Whether you need a professional voice for your Radio and TV ads, or your website's promotional video, great voice over can take your production to the next level. You want to go beyond strapping a headset mic on your receptionist, right?
Yet, with so many voice-over services on the interwebs, who do you trust your project to?
As an experienced voice actor and producer, I spend time on both sides of the glass. I’ve learned a few things that I think can help you streamline your voice talent search. The key is knowing what to look for...
First, choose talent you know will be there when you need them- every time you need them. Because when you need to update your content, you want the same voice, right? Of course you do! Because the voices you choose become part of your branding. Sound is the same as visual branding, and consistency is key.
Yet, finding reliable voice talent is not as easy as it sounds.
Consider that since many voice actor websites do NOT filter the talent- the majority of the voice over people on those sites are non-professional or semi-pro. This does not imply they are not good people or lacking in talent, but it does suggest that they might not be there when you need them. I have auditioned many prospective voice actors who thought it would be fun to do commercial voice-over, only to discover that they were unavailable when I needed them. Many apparently just give up and move on- usually without notice- so it's best to consider only professional voice actors who pay the bills with their skills. When you send them a script, most likely they are sitting at the microphone the moment your email hits their inbox. That’s a big advantage if turnaround and consistency is important to you, the buyer of talent.
If you’ve got a folder full of voice actor's websites bookmarked, it’s a good idea to check every so often to see if those people are even still online- before you need them.
Professional voice artists are capable of a wide variety of believable deliveries. You can save loads of time searching the web endlessly for just the right voice, by identifying and using only those actors with a wide range of voice styles. Given the right direction, a handful of talent will cover most of your needs. It’s important to note here that there is a big difference between voice acting and announcing. Acting ability outweighs voice tone in terms of importance, because human beings listen for and respond to believability- but you should choose talent that possess both. Sure, a commanding male “hard-sell” works perfectly for many things- just make sure your on-call talent are capable of much more. This also means that should your top guy or gal be on vacation the day you need them, your second to top can likely come close to what you’re looking for, thanks to his or her flexible tone and acting skill.
Turnaround for voice over is often measured in hours, not days or weeks. Choose voice actors who are prepared and able to deliver on short notice, and you’ll never miss a deadline. Look for voice talent who will let you direct the session live via phone patch, Skype or Source Connect, because this can save hours or days in back-and-forth auditions. Not to mention that it’s often not until the actual session that you or the talent notice small discrepancies in the script, such as typos, names that need pronunciation, copy that is too long to fit in the time frame, etc.
Those issues are quickly resolved during a live session- and you won’t have to pay the talent for a second session to read the corrected script.
Source-Connect is a way to direct a session from your desktop computer or Android device via high speed internet- at ISDN quality.
Your voice actor should have basic studio requirements like good editing skills, phone patch (or better yet Skype or Source Connect), and be able to import video files when cutting VO for Television or Video.
Fast editing skills are a must, as getting a clean (edited) VO track back from the talent quickly can save a lot of time and trouble. For one thing, you’ll know for sure if the voice track fits in the time frame it’s supposed to. Getting back a rambling multi-take raw read can be a drag- and finding out it’s too long to fit the time frame after the session is over is a real drag. Particularly for radio and television production, the VO track needs to be edited to 15, 30 or 60 seconds before the session is finished, to avoid a re-schedule. Practiced voice talent are quick at chopping down takes, and you should ask for this. For me, editing a handful of takes into a 30 second composite read only takes a few minutes, and then we know if it’s gonna work.
If there’s video involved, I find it’s much easier to pace my read and sync with picture if I have the video file imported into my software. That way I can line up the voice over with the visual, and send the client or producer both the edited voice track and a Quicktime movie with the VO embedded for reference, so they can see how I lined it up.
Voice over is a Service, not an Item
For those of us who’ve been doing voice over for decades, we understand we need to anticipate problems, offer solutions, read minds and serve our clients. Most of us have come through the broadcast or film industry, where moving through the process quickly with grace is the name of the game.
I always feel honored each time I am selected for a voice over.
I realize my best shot at getting that next job- is doing my best on this job