Voice-Over Voice Actor

A Peek Into The Secret World Of The Voice Actor

Interested in pursuing a career in VO? Curious what goes on behind the scenes in a business where people talk funny for money? This book offers a fun and comprehensive look at what it takes, what goes on and what it’s like behind the mic from two working pros who started from scratch.

Filtering by Category: On The Job

Creating a Creating a Character – the Acting Part of Voice Acting

voice acting preview!! by deaeruThere are several things that we think you should know before you start auditioning. One of these things is the importance of creating a strong character. We’ve noticed that the people who really succeed in this business are generally good actors first, good voice-over actors second. Strangely enough, when juggling all the balls of voice-over, one of the easiest to drop is the acting. Acting is where the most fun is, so who wants to drop that ball?

Creating a character is so much more than saying the words in the right order, or in a unique and interesting way. Creating a character is really about using your imagination to create the universe the character lives in, and then saying “yes, and,” to that universe. This yes, and, theory pops up a lot in improvisational comedy (improv) and theatre classes, so you may have heard it bandied about before now.

Put simply, one of the fundamental keys to good improv (and good acting in general) is agreeing to the scenario (yes) and then adding something (and) to take it to the next level. The more you say “no, but,” the harder it is to get to where you’re going, and the less interesting it’ll be for everyone involved. You’ll find that by your being specific about the world your character lives in, the type of character that would reside in that world quickly becomes clear to you. The character’s personality you end up creating this way will be real and honest, no matter how outlandish and wild the character’s reality might be.

Who’s to say that a talking sponge can’t have friends under the sea and wear geometrically formed pants? We bet a lot of people said “no, but” to this idea once upon a time, but the success of that show goes on and on, because the right people said, “yes, and … ”

Bringing a character to life through your own creativity, truth, and ability is what being an actor is all about. You get to live different lives and have experiences totally foreign to your own. Showing how much you love this part (by doing it) will become invaluable not only once you’ve got the job, but it’s going to help you get cast. Being able to create an interesting character at an audition shows that you’ll be able to create an interesting character if hired.



Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!







Reminder: Work on your mic technique!

We are regularly asked about how to use a mic correctly, so here are our guidelines, again. Keep working on it, and soon it will be comfortable and second nature.


man an d mike cartooon

Tips for Microphone Technique

The mic can be rather daunting when you first start out in voice-over! Practicing at home with one will help to reduce the newness of it, and the distraction from it.

Here are some tips to get you started.



Find your own comfort zone, with regard to proximity. Many voice-over artists will angle slight to the right or left of the mic, for two reasons:

1) This can reduce or eliminate pops from plosive sounds like t, b, or p. When you're in a session, engineers can help by putting a “pop shield,” a stocking device or foam shield, in front of the mic. But if you angle- speak slightly across the mic - you create a similar effect to a pop screen.

2) You will be able to see and read your copy off to the right or left, without the mic being right in front of it.



Well, the mic is there to amplify the sound, so you can be as soft or loud as the job requires, but you need to work with the mic to create this. If you are recording yourself, make sure you are getting a solid wave form, and if you are working with an engineer s/he will do this by first getting a good level of your planned volume before recording the take. You can’t speak softly while the engineer gets a good level, and then shout during your take!

Every different session will call for something different in the way of volume . For example, if you want low, deep sounds from your voice it can help to get very close to the to the mic, perhaps two to three inches. If you know you are going to really project, and speak louder, stand back, seven to nine inches from the mic, so your voice doesn’t distort.

Then trust the mic and your own voice and skill. If you need drama and a “dark” interpretation, you might try a whisper, or near-whisper. And if it is comedy, use a little more level and smile the whole time you are speaking. It is amazing that a smile can come right through the microphone to the listener!



You must be able to see well, to read your copy! Make sure you are well prepared with contacts or reading glasses if you need them, and some artists even carry a small clip-on light, which runs on a battery, to attach to the stand holding your copy. Lighting must be ample to reduce the possibility of unnecessary errors when you read. In many studios you can ask to increase the level of light if it isn't bright enough for you.



Do your breathing exercises. Practice reading all kinds of different material at home in front of the mic. Try things and experiment at home to learn what your real strengths are. And stretch yourself to try new things. Try different pitches, different volumes, mimic cartoon characters or famous actors or comics. Read out loud in front of the mic and record it if you can, to listen back - you will learn so much from hearing your own work.

