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Voice-over Math: Less than 100% = Zero

Posted in For Beginners, For Pro's by Administrator on the August 31st, 2016

In a previous life, when I thought I was going to be a painter, I had a breakthrough one day that I wanted to share with my painting professor and mentor. I proudly showed him the canvases and waited for the handshake. It didn’t happen. Instead, he said, “OK, I see what you’re trying to do here. But it’s a long way from the richness and depth you’re capable of. You need to take it all the way – one hundred percent.”

If there is one moment in my work with voice-over students, one forehead-smacking moment that makes the difference in their professional development, it’s the realization that they aren’t playing full-out.

As we develop our talents and skills, there’s a tendency to say, “Well, that sounded pretty good.” But “pretty good” is just a milestone, not a destination. The mark of a professional is the ability to recognize these milestones as steps toward one hundred percent.

But often there’s a reluctance to go all the way, and I think I know why. I think it’s fear: fear of going too far, of sounding ridiculous, of going over the top. Well, from what I’ve been hearing, a lot of voice talent is a long way from the top!

So if fear seems to be holding my student back, I ask this question: “How passionate are you about what you’re saying?” Much of the time, failing to deliver fully is failing to connect fully to what you are saying. And connecting to what you’re saying depends on how you feel about what you’re saying. This applies, by the way, to any type of voice-over project, whether it’s a bodice-ripper novel or a punch-press training video.

What’s at stake? One hundred percent = a career. Less than one hundred percent = no career. You do the math.

What do you mean by “perfect”?

Posted in For Pro's by Administrator on the August 31st, 2016

There’s probably no group more devoted to perfection than artists – among whom I include voice talent. We’re constantly wondering if we did our best. In fact, back in the day it was an oft-heard comment that “I did my best take in the car going home.”

But what is perfection to you? Is it reading a script without a mistake? Is it the mythical One Take? Is it the painstaking process of recording take after take until everybody is deliriously happy? My opinion is… none of the above.

I have worked with a number of directors who really believe that if you record enough takes eventually you’ll get it perfect. What a recipe for disaster! It hardly ever works, and it often drives the voice talent nuts. More enlightened directors know that it’s the result you’re after, not how you get there. And since these days you’ll probably be your own director, it has become easier to focus on the result.

Recorded, not live

After all, this is voice over. That means it’s recorded, not live; it’s audio, not video. So there’s really no reason to get it all perfect in one magical take.

Let’s say that after two or three takes you feel like you mostly got it. Maybe there were a couple of glitches – a line or two you didn’t quite like, or it came in a bit long. But that take had something special about it. At this point you don’t really need to try for another take, hoping that the magic remains while you iron out the glitches. Instead, I suggest you do two things:

You, the narrator, you, the editor

First, listen to other takes to see if maybe the glitches in question didn’t appear in them; if so, a little cutting and pasting might give you a complete, seamless take. Second, if you don’t find what you need, do pick-ups and paste them in place.

If you’re good at matching tone, pace, level, etc. – and if you’re adept at seamless editing – you may end up with a “perfect” read. It’s something you, the narrator, created with you, the editor.

At that point, of course, how you define “perfect” is between you and your client. But at least you didn’t have to beat yourself senseless to get there.