Category Archives: Voice Acting

Use improvisation to help voiceover

How Improv Makes A Better Voiceover Actor

Written for Backstage by Terry Berland

We all know the importance of improv for actors—but did you consider that improv can also help you in your voiceover career?

Here are five ways improv will make you a better voiceover actor.  Sometimes the importance of the ability to improv is not obvious and others.

1. Auditioning

You might be given totally different direction from the casting director than the choices with which you went into the audition. Direction is all about nuances and requires the ability to instantaneously switch out of your choices.

2. Radio Auditions


Radio is more personality driven than television, and can allow opportunities to be loose and broad and add your own individual humor. And two-person radio scripts almost always give you room to riff back and forth a couple of times to button off the audition.

3. Voicing Donuts and Pretzels

There are times your voice has to come between other visuals or music in the script. Your voice coming in once between other actions, visuals, or music is called a donut (one hole), and several times is called a pretzel. You have to react very quickly to the last sound or visual prompt, and the director can very well tell you to change your attitude in the words you are fitting into the allotted spaces. You’ll be happy you can only rely on your well-trained improv muscle in these situations.

4. Animation and Cartoons

Both are extremely personality driven and move very quickly. The improv muscle in your brain will again allow you to create without judging yourself.

5. ADR and Looping

These two venues have many opportunities that are not scripted and you have to come up with conversations quickly to match the feel of the scene in the background of the film or TV show. No one can be considered on an ADR/looping stage who is non-scripted or is not good at improv.

With good improv skills, you can be sure to have better voiceover auditions and bookings!

Everything You Need To Know About Voice Over Recording Sessions

Written by Terry Berland for Backstage

Voice Over Recording Sessions

Learn all the need to know information on voice over recording sessions

The end result you are looking for after learning how to do voiceovers, making a good demo, and auditioning well, is to book the job. For the many performers who are crossing over from commercial acting to voice acting, the booking experience is very different. Here’s what you can expect at a voiceover booking.

One of the reasons actors love to do voiceovers is because the recording only takes a couple of hours out of your day.

TV Recording Time

The recording for TV scale payment under union rules is two hours per spot. If it goes over, overtime is paid. Arrive early. Studio time is very expensive and there is no wiggle room to linger and go over the studio time that the ad agency has booked.

Radio Recording Time

The booking time for radio scale under the union contract is one-and-a half hours for one spot.

Before you record, there are certain business practices that must be taken care of:

Contract. The contract is usually emailed to you and/or your agent beforehand. Look over it to make sure you understand everything and that there are no errors. If there is a mistake or misunderstanding, take care of any corrections before the recording session.

Script. The script(s) should be emailed to you before the recording session, along with your contract. The script will be very close to, if not the same as the script you with which auditioned. Even if the project is top secret and the actual script was not given to you to at the time of the audition, the final script will have a similar tone and emotion.

Once you enter the room:

The talent will be directed to enter a glass-enclosed room (the booth) equipped with a mic, script stand, and headphones. The creatives directing you will be on the other side of the glass with an engineer. They’ll be speaking to you through a speaker system. When they do not have a button pressed, you’ll be seeing them talk to each other and will not be able to hear them. It’s an inside joke that voiceover talent quickly learn how to read lips.

If your creative team is in a different city, you will be at a studio with an engineer and the creatives will be at a studio in their city, communicating with you and recording you through an ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) line.

The room, typically occupied by the writer and producer from the ad agency, is usually very friendly—after all, you are their approved choice. They trust you are going to come through for them and everything will go smoothly.

Once you’re recording, you should expect some direction.

For TV spots, if there is a rough cut of the spot available, it will most likely be show to you. If they do not have any film to show you, they will describe the visuals. The emotions and style they are looking for will match what you did in your audition to book the job.

For radio ads, you could be asked to record more takes with broader choices, as your voice is painting the entire picture. They cover a range of variables, as the last thing they would want to do is have to call you back and pay for you and the studio again to cover anything missing.

How do you know you did well at a recording session? If your audition was true to your ability and not overly edited, and you were easily able to step into the booth and follow their direction, your session mostly likely went very well. If your audition was heavily edited and the people directing you are struggling to get the subtle nuances that they expected, then you know they will probably replace you, and never be interested in using you again.

After the session, when the creatives have all the reads they need, you’ll be invited out of the booth, there will be lots of smiles, some goodbye chatter and you’ll be off to the rest of your day. Simple as that! Now get out there and nail it!

Do You Have What It Takes to Succeed in Voiceover?

Do You Have What It Takes to Succeed in Voiceover?

Written by Terry Berland for Backstage

I have always cast both on-camera talent and voiceover for commercials, starting my career casting on staff at various ad agencies in NYC. At that time, the voiceover field was made up of a very exclusive group of New York and L.A. actors, and a limited amount of agents who represented them. Voiceover was pretty much a “closed field”—but not anymore.

Voiceover Opportunities on the Rise

Voiceover Work is on the Rise

Voiceover opportunites for actors is a wide open field.

