Category Archives: Voice Over Training

Steps To A Long, Strong, Successful Voiceover Career

Written by Backstage Industry Expert Terry Berland, CSA, for Backstage.

I see many talent transition from on camera, theatre, film, comedy and Improv into a VO career. The voiceover field is wide open with many opportunities. If you are going to do it, do it right.   Here are the elements it takes for a long, strong voiceover career.

The Beginner

Learn the Basic Foundational techniques.
You have to learn how to take direction from someone else and give direction to yourself. Some typical directions are to sound bright, friendly, serious, compassionate, strong, warm, trustworthy, and thoughtful.

Find your strengths. Start recognizing what your strengths are. You might be more of the announcer, non-announcer, personality driven or long format story-telling type.

Learn how to analyze a piece of copy. Each piece of copy will give you information on what is being asked for of your voice. For instance, if the spot indicates there is bright bouncy music playing in the background, you know your read will need to be bright. If the scene takes place in a romantically lit restaurant, with close-up shots, that would be telling you your voice should be directed to sound intimate.

Intermediate

After you get to know your voice, how to direct it and take direction from someone else, you are into the intermediate phase of your abilities.

Learn the nuances of how to execute the copy. After knowing basic direction, you are ready to notice and execute nuanced changes in each sentence. You are also ready to notice and execute sentences that are being used for transitions. For instance after laying out facts, there would be a call to action.

Experiment and experience different venues. Know the difference between radio and TV reads. In radio your voice is painting the picture, whereas in television your voice is supporting the picture. Experience promo, announcer, narration, and voicing to picture and music.

Start to know your voice print
Your voice print is your voice personality. If the sound of your voice is naturally full of character, don’t try to prefect doing serious spots that calls for gravitas

Advanced

Now that you know your strengths, how to analyze a piece of copy and how to take direction it is the time to move past technique.

Step Up To The Mic Beyond Technique
It’s time to embrace the read. Now that you can recognize what the spot is asking of your voice, and you feel confident about your reads, you can embrace the responsibility of fully adding your voice to the branding of the spot.

Brand yourself
Discover visuals and colors that match the look and feel of your voice. This is a process; take your time with it. In my advanced workshop I have talent each week collect visuals that match the feel of their voice. It’s good to do this with a professional and others in the group for feedback and reactions. For instance if your voice is bright and cheery your colors might be bright yellow and orange and your visuals might be people bouncing on trampolines.

Make a demo
Don’t rush into your demo. You will save a lot of money making a demo after you know your voice and know how to take direction. There is no career longevity in being called in to audition or booking a job from an over-edited good demo and then not being able to come through being given direction.

Create a website
Create a simple website using your branding. The more presence you have on the internet the more likely you are to be found in any searches.

Now you have all the tools to gain agent interest and good self-submissions. Now good luck and go out and “break a lip”.

If you want to sharpen up on your voice-over technique, follow this link to Terry Berland’s Voice-Over workshops.

Four Tips To Analyzing Voice Over Copy

Written by Terry Berland for Backstage

As a casting director I speak directly to the ad agency creative team that choose the talent to book the job.  This creative team decides on the type of read they are looking for, which is given to you in the form of direction. All really good voice over artists knows that the choice of tone in every word is important.

The most valuable message I can give you is to look beyond the written direction, but trust that all the answers to how to make the best choices can be found in the script itself.
Look at the following four elements to make distinct choices and enhance your reads.

1. Look at the visuals of the spot.
If you are fortunate enough to be given visuals, really look at them. They will help you understand the general tone of the spot. Here are some sample visuals to get you thinking:

  • A tight shot: This indicates a more intimate read.
  • White picket fences: Friendly, reassuring and calm.
  • Rolling hills: Folksy, calm and reassuring.
  • Bright colors and quick shots: Bright and upbeat.
  • Puppies, children, family and friendship scenes: Warm and joyful.
  • Military: Inspirational and bold.

2. Look at the written descriptions between the VO words.
Many times you will not be given actual visuals, but verbal descriptions instead. It is as important to read all the descriptions as it is to look at the visuals. You will find the same hints in the written words as in the visuals.

3 . Pay attention to the product.
Fast food reads are upbeat and bright with quicker tempos.
An expensive restaurant with dim lights would indicate a place to linger and calls for reads that are slower, with softer tones.
Luxury cars and lush interiors indicate a more intimate read.
Speeding cars signal a stronger, focused read with drive.
Retail stores with bright positive colors and bouncy music call for a bright and friendly read.
Financial institutions call for a read that is trustworthy and reassuring.
Shampoo, cosmetics and anything that makes you more attractive or more appealing have a more “cosmetic” tone, which you would achieve by reading your words with a softer and rounder tone.

4. Find cue words in the script.
Certain words should guide you towards a choice.  Some cue words include:  “trust”, “confident”, “assured”, “safe” “take action now”, “go now”, “limited time” and “hero”.
There are many more types of visuals, cue words and types of products out there. Become aware, learn and practice.  There is nothing haphazard about the choice of voice that is made for each commercial.  After all, your voice is supporting the visuals and branding the message.

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!

Current Trends In Voiceover

Written for BackStage by Terry Berland

Advertising reflects life itself. Life influenced by the Internet today is quick and loose with multiple resources of information, choices, visuals, and possibilities at our fingertips.

The culture we live in has changed the look and feel of commercials. Notice the bright, positive colors, the graphics, clothing, hairstyles, humor, environments, and storylines.

Voiceovers have greatly been effected by these influences, and the industry has changed as a result. Here are five current trends you should know:

  1. The sound of the voiceover announcer is more real.

    I have been casting and teaching voiceover technique for years and I stay acutely aware of what type of voices support the visuals and brands of a particular spot.

    The announcer who sounds like he is talking to a large audience with a smooth, polished, stiff, stylized, unapproachable deep tone is pretty much gone.

    The more “real” sound is referred to as the non-announcer announcer. This sound is approachable and connected to the listener. His sound is more in alignment to today’s world of accessibility. Companies want to be considered or branded as approachable, trusted, and relatable.

    There are trends other than the sound of the voice.

  2. Talent must be able to record auditions anywhere, at any time.

    With Internet access, clients are asking for auditions to be submitted to them very quickly. For this reason talent should have the ability to record at home or even on the go in the car. There are inexpensive mics with good quality that you can use with your laptop or iPad to record auditions. Take a little time to visit any electronics store and test some out. Look into clever ways to semi-soundproof the space you are working in at a very low cost.

  3. You’re expected to have a website.

    Be visible on the Internet for searches. You want to have as much of an online presence as possible for any producer to find you easily. This website should be simple, but should include your demo. The colors and visuals should be branded to match the feel of your sound.

  4. Self-submission Internet sites are available to you.

    Auditions are available on voiceover sites for self-submissions. Where you are in your career will influence your desire to register and submit auditions online.

  5. Voiceover agents are accessible in multiple cities.

    There are voiceover agents all over the United States. It is common for talent to have a couple of different agents in different cities.

To be a successful, working voice actor, you must be prepared to be competitive, train consistently, and keep up with the ever-changing industry.