The more you develop and then employ your microphone technique and skill, the less the engineer and producer have to rely on enhancements in the studio. The less they work, the faster and easier the session, and the more likely you are to be re-hired! Plus, comfort and skill with the microphone shows your professionalism, getting the job done well and quickly, which is the producer’s goal!




Networking November Newsletter with Tara & Yuri

Check out our latest newsletter, below. There's a sign up button over on your right if you'd like to receive it!

Click Here To Read: Networking November Newsletter, 2013

The holidays are just around the corner, and it is the perfect time to get retrospective on your life (things planned, things changed, things ahead)... Shelf Life is coming to a close (pre-order those DVD's now - you won't want to miss the bonus eps!) and new things are on the horizon. Remember, an outward network is just as important as your neural network so as you engage with friends and family this holiday season, try to treat yourself to some brain work as well! We are planning to rest and relax (and adventure a bit) for our holiday trip to Southeast Asia. Enjoy getting clear with your plans for the future and relish the holiday season as we dive into a new year!

Tara :) (&Yuri)

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!


Click to read more: Networking November with Tara and Yuri, Nov. 2013


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Click here to read more “Networking November with Tara and Yuri,” Nov. 2013






Voice Over Artists: Self-Promotion 101

tooting hornSelf-promotion can be hard for some people. It takes work. And how many times did your grandma say, “People don’t want to hear you talk about yourself!” We’re taught that tooting our own horn is prideful and unattractive. But in this business, you have to find as many ways as possible to let people know how great you are and why they should be hiring you. And as we said before, promoting you is not part of your agent’s job. What if you don’t even have an agent? What can you do on your own? Well, a lot, actually.

We’ll talk about some of the things you can do to promote yourself, but there are plenty more ideas beyond what we’ll go into. The more creative you get, the more effective your promotion will be. So put your fun-hat on and get cranking on some ideas.

Once you’ve determined what your sound is and decided where you think you might fit best in the VO market, you’re done with the hard part. Use this info to promote yourself and move in the direction you want.

Tip: Don’t worry if you don’t have an agent yet: you’ll always be your own best promoter. So start selling yourself now.

What to Do with Your Voice Over Demo

So what do you do with your masterpiece? The demo you spent all that love, time, energy, and dough on? You get it out there and get it working for you. It’s time to try to get a return on your investment.

Do a mailing to your target agents or managers, and don’t stop there. Do a little research, and target production studios, ad agencies, producers, casting agents, and directors who work on the kind of projects that you’d like to be working on. Once again, feel free to check out the Resources section of this book to get more direction about where you can start your search.

Post your reel on line; it’s easy these days. Make it accessible on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and any other online social networking site, so that if someone wants to hear it, they can find it easily. Build your own Web site and host your demo there. The more online places your demo is featured and associated with your name, the easier it is for somebody to find it by using a search engine like Google.

Use whatever method you can think of to get your demo into the hands of the people who could hire you (or at least into the hands of someone who can introduce you to some of those people). There is no right or wrong way to do this, but there is a fine line between catchy and gimmicky – much like the line between aggressively pursuing and stalking. So do be respectful about putting yourself in people’s faces.

We’ve found that the difference between catchy and gimmicky can be crystallized in this comparison: a personalized card with a funny note included with your demo is fine; a glitter-filled envelope that explodes all over an agent’s desk when he or she opens it will get you remembered, but for all the wrong reasons …

A short note on packaging: except for those times when you simply e-mail your demo as an MP3, you’ll need some sort of packaging for it. You’ll want it to look nice and professional. Feel free to use your creativity in putting your package together, but one word of warning: while it may seem to be a good idea to put a picture of you somewhere on that CD case, listen when we say that there are better options. Putting your face on your demo automatically typecasts you in the eyes of the person looking at it. As a voice actor you want a potential employer to think that you can be anything and anyone.

If agents have a specific image of you in their heads, it’ll be harder for them to consider you as anything other than what you look like. We’ve been telling you how important it is to use your imagination, right? Well, let the agents use their imaginations this time.



Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!




Making Bold Choices in Voice Over

Bold choices is a catch-all phrase when it comes to acting. They make such bold choices. You need to make bolder choices. I loved his bold choice. So then the question is: How do I make those kinds of choices?

What constitutes a bold choice? Well, it all relates to how well you know your personal boundaries and how comfortable you are exploring them.