The old school ways of voiceovers being close to unobtainable to break into are gone. Voiceover opportunities for actors is a wide-open field. In fact, it’s the Wild West out there. Talent agencies are opening up voice departments, and more Internet media sites are available affording opportunities for actors to find voice work more than ever before. Does that mean it’s easy to break into? No! But the playing field is wide open and equal. Everyone starts at the same place: ground zero.

Know Yourself, Know Your Voice

Every client wants interesting choices. I, myself, bring in actors for voiceover castings from past auditions, who I know will do a great job, but also spice up my casting sessions with talent I know from my on-camera castings or whom I’ve seen in theater productions around town. Agents are also constantly looking for new talent to keep their rosters fresh. But to audition well and do well at a final booking, you need to know what you are doing. You need to know how to make specific choices and also follow direction from the creative team.

The Voiceover Demo

Your calling card will be your voiceover demo. A big tip I can give you is, don’t waste your money to have your demo produced before you are ready. Any good demo producer can make you sound good by over-editing. But you’re wasting your money having a demo that sounds good if you don’t know how to make the right choices, execute your choices, and take direction.
Your voice is your instrument and you are the conductor. Voiceover is based on acting, but has its own unique technique. Some knowledge of technique you should know before you spend money on producing a demo include:

  • Know the characteristics of your voice, known as your voice personality or your voice print. This is known as your branding.
    Know how to make choices as to what kind of read you will give from the direction you are given or from reading the storyboard and/or on-camera direction.
  • Know how to make choices as to what kind of read you will give from the direction you are given or from reading the storyboard and/or on-camera direction.
  • Know how to execute many subtle differences. Some of which are non-announcer/announcer, warm, strong, upbeat, driven, inspirational, positive, and compassionate, just to name a few.
  • Know the difference between TV and radio reads. The television read supports the picture, whereas the radio read creates the visuals.
  • Know how to voice to music or visuals, sometimes referred to as donuts and pretzels. Many times your voice comes in between music. The music will be played for you and you will need to time your reading and be able to execute the right energy to go along with the music or visual. One space to insert your voice is referred to as a donut.
  • Two or more spaces are referred to as a pretzel.
    The trend now for voices of many spots is “real” and raw, not polished. Voiceovers can be another venue for your acting career. Have a plan for success. Start with knowing the basic technique and grow from there.

Actors are intrigued with the possibility of expanding into voice over work.

TerryBerlandActors are intrigued with the possibility of expanding into voice over work. The old school myth is that it is a closed field and unattainable. Voice over opportunities for actors have opened up in the last couple of years and are continuing to open. More talent agencies are opening up voice departments and more internet media sites are affording opportunities for actors to find voice work. It is easy to break into? No. But the playing field is equal; everyone starts at the same place.

Originally casting at a New York City ad agency it was natural for me to first cast the on camera portion of a spot and then the voice over. I have always been on the look out for “voice talent” when casting my on camera spots or going to theatre, comedy and improv. Many voice-casting people are following suit. Of course the biggest factor in opening up the field is the internet. But let’s face it, the internet has opened everything up causing change and resulting in more opportunities and more competition.

Many people have been told, “You have a good voice for voice over”. What does that mean? To me, not much, as each situation calls for a different kind of voice. I can be asked for a voice that sounds like a paramedic, policeman, financially successful, type A personality, an ant, a dog (I cast the Taco Bell Chihuahua voice), a big tire, urban, trustworthy, soothing, a boss, insecure, hip, contemporary or comedic edge… just to name a few.

You have to learn the technique. Learn how to express whatever you are feeling through your voice only. Paint the picture. Then there are different venues. There is a difference between a radio and a TV read, an announcer and a non-announcer, promo, narration and personality driven. There are also many opportunities such as television, radio, film, industrial, corporate films, video games, narration, CD books, voices in toys, animation and web.

There are many ways to market yourself now to get your own work, have a home studio and submit your own auditions over the internet, audition in your agent’s office or the casting director’s office. Talent would rather come indirectly to audition for a casting director, such as myself, because they know that a limited number of auditions are being submitted to the ad agency; the ad agency will listen to each audition and make their choices. Whereas when a breakdown goes out over the internet directly to agents (agents have voice booths in their office and do their own casting), or talent are submitting via an on-line service, there are most likely hundreds of submissions and you never know if your submission is really going to be listened to.

Your approach to a VO career should be planned to get the best results. Basically you need to learn the strong fundamentals to make wise choices and be able to execute your choices. You then go through a progress of levels of expertise and finally make a demo that you can actually live up to, as opposed to one that is edited to make you sound better than you are. You have to be able to audition well and perform well in the studio at the time of booking.

Actors love being in front of that microphone. They are always jazzed when they leave my auditions. They say it “feels good”. If someone is handing you a magic wand, run. It takes work, focus and know how. The good news is everyone starts out on the same level. It is a discovery process. Be aware that you have a focused approach to save you money and time.

Actors love voice-overs. What could be better? It doesn’t matter what you wear or what you look like. Oh, and when you book something it’s usually two hours in the studio. If you are in the fortunate position, you can book several jobs in one day. TV voices bring you a residual return, as does on-camera.

So if you want to do it, start training and start doing it. The elusive, ironclad gate has been opened up. Walk through it. It’s fun and it’s a great possible extension to your career.

Terry Berland
www.berlandcasting.com