Think of the last time you started a conversation with someone you didn't know. Or maybe you haven't ever tried, but were thinking about talking to that nice lady on the train. How would you start? Offer a compliment? An open ended question? Simply say "Hey, we're on the choo-choo together!" No matter how you approach someone, you want to be inviting, warm and real. It will make them feel welcomed and possibly open up.
There are so many voice over scripts now that have the specs "conversational", "non-announcer", "no radio types", "similar to a John Krasinski voiceover" or "like you're talking to a friend." Now we all know sometimes we don't have the fortune of having scripts written for the spoken word, but as a professional voice talent we should be able to capture the essence of a conversation.
Think of who you are talking to. Who is this person? Who are you? Why did this conversation start? Giving your reads some background will help bring a character to life. It will get you in the mindset of a conversation, not just reading and saying words.
I recently did a few testimonial reads for a car dealer radio ad. To get into the character, I would just start talking to myself about buying a car, thinking about being interviewed and answering honestly to a mock interview. When the self-conversation made way to the script, I was already rolling and the read came across natural, and right into a conversational voice over.
Next time you read a script with "conversational" as a spec, start out by having a conversation. Become the character, and enjoy the moment. Or, strike up a conversation with that nice lady and pay attention to the way you talk to her. Be real and honest. Who knows?!?! Maybe you'll even make a new friend!
Smell that cooking? It's new voice over demos coming right out of the studio oven! I'm really pumped about these. They not only showcase my style, but they're also a culmination of months of work. I was able to partner with some great folks who helped bring the best performance forward, as well as top notch production.
A little background; now you might be thinking "Tony, you can produce audio, why didn't you do it yourself?" While it's true that I have the technical knowledge to produce a voice over demo, it wasn't the point. I wanted to make sure my delivery was the best, the music and sfx selection was current, and the overall direction was collaborative. I sought after 2 different people to help me produce the best products possible. If you're thinking about a new voice over demo, do yourself a favor and outsource it. The process will be easier, and so much more will come from your performance. Now, on to the sounds!
First is my new commercial voice over demo. This was produced by my voice over coach Marla Kirban. She's so great and made the experience wonderful! I've been working with her for a while and knew she was the right choice for producing my demo. She writes custom copy, gives great direction, and really gets you to give the best performance. Trust me, letting go of all the other distractions and just concentrating on the delivery was worth it! This is a stellar commercial demo. Check out her site and all the great work she does.
Know all those primetime television you hear on major networks? Well that's what I want to be when I grow up, so having a rock star promo demo is key. For this I turned to Ear Blowing Audio and Eric Romanowski. I wanted a collaborative process from start to finish and he made it great! We both put a bunch of work into it and the result really shows! He does amazing production work especially radio imaging. Now let me clean your ears with his magic:
Good stuff! I'm very happy with the results, but also about the process. Working with the best people brings out the best in you. I'm very fortunate to have good folks around me. Now let's get back in that voice over kitchen and cook up somethin' else!!!
One of the things I love about being a professional voice talent is working with all the creative teams. There are some really inspiring people that produce fantastic content out there. When I go into a session, I like to hear about how they developed the project, what went into it, and ask about their client. It gives me a good perspective into their creative minds.
Being a voice talent, gives you a unique perspective into a project. You're a fresh set of eyes and ears and it might come in handy to get the perfect read! Remember that you are part of a team. There were many steps to get to you, and a lot of work has gone into the project. Be collaborative when you're in the booth. The producer, copy editor, director, or client will appreciate it and maybe remember you for next time ;)
The biggest skill as a voice actor needs is to be flexible! Maybe your read doesn't sound like your audition, but if they love it then who cares! Practice empathy, be adaptable, and enjoy the ride.
I recently did a project where I got to be an "Elf." The script was so much fun and embodying the character of a "man-child" was awesome! I was directed over my phone patch and although we mostly stuck to the script, I improvised a few lines that actually ended up in the final. The client really appreciated it and made the entire process enjoyable for everyone. It was a great time, and staying as a collaborative voice talent was the key to a great session!
(PS - I'm also the disclaimer voice in the beginning)
Check out the video below!
Voice over is my passion and love. I think I've always been sort of an auditory wordsmith. I enjoy the audible aesthetics of words. If you take away any meaning and just listen to the words as sounds, it becomes a whole different experience. It's hard to do if you speak the language, but think of it this way; have you ever listened to a language you don't speak and just enjoyed the beauty of the sounds? Listen to Italian, Spanish, or French and you'll hear just audio beauty. If you speak those languages, then pick another and just enjoy. (As an American I only speak 1 language because that's all I can fit in there. Too much Twitter and Pretzel Bun sandwiches on the brain.)
When I receive scripts for voice over, I can always tell if I'm either working with a script writer or a copy writer. I think there's a distinction there. In the general sense those terms are interchangeable, but I think there is a difference that should be noted. A script writer is someone who writes scripts to be spoken (not just a cleaver name right?). A copy writer could cover more of a general purpose in writing. They might be writing blog posts, books, articles, recipes, a new novel about a lonely vampire, anything with words. The difference here is one focuses on the spoken word (scripts) and the other the written form (copy).