A common misconception among actors is that to make a bold choice is to do something crazy or intentionally weird. Freaking out in an audition situation or reciting all your lines in a high pitched whine would be a bold choice, to be sure. But would you rather be a story that casting directors tell at parties, or would you rather have them call you in again because you stood apart from the rest – as a pro? Making a bold choice relates more to being committed, specific, and imaginative in your approach to the character in the scene.

One way to make a bold choice could be to find the thing that makes the character personal to you and play that, regardless of what you feel would be the right way (the way that you assume that they want it). Remembering that there is never really a right way to do it can be so freeing. Sometimes the clients/director don’t even know exactly what they are looking for ‘til they hear it. And the only way you can really set yourself apart from the rest of the actors who are also vying for the part is to be true to who you are; because there’s only one of you. As soon as you start trying to imagine what they want, you’ll only trip yourself up.

Another way of making a bold choice might be to take a specific quality or idea and fully explore it in such a way that you make it real, no matter how outlandish and off-the-wall the idea is. Sure, you may decide that the character is suffering from an extreme bout of the hiccups, but you’d better know exactly what caused it, how long it’s been going on, how it’s affecting the other characters or environment and how the character feels about it; otherwise it’s just an affectation that will detract from the scene.

People love relating to things that are part of the human condition, things they can identify with; so sometimes making a bold choice simply means finding a creative and fun way to explore the humanity of your character.



Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!




Voice Over Actors: How to Mine information from the page

Acting can be such a haphazard, chaotic, arbitrary endeavor, it’s nice to know that there are life rafts out there for us; and one of your most important life rafts is the script. Whether your character has only one line, or all the lines; whether the page is mostly descriptions and direction, or only your lines with no context whatsoever; this is your gold mine. Now dig. Look for those W’s. Does the script tell you where you are? Who you’re with? What’s going on? Do the other characters talk about you? How do they talk about you? Paying attention to these things and answering the W’s will make your work (play) easier.

For example, if a character refers to you as a scaredy-cat, perhaps your character is quite timid or spooks easily. That’s something for you to go on. If another actor auditioning for the same part has read only his or her lines, then you’re ahead of the game when it comes to knowing your character. You can make a choice that uses the information you uncovered.

If you’re dealing with commercial copy or narration, perhaps the script contains description or backstory that will give you context; and knowing the context can’t help but bring out a more solid and nuanced performance. If the scene takes place at night in a bedroom with someone sleeping beside you, maybe you’re whispering so as not to wake that person. All of these things can seem obvious when pointed out, but the trick is training yourself to find this sort of information in the script when you get it. We sometimes get nervous when we’re preparing for an audition, and concentrate too hard on what we’re supposed to say. And while that’s certainly important, just as important is what’s been said about, to, or around us.

Never overlook something in the script because you don’t think it’s important. Writers spend countless hours writing, reviewing, and re-reviewing a script to make it perfect. Rarely is something in there for fluff, or just because. Use everything the writer gives you to bring life to your character. Why did the writer choose these words specifically for this character? Try to understand the reasons behind the writer’s choices. Become a psychologist and a detective all wrapped into one (a psytective … detectologist? Our list of jobs that acting encompasses seems to be growing …). Scour the page for evidence of compelling relationships and human emotion so that you can bring these characters to justice! Or rather, so you can do justice to these characters.


Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!




Very cool new USB microphone - check it out!

Blue Unveils Nessie, Adaptive USB Microphone

We always rely on SomeAudioGuy to keep us updated on all the latest cool techie stuff for our home recording VO studio. Check out the new USB mic, which he talks about in his blog:

"You can always count on Blue to deliver an attractive microphone.

Nessie is the newest addition to their line up. The goal with Nessie is to take some of the pain out of editing and cleaning up your recordings. Blue calls this "adaptive" recording. While on the show floor I wasn't ale to try this out personally, but a combination old and new tech seems like it will help those looking to record higher quality audio."  READ MORE  



Voice over loop group or walla group: another good VO acting job

Another good voice acting job within the TV/film industry comes in the form of the loop group or walla group (usually a team of five to eight actors hired to record all the extra or background dialogue necessary in film, TV, or games). These groups join the project after a film/TV show has been shot, to fill in the audio soundscape (sounds that make up the environment). That generally means creating crowd or ambient noises that weren’t recorded during filming.

Typically there is little to no scripted dialogue: the walla group actors simply make up lines based on research they’ve done about the location of the scene. But occasionally, a member of the loop group will be asked to match or replace a small character with scripted lines.

