you, too.

Next time, I'll discuss your instrument - your voice and how to work with it properly.

Until then - read on!

Friday, February 8, 2008

New Voice Over Booking Check List

Seems I needed a reminder to check my own checklist when it comes to new voice over bookings - even for returning clients! Just wasted some time yesterday searching for music samples for a client to go with a brief voice sample of his new script. I'd worked with him before and assumed (I know, I know) that he'd want to go in the same direction as previously, and in my defense, he hadn't mentioned otherwise. So, back to basics. I will try to always use my list of questions regarding type of recording and voice over style! Some lessons we just have to learn over and over, don't we? It may have something to do with too much multitasking, too...

You know, the more I think of it, it seems that email, although very convenient, can exacerbate the problem of getting a clear communication. In theory, having it in writing would seem to give you a more concrete idea of what your client is after, but many people write such cryptic emails that it's awfully hard to read between the lines. Also, there's often such urgency, that we sometimes tend to jump off the starting line before all the details are in place.

Clarifying whether the narration is for a web site, sales meeting, DVD, in house, etc. and whether the client wants the voice over talent to read more seriously, upbeat, commercially, or dramatically is, obviously, very important even when you THINK you know what they're going for! Asking the client to listen to your voice over demos again and pick the cut that is closest to what they're envisioning is also extremely helpful - as long as you remember to do it! There are some clients who know exactly what they want and can describe it to you in great detail - bless them! (for the most part) There are others who don't know what they want until they've heard you try everything else, and still others who know what they want, but just neglect to share it with you - leaving you to use your mind reading skills! We have to keep our wits about us and keep investigating until we unearth that magic word or sample or link that gives us both that ah ha moment. Then, it's bliss! So, in addition to the titles of voice talent, engineer, booking agent, marketing manager, file clerk, and bookkeeper we need to add detective!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Voice Over News

Wow! Things have really been popping lately! So much has been happening that I haven't had time to blog. If I can't find time to chat......well you know things are busy in the voice over business. Seems like most of the voice talent and voice over producers I've been talking to lately are experiencing the same thing - both female voice talent and male voice talent. Good news for all of us! Hope you've been busy, too!

Along with ISDN commercial voice over sessions, there have been more web narrations and long form e-learning narrations with some on camera work tossed in, as well. I've been traveling to other studios more than usual for narration and commercial work, too. While I certainly enjoy working from my own voice over studio, it is such a treat to just be the voice talent and leave the engineering and editing to someone else!

I'm still continuing on my quest for getting new voice over promotional materials designed. It's taking longer than I anticipated, but it will all work out well in the end and I had to get the new design "just right". We agonize over this stuff, don't we? I've also learned a few new helpful tips for EQing finished voice files from a generous engineer/producer. Still tweaking and getting used to the new Sennheiser MKH 416 mic, which is so sensitive that it required some tweaking of my mic preamp and mixer settings along with increased soundproofing and isolation. It's all been well worth the trouble, though, and the new mic is sounding great both via ISDN with no processing, and when I'm recording, engineering and editing my own voice over files. It's a constant learning process, isn't it?

Oh, still working on that new promo demo, too. Just had to put it on hold over the past few weeks. I hope to get into the studio to work with a super producer on that within the next week or so. By then, I should have the new CD labels and postcards, so perfect timing after all!