Category Archives: Voice Over

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!

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!

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.

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.

How To Get Into Voice-Overs And Not Waste Your Money

The quick answer of how to get into VO’s is learn the technique and make a demo reel.

What some talent do is take this answer too literally. They take a quick beginner level class and make a demo reel. I might add the demo reel cost quite a bit of money.

Now they feel great. They are ready. They have a demo reel.

Here is a tip that will save you a lot of money.
Don’t Be Duped Into Spending Money On A VO Demo Reel Too Soon

….. Making a demo reel before you really know the technique is a waste of money and will not get you very far.

Here are the reasons why.
A good demo producer can make you sound good. They can cut errors, make the reel move along at the right pace, cut out pauses and extra breaths and put the right music behind a spot. However, you will not be able to live up to who you are on the demo.

You Are Ready To Do Voice-Overs when:

  1. You know who you are VO-wise; Know your brand.
  2. You know how to analyze copy and what the branding of the product is asking of your voice.
  3. Know how to direct yourself.
  4. Know how to take direction.

Casting Directors and agents are looking for new voices. Put yourself out there when you are really ready.  When you feel like you are ready check out www.voiceprintwest.com

Terry Berland
www.berlandcasting.com