Anyone who has ever spent time in a recording studio knows all too well how difficult it can be to capture a great performance, especially on the first take. There are so many variables during the recording process in a creative endeavor that you are bound to make some mistakes. And oftentimes, it will require more time than you expected in order to get the perfect delivery.
Hog Butcher: No Other Way to Say It
With performers and producers working toward the same goal, but with different processes (acting versus recording and direction), there are bound to be some minor obstacles in the beginning until you settle into a productive groove.
This is true whether it is for a commercial, movie, TV show or any other project that needs voice acting and voiceover work. You may flub a line, something technical might come up, or the tone may just not be what the producers and advertisers need. The last thing you want is performers worrying about how long it will take to finish the session or if they are in danger of exceeding the budget for recording time.
Versatile voice actors develop many different techniques for expressing the dialog they get from their directors. They build up a repertoire of characters, from children to the elderly, polish their various regional accents and continue to work on and improve their acting ability overall. The more options that performers can give to the creative director, the more effective the project will wind up being in the end.
Plus, when money is on the line, you want to get in and out of the recording studio as soon as possible...but only with the best possible voiceover work. That’s a tall order, as illustrated by a recent video from Hog Butcher called “No Other Way to Say It.”
About Hog Butcher
Hog Butcher consists of improvisers from Chicago’s IO, the Annoyance Theater and The Second City and is led by Ron Lazzeretti, an advertising professional and independent filmmaker.
Hog Butcher meets with clients to discuss a project and then the group develops funny, fresh and informative material to record, whether it’s for commercials, online content or movies. They’ve made commercials for a variety of prominent clients, including KFC, Coors and Kmart.
Hog Butcher: No Other Way to Say It
The video, which was posted on YouTube via Hog Butcher’s official channel, paints an all-too-real and funny scenario that is very accurate portrayal of a voiceover session.
It's a familiar scene set inside a recording studio. A voiceover artist named Jen wears headphones while standing in front of a microphone, with a script in front of her, waiting to be read. In the meanwhile, the recording crew is checking the levels as she warms up her voice.
One of the producers tells Jen that they loved her audition and now they just want to repeat that performance as they make a recording. Once they get the sound levels right, it’s time to begin.
The creatives immediately get into some excruciatingly fine details. For example, one of them mentions that “Larry is again concerned about these exclamation points” in the copy.
They ask Jen to deliver the first line three times in a row. However, this beginning line is a bit of a tongue twister and it’s for a product with an amusing name: “Dumpers Young Dumb Ice Cream,” followed by the catchphrase, “There’s just no other way to say it. They’re good!”
The producers decide to mark the first take for consideration and ask the actor to give them another reading, while talking about getting a more optimistic tone. They’re so engrossed in their discussion, they forget to press their microphone button so that Jen can hear the comments. They awkwardly repeat the request to make her voice more “optimistic.”
After take 2, the producers confer and say Jen shouldn’t be optimistic after all, but instead her voice should convey “cheerfulness” and request another take to get that tone. They get even more into the weeds at this point, asking the actor to give them an ambivalent yet confident approach, where she invites listeners to get the ice cream but that she won’t have her feelings hurt if they don’t try the treat.
Most amusingly, the producers actually admit that they are already giving her too many notes but press on with their requests to change the tone again! In the meantime, as the team continues to discuss the line readings they want with their microphone turned off, Jen turns to her cellphone.
She is reading text messages from her mom about some bad news as she awaits the next instruction from the producers. Now they want her to speak the lines as if she has never eaten ice cream before in her life.
Then, they debate whether “young” is the same as “hip” as they ask for additional changes in tone. After even more suggestions, the recording team wonders how they can get Jen back to the original approach as the credits roll.
Written and directed by Tim Mason, the video shows what really can happen behind the scenes in the “glamorous world of advertising” and how voiceover actors must work hard to get the right tone for the advertising creatives in the studio.
The communication issues that can arise in a recording session as seen in the “No Other Way to Say It” video from Hog Butcher underscore how hard it is to be a creative director on a commercial project. Creative directors who request multiple takes should never feel like it’s their fault or that they are being too indecisive. And the actors also should know that they aren’t to blame just because the recording session isn’t starting out perfect.
Getting the recording right often means exploring different approaches, such as slowing down or talking much faster or varying the line reading to emphasize a word at the beginning, middle or end. Then there is the issue of emotion and tone. Is it supposed to be a dramatic situation, or is a funny and lighthearted voice what the project really needs? When voice actors and creative directors come into a project with mutual respect and a shared goal to deliver the best possible recording, the results will be much better.
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