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Thursday, January 19, 2017

The History of Emmys for Voiceover Artists

Voiceover has come a long way over the past few decades, and if you need evidence of that than you simply have to consider the fact that Emmys are now handed out to voiceover artists annually.  In 1992, the very first Primetime Emmy Award was presented for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance.  That first was actually six awards, presented to several members of the cast of The Simpsons.

Of course, even as late as 2008, this was not an award treated in the same way as those presented for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actor in a Drama.  Instead of having a list of nominees, from which the winner was selected, it was a juried selection, and there was never a guarantee that anyone would receive the Emmy in voiceover, as some years came and went without anyone being awarded it.  Other years, as in 1992, there would be multiple recipients.

Times have changed though.  The competition in the voiceover profession has gotten much more intense.  There has been greater interest in animated film and television.  The technology has improved to make it easier to blend animation with voiceover for a highly convincing character.  As a result, even large, long-standing establishments, like the Television Academy took notice.  The juried award for voiceover was altered.  Instead of having a single category for voiceover work, there were to be two.  In 2014, the category was divided into Outstanding Narrator and Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance.  This led to voiceover artists being recognized for work in documentaries and educational programming, as well as for work in animated television shows.  The first winner of the Emmy for Outstanding Narrator was Jeremy Irons, who was the voice behind the Game of Lions, a show featured during Big Cat Week on National Geographic.  Meanwhile, The Simpsons claimed yet another Emmy that year.  In 2014, the Emmy Award for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance was awarded to Harry Shearer for his portrayal of Kent Brockman, Mr. Burns, and Smithers in the Four Regrettings and a Funeral episode of the popular animated show.

It is wonderful to see voiceover artists acknowledged in such a way, and a great thing for all of us choosing this as our profession.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How Important is Voice in Advertising?

With all of the social media marketing used to sell products these days, you might be tempted to believe that voice plays little part in advertising now.  That, however, is most definitely not the truth.  First of all, even in social media marketing, there is often a need for voiceover.  Many banner ads, video ads, and other similar features will require the talents of a professional voice actor. Additionally, television, radio, and podcasts are alive and well, with regularly running commercials and advertisements.

So, if you are going to be the voice of a commercial or other advertisement, you will need to seriously consider how you approach the job, because the voice isn’t just relevant, it can make or break the campaign. Don’t believe me?  Then, imagine the following:

- A favorite kids’ television show cuts to commercials, and the first thing that is seen are the famous golden arches. As the camera pulls back, we see kids running to the brightly colored doors to be greeted by the famous mascot of the brand. And then a voice can be heard, pronouncing the new addition to the kids’ menu. It’s deep, dark, and slow speech… and, suddenly, something is not at all right with the commercial…
- On another channel, primetime television is underway and the reality show takes a commercial break. A sleek luxury car hugs the road tightly as it weaves its way down a steep incline, with mountain on one side, and cliff on the other. Without a problem, it navigates the road, and a voice begins to speak about the benefits of a new traction system. The voice is high pitched, bubbly, rushed, and features a strong accent that causes words to run together…

These are obviously farfetched examples, but they do show the importance of using the right voice, the right tone, and the right speed of speech for every job.  Much of this will fall on your shoulders as the voiceover artist.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Catering Your Voice to Fit Visual Cues

It is always interesting to try on a new voice for a potential project, but it can also be intimidating when you are trying to determine the right way to approach the audition.  When you gather the information ahead of time, there will occasionally be images to accompany the text.  Do not – I cannot stress this enough – overlook the images.  Remember, a picture is worth one thousand words.  In this case, that is most definitely true.  You can learn a great deal about what the client is looking for just by carefully considering those images, whether this will be a thirty second commercial spot or a two hour movie. 

There are certain pre-conceived notions that are shared by whole cultures, and these are often called on to paint a picture, set the tone, or to establish a bond with the viewer.  These are also often the visuals that accompany the material that you are to read. 

For instance, consider the high-backed leather chair, angled just so before a fire place, with the side table, upon which there is sitting a whiskey tumbler half-filled with golden liquid. 
Now, imagine a brightly colored scene, with children running in the yard, a white picket fence, and a minivan in the driveway.

Obviously, the tones that these two clients are trying to achieve are very different from one another.  In the first, a quiet, sophisticated, dry voice would likely be the way to go.  Whereas, in the second situation, you would want to be much peppier – reading with a slightly greater speed and volume.

These are just two examples, but they do showcase the value of visuals.  If you aren’t fortunate enough to receive pictures with the text, then you will most likely get a scene description, and this will have to be what you use to formulate the appropriate voice and tone for the piece.  Often, you can learn a lot from the selected vocabulary, as well as the descriptors used, when trying to grasp what the client is looking for. Use your imagination to the fullest.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A List for the New Voiceover Artist, Part II

In the last blog post, I started compiling a list of tips that you might want to consider as you begin to break into the voiceover industry.  There is so much to think about when you start on any new career path, but because this field generally requires that you run your own business as well, there is even more to concern you.  However, when you establish the right work habits, you will find it is much easier to build a career to be proud of. So, I continue that list here.

Do Not Bring Your Phone into the Recording Studio I know, I know, I know… everyone has a phone these days, and everyone wants you to respond to them immediately.  But, it is absolutely never a good idea to bring a cell phone into the recording booth.  Not only can the phone cause interference with the recording equipment, all of the little sounds that it emits (even the slightest vibration) will be picked up in the recording.  If you have reason to suspect that someone might need to get ahold of you, try to avoid scheduling recording time for that day, or leave your phone outside the booth, but take regular breaks to check it.