You see, in order to get the best quality sound on set when a movie or show is originally shot, the only people who are allowed to actually speak and make noise are the principal actors. This means that everyone you see in the background of any scene (in the coffee shop, hospital, or sports arena) is simply miming speaking and is not actually saying anything. So it is often necessary to have a loop group come in to the recording studio and fill in the voices that are missing.

Sometimes doing loop group or walla group work means adding in efforts (those non-dialogue vocal sounds) and possibly dialogue (ADR) that was somehow missed or perhaps left until later. Or it could involve replacing dialogue that didn’t work out. Say, for example, that the film was shot in Romania, but the story is supposed to be set in New Jersey. Some of the actors who were hired locally may not have sounded Jersey enough, so the loop group may be asked to replace the dialogue with a more authentic accent.

These looping sessions can be some of the most sought-after work in the VO business. The prestige is low, but the pay is high, and the work can be profitable if you become associated with a group that works frequently.

Also, contrary to how we’ve described the workspace for most VO work, if you are working as part of a loop group, you’ll have plenty of room to move around. The microphone is often set up fairly high in a larger-than-average room so that the actors can walk and move around and create different depths of background sound.

These different depths of sound are achieved through a number of techniques that have their own specialized vocabulary. One example is the pass-by, where people in conversation stroll across the pick-up area of the mic to give the illusion of movement. Another technique is the similar donut, where the group circles like a wagon train in front of the mic, and actors converse while continuing to circle. Sometimes it’s just a stationary line-up of the group in front of the mic, with every member taking a turn shouting callouts (shouts) that may be used to break up the walla bed (a continuous layer of background dialogue). The first time we worked with a loop group, it was as if we had traveled to a foreign country and had to learn a whole new language.

As a member of the loop group, you are responsible for doing your own research so that you can bring in terms and vocabulary specific to certain settings or locales that are featured in the film/show. For example, if the movie you’re looping is about the crew of a submarine, you’d better ask the Internet (or your favorite uncle) a lot about submarines before you come in to work. You must be prepared to improvise dialogue realistically and within the specific context of the project. But don’t worry; a good loop group director will go over what you’ll need to know for a specific project enough in advance that there will be time for you to do some research.



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Check out the rest of the website for tips and exercises, we post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic  includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!


Be Professional!


In all the excitement of a voice-over career, professionalism can be the first trait to go. We cannot stress this fact enough: you will stand out from others by being a consummate professional.  And you don’t have to know anything about voice acting to act like a professional.

Do you think the most talented actors always get the job? Not if they’re difficult to work with. You’d be surprised at how often an actor will get the job just by showing up, doing the work, being a decent person to interact with, and then going on his or her merry way. Be one of these people. It doesn’t take a lot of extra effort.

Be someone who is reliable, humble, polite, talented, and available. Being professional means you show up on time (or even a little early), ready to work, and ready to learn. You don’t need to go to charm school for this, and it’ll help get you where you wanna go a lot faster, no matter how many E! Entertainment specials you see about difficult celebrities.



  • Be on time

Key to the whole professionalism thing is always arriving on time for appointments, whether they be auditions or work. If you can, show up a little early. Once again, this simple thing will set you apart from a great many actors, and will endear you to directors, producers, clients, and casting people. They have so many other things to worry about; don’t let your being late add to that.

If for some reason you must be late (and it happens to all of us), show the proper courtesy by calling and letting the studio know. Otherwise, not only do you send a poor signal about your work ethic by not showing up on time, but you also indicate that you don’t care about their time or the time they set aside to see you.

Being on time sometimes means being early, since on time might actually make you late by someone else’s clock. If you do get there late, don’t make excuses about why you were late, how traffic sucked, how you forgot to wind your watch, or how you were attacked by ninjas. Just apologize and get down to business. Making excuses will always dig you a deeper hole, and will never get the project completed any sooner.



  • Be prepared

This maxim doesn’t apply just to Boy Scouts, and you should put it near the top of your professionalism to-do list. Do your work ahead of time: read the script, warm up your voice, and make sure you’ve thought about whatever it is you’re reading. A big pet peeve among casting people and directors is actors who show up and haven’t read the script.

Sometimes it isn’t possible for you to get the script ahead of time. In that case, do whatever is within your power to take control of the situation and get yourself mentally and physically prepared to walk into the audition, the recording session, or the meeting. Get there a little early to see if the studio has a script or sides you can look at. If something comes up at the last minute and you don’t have much time at all to prepare, give yourself a quick mental checklist, a mantra, or a power pose that’ll help center and focus you at the drop of a hat.

