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“Acting in voice-overs is a wonderfully odd & irritatingly energizing profession where every job is a new experience and every session is an audition for the next.”

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, we have a page with a book list for aspiring & existing voice-overs. You can find out more details & indeed order & buy from our page. GO TO BOOK LIST

“Acting in voice-overs is a wonderfully odd & irritatingly energizing profession where every job is a new experience and every session is an audition for the next.”

Near the bottom of this page is a list of points to bear in mind when working with v/o’s. I’ve attempted to make it vaguely humorous – but it is required reading.

Almost every session requires a voiceover. In the UK the term “voiceover” is used rather than “actor” because some very good voiceovers are not actors, and some very good actors cannot do voiceovers. Americans use the terms “voice talent” or “voice-actor” – much better really.

The voice is an instrument. Tunes can be played. The tune can be boring, or it can be interesting and uplifting. The player of this unique instrument has to be able to add counterpoints, backbeats and decoration; to vary the rhythm, pitch, speed and timbre. And when called upon, has to be able to play in perfect harmony with other players. Like any other musicians, there are a lot of adequate “voice artists” but only a few outstanding ones – and they are worth every cent.

People used to object to being called “just” a voiceover, but it is not intended as a derogatory term. However, it is always a nice touch to have the voiceover’s name typed on the script rather than just “VO”. At the bottom of this page is list of 40+ tips about how to be a good voiceover.

To help the voiceover, the scripts should be presented in a thoughtful manner. A badly typed script can double the number of takes required! Make sure the scripts are double-spaced with enough room for the voiceover, engineer and producer to write notes, comments or time codes. Break the lines at sensible places. Don’t use fancy fonts. MORE DETAILS If it’s a TV/video script, it can be very useful if each paragraph – or any sync points – are marked with the appropriate time code.If you are preparing a dubbing script, it helps (& saves you money) if the script is prepared or imported into Word or even Excel. Time Codes for characters & cue points should be inserted into a dedicated column. This makes it very easy to strip out the cues for programming a “Broad Box” (superimposed countdowns & cues) should this facility be required.

If you are faxing scripts to a voiceover or studio, make sure your staff know how to set your fax machine to “FINE” transmission. Use a cleaning sheet regularly. It can make all the difference to the legibility. Or e-mail them – well in advance. Warn the studio that you are e-mailing them. If e-mailing, first strip out all colour logos – some may be hidden in headers & footers. These nasty images can easily quadruple the file size.

Voiceovers are generally paid a “studio fee” (for turning up & recording a script) plus “usage”. The studio fee can vary from agent to agent, from artist to artist, and depending on the ultimate use. In the UK, for radio there is a “per script” usage fee that depends on the size of the station – usually valid for 3 months. British minimum EQUITY RATES For TV work check with the voice agency you wish to use. There are pages & pages of suggested usage fees for all sorts of work – tv ads, computer games, in-store announcements, voice-prompts, satellite tv & so on. It’s very complicated.

Corporate/training video work usually attracts no usage fees unless the video is to be sold. We’d like to hear how payment systems work in the rest of the world – e-mail us.

Studios can have quite a say in whether a particular voiceover gets booked. There are those who are consistently late. Their view is that they are so good – they can do the session in half the time of anybody else. No matter that everybody is sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for them – sometimes including fellow voiceovers. The studio can advise against employing these arrogant fellows who cause expensive over-runs and create extra stress. There are voiceovers who simply haven’t a clue about breathing in the right places. That can take a considerable amount of extra studio time to rectify. We advise clients to steer clear of such people. Names can be provided…

Despite anything I say to the contrary here, the majority of voices are a pleasure to work with! Some we actually look forward to seeing & working with – really.

Being a good voiceover requires considerable talent. There are many nuances to the human voice, many different inflections. A quizzical inflection on the 2nd syllable of a particular word may impart a meaning to the listener/viewer that would otherwise require an extra line of copy. There are voiceovers who can sight-read a script and instantly work out what is required. There are others who have to be directed word by word. It may look easy in the studio, but easy it ain’t!There are huge differences between written copy & spoken copy. It would take a book to explain it all – but try working it out & experimenting for yourself. Many scriptwriters have not realised this.

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