Voice over writing is very different from writing words for reading. Sometimes I get scripts and the language is so jumbled and convoluted, no person would ever speak that way. What's harder is making those scripts sound real in voice over and sometimes comes out stuffy and detached.
My pals over at Holdcom wrote a nice piece about using flowery language in voice over scripts. While it speaks to on hold messaging specially, it really applies to all voice over scripts.
Here's a simple and easy trick for knowing if the script you're writing is good for a voice over talent; say it out loud. If you say the words and it doesn't flow or sound like it should, then maybe a rewrite is in order.
Language is auditory beauty, and using the right words can make your script come to life. If you're not sure the script you're working on is right for voice over, get an audition! They're normally free and you can hear your words come to life.
(*Special note: doing rounds of voice over auditions just to get your script right is not something you want to do. Respect the talent just as much as they respect the words you have written. Makes the process easier!)
I like people. As far back as I can remember, I enjoyed people. I think my spirit animal is probably a labrador. I'm just happy being in a group, and always looking to play (crotch smelling is optional). Not all people enjoy a group, I get that. But if you're in business for yourself, especially in the finicky world of voiceover, you have to be somewhat of a people-person. Now that doesn't mean you should slobber all over them (metaphorically), but you should remember we all are in this together.
I enjoy making a connection with people. That connection can be anywhere, at a coffee shop, getting my car inspected, on a train, or even (dun dun dunnnnnn) on the phone with a customer service rep. Oh come on. Who doesn't love to wait on hold and finally get through to someone to help you? Eh? Let's see it! Raise those smashed phones!
I recently had to call my cable company to fix the DVR. I'm pretty tech savvy but there was a wizard or crystal out of alignment and I was all out of potion to fix it. During the call, I was greeted by a rep, who you could tell was in her "I'm a representative" voice. We all know that voice. It's robotic, stale, void of emotion, and layered with words like "satisfactory" and "account summary". It's not her fault, but I was in a playful mood and wanted to make a connection. While we were waiting for the box to boot back up, I asked a simply question, "How are you today?." She was taken back and then with the natural warmth in her voice it seems to have in her everyday life, she said "Wonderful. That was so nice of you to ask." We chatted for a few minutes while the system came back online and it ended up being a very enjoyable experience. At the end she asked if I would take a survey on her. Normally I would just pass that stuff by, however this time it was worth it. She got all "highly satisfied" (more robot terms).
Now you might be saying "Ya but Tony you had to initiate that conversation. I give them money every month and she should just do that". Ok if you really think that, then I'm sorry to say...you're the problem here. Remember we are all people. How difficult is it to have a one sided conversation if the other person isn't willing to participate? Engage with people. Try it out. It will make you real, honest, and open to others. It's not someone else's job to engage. It's everyone's job.
When it comes to voice talent, we sometimes take the role of that customer service person. We are on an island, waiting for someone to hire us, and give direction. We forget how to engage with the client, and enjoy the process. Now I know we can't always do this, since a lot of voice work has a "I NEEDED THIS A WEEK AGO!" theme, but take those opportunities when you can. Be a person. Your clients are people too.
I recently booked a gig for a cabinet company. The script was pretty straight forward, with no real pizazz, but it wasn't that kind of project. The director was with me via a phone patch so I started asking open ended questions about the project, their client, and his company. Once that happened, what was seemingly a straight-forward project, turned into a real connection. The conversation flipped to how the industry has changed and mutual experiences. We even enjoyed talking about "those days" of taping reels together (I'm not that old but we all had to learn). I made a connection and the project turned out wonderfully. Sometimes trying to be the best voice over talent means connecting with people, and not just with the copy.
Now will someone please throw the tennis ball so I can go get it!!!
Here's the project. Great little explainer video. I like the music track. Neato!
Have you been to a big box retailer lately? On your next trip take a moment and look at the number of items in that store. There are 40 varieties of paper towels, 80 types of cheese, and an infinite number of yogurt (seriously it's ridiculous!). We love choices though don't we? If you shop somewhere else, and they have limited selection you think "What's wrong with them? I want my Island Tropic Chai Mango Cherry Greek Yogurt with Special Digestive Juice." That's probably a real thing! Choice is good, but it can be WAY overdone.
Do a search right now for "voice over microphone", "the best microphone for voiceover work", or "voiceover studio microphone". The choices there will bog you down. If you're just starting out it can be really overwhelming! Even if you're a seasoned pro, you might be second guessing "your sound" because of the type of microphone you're using. If you're the latter, JUST STOP IT. Ok? Ok. Starting out in voice over, especially if you don't have an audio background, will give you a never-ending landscape of options, opinions, tests, and opinions...also opinions...and more opinions.
I'm not going to give you opinions and options on "what's the greatest voice over microphone to make me sound like a trailer guy", etc...What I want you to do for a moment is stop and listen. Listen to your setup. Listen to your room. Listen to the types of jobs you book and what your colleagues are booking. How does it sound? If it's similar, great! If you hear a significant difference, remember that it could be a few factors:
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