Most professional athletes have rituals or practices that allow them to focus and get psyched up. Come up with your own routine that you can do no matter how much time you have to prepare; or maybe create a short version to use when time is tight, and a longer, more involved routine for when you have more time. It can be as simple as crossing your fingers and saying, I am super cool. I belong here, in your head before you walk in the door. The most important thing is for your routine to be one that energizes you, focuses and grounds you, and puts you in the right headspace to walk in confident, calm, and ready to work.

Now, with all that we’ve said about preparation, don’t obsess over trying to prepare and control every little thing. Remember, there’s no way you can possibly know what’s going to happen in the room; so perhaps the most important trait of all is to be relaxed, open, flexible, and ready to roll with the punches.



  • Be a stand-up guy

Yes, being a stand-up guy goes for all you ladies, too. Basically what we’re saying is, don’t be a jerk. Sure, we all have bad days, but when you walk into the work environment for a job, meeting, or audition, keep your doom and gloom to yourself and get down to business. Seriously. We mean it. When you’re snarky and snap at your friends, you can apologize to them later. When you’re on the job, you won’t always have that chance.

You can go home afterwards and punch your pillow if you want. And who knows? If you’re lucky, your session might help you exorcise your demons. A lot of video game recording sessions are really good for that. And sure, it’s fun to gossip; but voice-over is a small town, and you never know who might be friends with whom, so you’re better off not talking trash about anyone.

May we refer you to Aretha Franklin for a moment: respect personal space, respect other people’s efforts and time, and just … R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And don’t be a jerk. Because no one wants to work with a jerk. And sure, you might say, “Well, so-and-so is a blankety-blank-blank and they work all the time,” but go ahead and trust us on this one: being a jerk will never get you anywhere. One more time, say it with us: Don’t be a jerk. Capisce?


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 This blog is an excerpt from Tara and Yuri's highly successful book,Voice Over Voice Actor: What It's Like Behind the Mic.   It's a fun and helpful peek into the secret world of the Voice Actor. 

Are you interested in pursuing a career in VO? Curious what goes on behind the scenes in a business where people talk funny for money? This book offers a fun and comprehensive look at what it takes, what goes on and what it’s like behind the mic from two working pros who started from scratch.

What are some of the Voice-Over areas needing good Voice Actors?

The voice over  field is a huge arena, and growing constantly. Starting with the advent of radio in the late 1800s and then continuing with the launch of television in 1928, voice-over has been a popular way to convey news, entertainment, and advertising. Any DJ or commentator is a voice-over artist as long as he or she is not seen. However, with the rapidly changing Internet and alternate medium programming, the distinctions between who qualifies as a voice actor versus who is considered a DJ or commentator are becoming more and more blurred. And as the thirst for new content increases dramatically each day, the need for voice-over actors grows dramatically as well.

So, what are some of the Voice-Over areas needing good voice actors?

1) Radio plays, while most popular before the proliferation of television, still enjoy a wide audience in countries such as England. They are finding a new and growing audience thanks to the Internet where they are available in the form of podcasts. Not unlike listening to a book-on-tape, these audio dramas can take the listener on vivid and detailed adventures using only sound effects, music, and dialogue. The art form remains a wonderful example of how profound and affecting a voice-over artist’s skills can be.

2) Animation has long been the home of character voices – whether film, television, Internet, or video games. The voices created by the voice actor (VA) help bring life to animated characters who were, in turn, created by writers and designers. More often than not, these characters (e.g. Bugs Bunny, Betty Boop, Spongebob Squarepants, Naruto) are what springs to mind when people think of voice-over or voice acting. More and more animated video games and toys are using voice-over to tell a story, entertain, or otherwise engage the player as fully as possible.

3) Live-action with voice-over is found where recorded tracks of a character’s thoughts or internal dialogue are played over the images or action, and are often used for dramatic effect (such as memories, after death, etc.). This type of voice-over is used in television, film, and theatre. For example, in the film The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman’s character “Red” narrates, as does the (deceased) character of Mary on the television show Desperate Housewives. One of the great things about film, TV, and animation is the opportunity to actually communicate what the character is thinking – directly to the audience. Think of how much more effective it is on the TV show Heroes that not only can the character of Matt Parkman hear people’s thoughts, but so can we, the audience.

