So you want to be a voice actor huh? Great, let’s hear your voice demo! Oh, you don’t have one? That would normally be a problem, but we’re going to take the first steps to fix that today.
What kind of work would you like to do? This should help you decide where you will focus most of your effort, and preparation when creating your first voice demo. Many of the below styles have some sort of overlap with others. Also this is just some of the most common styles you will come across, or at least I have. From easiest to hardest (in my opinion), here are the general styles of voice over that you hear:
- Phone system or IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
- PA Announcements
- Corporate video
- Commercial / Trailer
- Medical or SME (Subject Matter Expert)
Phone system and IVR recordings is the automated message when you call a company after business hours and they are closed, or if they have an automated receptionist. As in: “Hi Welcome to Bad Words Lab, if you’d like to speak to Jesse, press 1. If you’d like to speak to Helene, press 2. Otherwise, please stay on the line, and we will transfer you to our receptionist.” Pretty straight forward stuff right? Well don’t be so quick to judge. It’s important to sound both friendly, and direct.
PA Announcements would be what you hear at an airport or maybe in the subway. Often the speakers that play these recordings aren’t the best quality, or are placed in loud environments, so you’ll really need to make sure to use extra clean enunciation, and a steady strong projection.
Corporate Video recordings is what would accompany on-screen graphics, such as explainer videos, or video made for presentations which are used in-house. These generally aren’t going to be published to the public, and often won’t come with any sort of usage in the contract.
Commercial / Trailer VO (that’s Voice Over if you haven’t made the connection yet) will be that smooth sexy voice in a BMW ad, or the warm soothing voice in a Folgers coffee TV commercial. There is quite a range of styles that commercials use. The biggest challenge is getting the attention of the listener. This can often require a very dynamic delivery, or some incredible pipes. Think of “The Don”, Mr. Don Lafontaine, who coined, and delivered the iconic “In a world…” trailer voice over. It’s some of the most common work you can find, that consistently pays well. You have to figure if they are going to spend 50,000$ or more on an advertising campaign, it makes sense that what they put out is high quality, and to toss a few thousand to the voice actor, no? Yes.
Medical or SME work is very similar to corporate video, but it will require knowledge of industry specific (and often obscure) words. What you might call an ingrown toenail, could read as onychocryptosis or unguis incarnates. Good luck with that! Time is money during a recording session, and if you need 5 takes to pronounce each complicated word; you’re toast.
Audiobook sessions are incredibly straining. It could easily take over 25 hours to record an audiobook, and you will be doing sessions of up to 4 hours (after that, and the voice starts to go). You have to be VERY good at reading out loud. There is no chance you’re going to be able to memorize your script. The best shot you have is to review the book, out loud, and add notation that will help you when you are in session. It is a nice size contract though, just be prepared.
Character work is basically anything you’d consider “acting”. This includes animated TV and Film productions, video games, etc. If it’s an accent, if you put on a crazy style voice, or even act above/below your age, you can consider this character work. The video game industry is wonderful to work in. The budgets have grown and grown (it’s a bigger industry than film), the personnel are great, and there is virtually no limit to the style of characters these writers dream up. Animated films can often come with a whole panel of people on the other side of the glass, criticizing every line (not to say this doesn’t happen everywhere).
Dubbing means to change the language of a production. There are varying degrees of dubbing, whether it simply just needs to get the point across, has to be synchronized line over line, or a full blown lip-sync (more on that soon). You’ll definitely need to pay attention to a lot more than just your script. There are time constraints involved, paying attention to how the line was originally delivered, can you replicate it in the destination language, etc. You do get to put yourself in the shoes of another person though, and that’s a lot of fun.
Lip-Sync in my opinion is the Holy Grail of becoming a voice actor. You could easily have to combine multiple of the previous styles we’ve gone over. The real kicker, is that you’ll need to learn Rythmoband, or at least a form of it. A special way to prompt the voice actor on what to say. Imagine Karaoke on steroids. Back in the day, this was someone writing cursive on a long band, meticulously placed in time with the video. The handwriting would even be stretched out or tightened to make sure EACH SYLLABLE would be uttered at the perfect moment. There have been many advancements since then, such as DubStudio which digitizes the whole process, but you still need special training to understand the notation that surrounds the text. Our personal favorite solution is VoiceQ. We’ve worked closely with Kiwa, giving them feedback for years while they released with new iterations. It is incredibly simple to use as a translator/adaptor, and very easy for voice over artists to understand.
Now, the big question:
Which type of voice work would you like to do?
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All the best,