Set Up Your Station for Fewer Interruptions This is something that people generally get better at with time.  Undoubtedly, you will find yourself shuffling papers, turning pages, or doing something of a similar nature as you record, which will ultimately cause background noise that will have to be edited out.  You can cut down on this by setting up your station in the right way, aligning the pages so you have to do very minimal movement.

Care For Your Website, as You Do Your Voice Long before he or she has met you, a potential client can find your website.  That means that your website will be what first impressions are based upon.  If a potential client happened upon your website today, what would he or she think about you?

Keep an Open Mind, and Maintain Patience You will, I promise, at some point during your career as a voiceover artist, come upon a client who is extremely fussy, hard to please, or downright aggravating.  If you want to ensure that you keep the job, and you want to give that person every reason to recommend you to others, then you must maintain your patience and keep an open mind.
If all that fails don't be afraid to simply suggest they find another talent and move on.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A List for the New Voiceover Artist

As you get started in this industry, there will be many challenges, many obstacles to overcome.  However, if you have the right foundation, if you care for your voice in the right way, and you have a healthy dose of business sense, you can accomplish a lot.  That said, I have compiled a list of considerations to keep in mind as you make your way.

Always Have a Glass of Water Nearby… Always! I cannot emphasize this enough.  It is so important to care for your voice, and that begins by staying hydrated.  You want your voice to be ready on command.  After all, if a prospective client calls, you want to answer the phone with a strong and confident voice.  Always have water at hand, in case you need some hydration.

Avoid Congestion Easier said than done, I know, but do everything in your power to keep your sinuses clear, because congestion is our enemy.  It has a major impact on the sound of your speech, which will undoubtedly cause trouble in the recording booth.  Practice proper hygiene to avoid illness, use allergy medication as necessary, and keep nose spray on hand to help break up congestion when it does form. 

Do Not Avoid Cardio Exercise It is essential! Cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis will build up your stamina and reduce the risk of becoming winded after being in the recording booth for a while.
Check out Gary Catona's Ultimate Voice Builder DVD!

Keep Practicing in Your Free Moments Voice exercises are still taught and used because they have proven very effective.  The more you focus on your breathing, on your annunciation, and your articulation, the better you will become as a voice artist.  So, take advantage of those free moments.

Remember, You Are an Actor It is not enough to read the words on the page.  Show emotion where appropriate, and become the character that you are reading for.  This is important whether you are recording for a novel, a video game, a commercial, or even a training video.  Remembering that you are an actor will help you avoid awkward speech patterns that can ruin the experience for the listener.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Being the Voice of an Animated Character

Perhaps one of the greatest joys for any voice actor is having the opportunity to “become” an animated character on the screen.  Your voice will, in essence, make that little cartoon come to life, and that is a very thrilling experience.  But, if you’ve never done it before, the whole process can be a bit intimidating.  After all, in most cases, you aren’t going to use your natural speaking voice for that character.  So, the process must begin with a “finding of the appropriate voice”.  Chances are this will happen long before you are even hired, secure in knowing that you have the gig.

So, whether you are creating a marketing video to showcase your ability to “be the animated character” or you are auditioning, you will need to have that voice developed before you being.
Start by looking at the cartoon.  It is so helpful to see what the character will look like, if you can do so.  Obviously, if you are creating the marketing video, then you can work with the animation artist to have a clear sketch of the character in advance, but that isn’t always the case when auditioning.  Nevertheless, they will likely provide a bit of detail about who the cartoon will portray and you can sketch your impression so you have a visual.

Once you have a look, you have to consider the speech pattern.  Is this a young being, likely to have a higher pitch?  Does the character slur, stutter, whistle or have other recognizable speech idiosyncrasies?  Once you have answered questions like these, give it a try.  And keep trying, until you are really happy with the voice you have assigned to the character.

Practice, in this case, really can lead to perfection (or pretty darn close to it!), so once you have honed in on the voice that you want to use, really take the time to practice it before you go in to record or audition.  For some, this means trying on the voice in all conversations during the day.  If, though, you really don’t want to annoy everyone you meet in the course of the day, then you might, instead, consider retreating to a quite space and reading a book or newspaper in that voice.  The more you practice it, the more confident you will be when it comes time to record.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Getting Started in Voiceover? Create a Business Plan

I’ve written a fair amount aimed at those of you who are just getting started in this business, but that is because there can be such a steep learning curve in the industry.  For many, the obstacles can prove extremely difficult to overcome just out of the box.  However, with the right information, you can find your way over, through, or around them to create a career to be proud of.

Perhaps the most important thing that you can do before launching your new voiceover website, before auditioning even, is to sit down and brainstorm.  You might believe that there isn’t much to consider, but that definitely isn’t the case.  If you can enter this field with a game plan, you will have a major leg up against the competition.

Business plans are recommended for every new start up, and that certainly extends to voiceover professionals.  You are, in essence, starting your own business, so you are a startup.  Your business plan should begin with a clear object – a mission statement.  What do you hope to achieve?
Once you have a clear answer to that question, you can begin building a business around the mission statement, so that every decision places you one step closer to your goal.  There are many other questions that you should be asking yourself as you create this business plan, such as:

· How will you find potential work?
· What are the competitors doing that you could mimic, or that you could do better?
· What sort of pricing scale will you use to quote potential jobs?
· Are there websites that could assist you as you begin to build a clientele?
· What costs will be associated with getting this business underway (i.e. marketing expenses, promo video and audio files, a new website, equipment purchases, studio leasing, etc.)?
· How long can you live without a steady flow of income from voiceover work?
· How long will it be, in your best estimate, before your business will be truly profitable? Upon what    so you base the answer to this question?
· How will you market your business and how will you pay for the advertising?

There are many wonderful business plan templates online that you can use to get this process started.  When all is said and done, whether the career path provide feasible or not, you will be happy that you took the time to do so.