When giving a voice over performance or directing a voice over artist the world of screen acting and theatre acting can provide an invaluable framework.
Screen and theatre acting are two sides of the same coin. Just like night and day. Both come from the same place but require different technical skillsets.
The same with voice over. Some voice over copy requires that more intimate screen feel. Where others need that larger theatre presence. Knowing when to employ which can be vital in making sure the copy elevates from words on a page to a lived experience for the listener, who then takes action as a result of the commercial or invests more into the world of the story (audiobooks, gaming, animation).
Screen Acting as Voice over
Acting for the screen requires dialling down the volume, getting intimate and being so connected in a one on one relationship with the camera and ultimately the audience. The actor still needs to be understood but the key principle is to live the rich inner world of the character and the story and let the camera come to them.
In voice over, this is key for the commercial sphere. The parallel is that the voice over is almost crouched around the microphone colluding with the audience. Everything is dialled down, hushed, intimate. Giving too much energy and shouting the words down the microphone do not sell the product or commercial. This is where the “conversational” term gets bandied around so often. It really means an intimate connection with someone, that the microphone just happens to be picking up.
So when that tone is not being created, it is useful to get the voice over to drop the volume, come in closer and think and feel like they are colluding with someone by speaking these words. Some one not some many. This is what the world of commercial voice over needs. Because commercial voice over is the bellwether for most other forms of voice over this will carry into corporate and e-learning as well.
Theatre Acting as Voice over
Theatre requires presence and power. Being able to express and communicate effectively to the back of the stalls as the front. Expanding the energy of the character and story up and out to the hundreds and thousands in the audience. While still being real and truthful rather than “acted” or mechanical. No small feat.
That same energy brought to most forms of commercial voice over would not work. It would go against the overall style and tone required. But for the world of animation, gaming, audiobooks it works very well. And when you have a voice over not being able to hit the mark, one of the best things to do is to suggest that their circle of concentration (something from Stanislavski, a highly regarded actor and teacher) radiates out past the microphone and into the entire building, the street, the suburb. Without peaking on the mic of course. What this does is elevate the actor up to the character and story, rather than bringing both down to their level. Stories with characters require a strong sense of weight and storytelling capabilities. This often means lifting the energy up and out and into the microphone.
So, next time you are in the booth, bringing the world of in person acting to voice over can serve as a useful means to hit the marks, tone and energy required. If you are directing a voice over it can be vital to know, so that you can get the performance you want in order to make the project fly. And, all the better if your voice over is also experienced in screen and theatre acting.
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Paul Mclaughlin © Versatile Voiceovers