Category Archives: Techniques

A Check List For Traveling Voice Actors

Like many voice over folks, I have my “traveling voice-over rig.”  Besides the Sennheiser 416,  MicPort Pro, cables, collapsible booth and all,  I have the Source Connect software on the laptop.

Source Connect allows you to connect to another studio that also has the software or to a bridging service that facilitates a hookup to an ISDN equipped studio, all via the Internet tubes.

But here’s the problem. The Internet speed needs to be fast and steady.  Firewalls can be an issue.  All of which is pretty easy to deal with at home, but when traveling, one is often at the mercy of whatever flavor of Internet connection provided by the hotel, (or the WiFi at Aunt Molly’s.)

George Whittam of El Dorado Recording (now VOStudiotech) has a great blog post that provides a check list for the traveling voice actor who uses Source Connect.  George provides bridging services between SC and ISDN and knows first hand the problems you can run in to.

Thanks George, for some really useful information.

Voice Acting and Script Context

The last time I worked on an animation project the director stood just a few feet away from me in the booth.  Unusual, I thought.  But as we moved from scene to scene he continually filled me in on the setting and the back-story,  making  sure I understood the context of the lines I was recording.

I had watched him do this with the actor scheduled before me. It occurred to me that he was in the booth to give instant organic feed-back to the acting and to paint the context as vividly as possible without the barrier of glass, microphones and talk-backs.

I also realized that this was a project where the director really did have the big picture, the vision, the entire script knocking around in his brain.  He knew where each  story line led and how to get the actors on the path so when the pieces , recorded lines, were stitched together in editing the result would be good story-telling.

Sure, it’s always better if you can have the entire cast in the studio at the same time.  But very often,  for lots of reasons,  you just can’t.  And if you have to bring the voices in one at a time, this was the way to do it.

There is a great article on Rock, Paper, Shotgun that addresses this issue (and others) as it relates to voice directing and acting for video games.  Hat tip to fellow voice talkers  David Houston and Bob Souer for the link.

Ancient of Days Directs

Dianne and I were touring the Kennedy Space Center a couple weekends ago and these two stepped in front of us.

It got me to thinking that twins are God’s way of saying “We have the one we need but let’s get one more for safety.”

Photo of twins at Kennedy Space Center

A Voice Over Class to Consider

From yesterday’s email:

We did it once in 2009 and now once again in 2010 — an exciting new voiceover teleseminar series with Harlan Hogan:

STARTING YOUR VOICEOVER BUSINESS: Everything You Need To Know To Turn Your Dream Or Your Sideline Into A Business.

All the details are here:

(If you’re already making a fortune doing fulltime voiceovers, please feel free to pass this along to a deserving friend.)


Harlan & Dan

What is the Context?

Been thinking about the word “context” this morning. It’s one of the lenses through which we should see the script as we prepare for the job or an audition. It helps us determine choices.

I think language scholar Oscar E. Nybakken has a very useful take on the word “context” for the voice actor:

Context not only casts a play of light and shadow on a word but frequently  suggests its primary meaning.

Adding light and shadow to the read is a wonderful thing as long as it serves the story.  There’s that “context” thing again.

Great Weekend with the Voice Over Whisperer

The Marice Tobias commercial and narration workshop in Dallas wrapped up yesterday.  What a wonderful seminar. I learned some great techniques for self direction which is so important these days in that we work so much from our own spaces. Had fun with fellow voice actors. And it’s always amazing to watch a director like Marice pull reads out of actors that they didn’t know they had.

Also, thanks to audio engineer J.D. of Janimation for letting us kids play in his room.

Creative Slating

My agents have a rule about slating which is short and sweet.

Name only. Not even the role. Put that in the file name.

The intent is to curb the behavior of some actors who think that rude noises, mini-biographies, or lame attempts at being funny during the slate will make them more memorable when in fact producers and casting people find them annoying and a time suck.

So what’s a voiceover performer to do? Especially with a name like mine. Two syllables.

Well, more than you might think. Pat Fraley has some notions on creative slating in his audio seminar “Quick and Slick Voiceover Tricks available on Dan O’Day’s website. You also get tips on how to add layers to your “triplets” or those three-in-a-row readings and a discussion on whether or not you should add processing or production values to auditions once in a while, assuming you are auditioning out of your home studio.

Pat has a very entertaining way of teaching and has some nuggets in there for you.

Disclosure: For plugging the audio seminar I receive bupkis. I just think it’s good.

Physical Movement in Voice Acting-Just do What Works

During my time in the voiceover business I’ve been witness to many different styles of acting before the microphone. I’ve seen actors silently but not so subtley move their entire bodies while doing the read. And I’ve seen the flat dry monotone read done while the actor stands stiff as a statue with hands crammed in pockets.

Looking at session videos on YouTube or Voiceover Universe you also see a variety of hand placements and gestures. Some actors bring energy into the read by waving hands or wagging fingers. Others will clinch a fist against their noggin to help get tension into the material. Ed Grover was famous for clasping his hands on top of his head to help him open up that “sweeping” read he would do for Visa.

If I’m doing a training narration I tend to gesture a lot, talking with my hands in order to help emphasize and draw certain phrases or word groups out of copy that is by it’s nature pretty dry stuff.

While voicing retail copy I try to get a little more energy into the read by rapidly wagging a wrist around behind the mic. I do most of the fast legal reads for Nationwide Insurance radio and for those I stand like a statue with arms up and out and pour  the energy into cramming all those words into the shortest space possible.

On the other hand there are voice actors who prefer not to use overly physical techniques and still bring wonderful life to their scripts through emotional connection to the words.

If you are just starting out, practice and experiment. Get training. Use a coach. Find the techniques that work best for you.