4) Commercial/Promo is a use of voice-over that’s at least as old as radio broadcasting. If you can hear but not see an announcer trying to sell you something, a consumer telling you about his or her experience, people talking about a product; that’s commercial or promo VO. It might be presented as a dialogue between two or more people, or it might simply be information about a product or service, addressed directly to the consumer. Think about the differences between commercials for McDonald’s, Dell, or Micro Mini Machines, for example. A promo (short for promotion) tends to be like a commercial, but is most commonly used to promote a network or show. The announcer of the Academy Awards, or the person you might hear say, “Up next on The Travel Channel,” is basically doing a commercial, or promo, for the network.

5) Narration could be considered a sub-category of the aforementioned live-action with VO. It is commentary that describes a scene, or tells a story, or explains whatever’s happening on screen or as part of an audio program. Narration might be in the form of a nature expert commenting while you watch polar bears bound about, or it might be Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as read by Sir Ian McKellen. Documentaries often have someone narrating the events you’re watching. If you want words and don’t need visuals, you can listen to narration as a book-on-tape. (Yeah, we’re old enough to have used tapes. You can listen to yours on CD, or as a digital download if you prefer!)

6) Instructional voice-over is similar to narration but can pop up almost anywhere. Phone systems, computer programs, and corporate educational courses are all examples of this type of voice acting. When you insert a disc in your computer and it instructs you to do something; when the elevator tells you what floor you’re on; or when your GPS tells you to turn left in fifty feet; you can be sure that someone recorded those instructions. Unless, of course, they’re using a computer-generated voice; but we all know those never sound quite as natural as a human-generated voice: Wo-ould yo-ou li-i-ike to-o pla-ay a ga-ame?


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 This blog is an excerpt from Tara and Yuri's highly successful book,Voice Over Voice Actor: What It's Like Behind the Mic.   It's a fun and helpful peek into the secret world of the Voice Actor. 

Are you interested in pursuing a career in VO? Curious what goes on behind the scenes in a business where people talk funny for money? This book offers a fun and comprehensive look at what it takes, what goes on and what it’s like behind the mic from two working pros who started from scratch.




What is the History of Voice Over?

It is commonly believed that the first voiceover was from Walt Disney, as Mickey Mouse in "Steamboat Willie." And although this was a long time ago, in 1928, in actual fact the first voice over was in 1900!  This historical achievement belongs to Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian inventor. He was thrilled with Alexander Graham Bell’s new device, the telephone, and set out to create a way to remotely communicate without wires. The beginning of “Wireless!” In 1900, working for the United States Weather Bureau, Fessenden recorded the very first voice over: a test he made reporting the weather.

He was also the first voice of radio. In Boston, in 1906, during the Christmas season, he recorded an entire program of music, Bible texts, and Christmas messages to ships out at sea.

As voice over became more routine in radio, cartoon, etc., the actors behind those voices were rarely known by the public. Exceptions are Walt Disney, of course, and perhaps Mel Blanc, a radio personality and comedian. He became known as “The Man of 1000 Voices” for his versatility, and is the voice on many cartoons distributed by Warner Brothers. One of the most influential and prolific voice over actors of all time is certainly not commonly known by the public, but very well known in the industry. This is Don LaFontaine, who began in voice over in 1962, recording VO for a movie trailer. He became the vice of movie trailers, setting the standard for how they were written and voiced.

As voice over acting grew into a formidable business, it still, however, was very “behind-the-scenes.” Literally and figuratively! Actors filled their spare time with voice over work – it was what they did “between jobs.” But voice over really came out into the light, and became more than respectable, with the onset of digitally animated films of recent years. Celebrities began providing the voices for characters in huge box-office successes such as The Lion King, with Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones, Shrek with Eddie Murphy, The Narnia series with Liam Neeson, and there are hundreds of other examples! (Click here for a list of great voiceover performances.)   The public is now used to big actor names in animated films – it is a powerful marketing strategy for the production companies of these films.

And well-known actors love it! Nancy Griffin said it well in her NY Times article from 2003 , “Film/Television; When A-List Actors Are Happy to Hide Their Faces.” She wrote, “No hair and make-up necessary, not a personal trainer in sight and a four-hour work day: these are just a few of the enticements luring A-list actors, including Jim Carrey, Will Smith and Robin Williams, to headline animated features.”

These celebrities have really brought voice over into its heyday. It is regarded with great interest by aspiring actors, and it seems millions of young people want to find their way into the field. It provides rewarding and challenging careers to actors of all sizes, shapes, personalities, and skills. And it is enormous fun!




Voice Over Actors: Taking Care of Business!

It is true that as actors we can often be more focused on the craft of acting and forget to put energy into the business side of our voice-over acting. This part, while essential, may not be as much "fun..."  But it is just as important as tuning your vocal instrument.

You must find out who might hire you to use your voice and where they are located. It's a pro-active way of forwarding your career in voice-over. So for a moment look at VO as a military objective. Select a few targets and do a little recon, or research. And you won't even need to get your hands dirty.

Start with what you like. For example, if you really like the show Naruto, you might search and find out that in the United States, Naruto is licensed by a company called Viz. A little more looking (with your friend Google) might turn up that the English dub for Naruto is recorded at Studiopolis. Voila! You now have a production company to add to your hit list when you have a demo to mail out! With commercials, you might have to be a little more investigative, but there are resources (such as adforum.com) out there that can help you find the ad agency who produced the commercial and who's associated with the promotion of that product.

So, for this exercise, pick an area to start with: animation, video games, or commercials. Now choose three of your favorite shows/movies, video games or commercials. Begin to do a little Internet legwork. Find out who the production company is, and in the case of commercials, the ad agency who commissioned the spot. Try and discover if the company/agency casts their projects in-house, or if they have a relationship with a separate casting company. In some cases, you may even find that the same studio/ad agency produced more than one of your selections, then you know they're definitely somebody you want to target.

There is plenty of information available on the Web, and a little digging could turn up e-mail addresses or maybe phone numbers that you could use to contact the company and find out who might be best to send your reel to. Start a file and keep the info you find for future reference.

Good hunting and good luck - make it fun!



Remember, Caffeine May Not be a Good Thing for Your VO Session!

REMINDER: Sure, who doesn't like a stimulus and pick-me-up delivered in a tasty beverage like coffee, tea or a soft drink. But when you're getting ready for a VO session, that caffeine can have the unwanted side effect of drying out your vocal chords. So be aware of the effects before hitting the booth. An herbal tea can be a wonderful substitute and still maintain the lubrication necessary to keep your vocal chords moist and healthy.




Do You Have What it Takes for a Career as a Voice Over Actor?

OK, so lots of people, your friends and family, have always told you what a great voice you have. And the thoughts of working from home, for yourself, recording a bit and then playing the rest of the day – these ideas appeal to you?  Well, you are not alone. Voice-over work is a hot industry, and every day tons of people dive into the maelstrom, trying to figure out how to be a success in this arena. It is a grand gig. You can record from home with your own little studio, since technology has advanced to make this a possibility. And you don’t have to have a “look,” a necessity that some people feel hinders the chance of becoming an on-camera actor for many folks.

But the competition is fierce, and just having a good speaking voice and good articulation is not enough. You have to learn to read (perform) and make it sound natural – like you are speaking new thoughts to someone particular. It takes acting skills, and speed of making choices. You have less time in a recording booth in a VO session than in many other forms of acting. You often have never seen the copy until the moment before you are asked to perform.

Another necessary skill is to be able to find the line between enunciation and sounding affected. You can work on this by recording yourself reading copy, and ask friends to give you their honest opinion – does it sound natural, clear, easy to listen to, believable, appealing? It has to sound real.

If you are serious about joining the Voice-Over world, take classes, get coaching, make a great demo, get equipment to record yourself at home, make a website, read all you can about it, listen to people who know, read our many tips here on our website, and consider getting our book, Voice Over Voice Actor.

Most important of all, Practice Practice Practice! And stay passionate about it.

Good luck and have fun.




How Does Voice Over Work for Video Games?

Similar to dubbing animation, voice-over for video games is most often recorded one actor at a time, alone in a booth. But as with recording for pre-lay animation, there is seldom a need to record to an already created animation or picture. When you begin, you may have a character sketch or some sample gameplay (a demonstration of what the game will look like when the player is playing it), but there's rarely more than that to hang your hat on. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this – the first being when you’re recording a version of a game that was originally produced in another language. In that case, you may have reference tracks in the original language, cut scenes (the short movies that play in between gameplay) that you’ll have to match, and strict timing concerns to be aware of.

In another scenario, near the beginning of a game’s development, you may have done some work on the game while no animation was yet available; and then eight months later the producers ask you to come back and do more work on it. Only now they’ve got animation and gameplay to show you as a reference.

But most often you’ll have very little (if any) preparation, and not a lot of time to learn about the game before you’re thrown into the fire. And this is where the director will be your best friend, giving you context for your dialogue – which you will sometimes record very quickly, one line after the other, two or three takes per line (i.e. two or three different recordings of the same line), with not even the other characters’ dialogue for reference. Other times you might get the entire script, but it’s unlikely you will have the time to do much more than scan it as you jump from line to line.

We’ve said that a strong imagination will help you in this business. To make this stuff work, you're gonna have to imagine quite a bit. So, listening to the director, using your imagination, and making bold choices – all at high speed – are important, and together can often be the key to finding yourself on the top of the call list when a studio is auditioning and booking future jobs.

Very often these days, video games are developed in tandem with major motion pictures so that when the movie comes out, the game based on that movie is also available. Now before you get too excited about doing the VO for these video games, we have to let you know that voice actors in video games get paid a lot less than their on-screen counterparts. Why? Because the budgets for video games are nowhere near the budgets of the movies they accompany.

But now’s your chance to get excited again because, in most cases, a major motion picture actor will not want to lend his or her voice to the video game; the salary paid is simply not worth the time involved. This is where you come in: the game will likely require a voice actor to voice match the actor from the film. See, you always knew those impressions would come in handy one day.

On the downside, video game work, because of the nature of video games themselves, can be very stressful on your voice if you’re not careful. This is certainly a place where vocal control is important. If you play a lot of video games, you know that they’re chock-full of shouting, screaming, yelling, getting blown up, being set on fire, and falling from great heights. And that’s just in the opening cut scene.

These recording sessions can last up to four hours at a time. There have been times when we’ve emerged from them sweaty, hoarse, and shell-shocked – as if we’ve actually been through the war we were just playing at. Many voice actors refuse to do video games for this reason, and some will intentionally schedule VG sessions in the afternoon on a Friday so that they have the whole weekend to recuperate. But don’t let that scare you. Just keep reading: we have ways of keeping you safe.

Microphone Technique

The mic can be rather daunting when you first start out in voice-over! Practicing at home with one will help to reduce the newness of it, and the distraction from it. Here are some tips to get you started!

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Breath Control to Tara, come in...

So, I've been doing a lot of really long industrial narration sessions lately. This means pages and pages of technical, verbose writing and lots of talking, talking, talking. I've noticed that with these sessions, since I have elected to sit down to maintain a consistent level of energy throughout, I've gotten really yawn-y. Now at first I assumed that I was yawning cause I'm sitting in a dark-ish booth, droning on and on about a fairly dry subject, and maybe haven't gotten as much sleep the night before as I might have liked. So I started getting curious, and experimenting with switching the time of day the sessions were scheduled. I would do them first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day and even late in the afternoon, all with the same result. About 30 pages in, and I just start yawning away.

Then I realized, you don't just yawn when you're sleepy, yawning is a natural reflex when you aren't getting enough oxygen. Voila! I've started to focus on deeper sustaining breaths and the problem has drastically reduced. I mean after an hour and a half, 100 pages into a long narration, you're bound to have your brain a little muddled, but maintaining strong diaphramatic breathing has made all the difference. Corporate dialogue here I come!

The VO gods giveth and they taketh away...

To give you an idea of how quickly tides can turn in an industry like this, allow me to briefly describe my day. When I went to work this morning, I was in the middle of trying to schedule not one, but TWO jobs for the next day. VO for a national TV commercial and for a radio commercial. That's a very good day in this biz. They both wanted me to record tomorrow morning and we were trying to work that out. The TV commercial took precedence, though, because, well, I'll be honest, they pay more. But the TV people (go into the light, Carol Anne...) were being cagey about what time they wanted me to come in and record in the morning.  And the radio people were getting antsy because they needed me to commit  so that they could book studio time and schedule the other actor I was going to be doing the commercial with. I was in a bit of a fix, but after a while, with no word yet from the TV people, I had to do the responsible thing and tell the radio people to give up on me, that they should probably go with their second choice because I hadn't yet heard back from the TV people. Hey, being responsible is hard sometimes.

A little later I get a call saying that the TV people decided to release me. No reason given (but then that's how it works in this town).  I get on the horn with the radio people. Too late. I won't be recording with them tomorrow either.

When I woke up, tomorrow was gonna be a good day. By lunch, I had lost two jobs.

But it doesn't necessarily mean that tomorrow's not gonna be a good day...