"I need a voiceover artist for my corporate project. This client is important to me but I have no idea how to direct a voiceover in the session! I know what I want in my head, but how do I direct them to get the performance I need?"
A common issue facing you in an increasingly content oriented world. Read on for the 10 best ways to get the most out of your voiceover so that your client raves about your work and tells everyone else!
1. Emotion. Though they are only words on a page, they are a lived experience. All acting has it's root in an emotional journey. Emotion is energy in motion: e-motion. So a piece of text must take the audience on a journey. Events are only remembered when connected to an emotional experience. So if you ultimately want the brand to linger long after the content has played making for a happy client, make sure you communicate what emotional journey this piece of copy is taking the audience on. Once the voiceover knows that everything else tends to fall into place. Sending the musical track underlying the project can help to get the voiceover artist in the right feeling place to deliver the lines perfectly. Consider also giving some verbs as yardsticks for the delivery: the aim of the piece is to excite, cheer, embolden, energise etc.
2. Smile More. Depending on the aim of the piece, ask your voiceover to smile more. WHY? So long as the feeling is genuine, people like and trust people who radiate warmth and fun. This can be heard in the voice too. There is a marked difference between delivering a read with and without a smile. Ask the voiceover to continuously smile throughout the delivery. Magic will happen. So long as it fits with the overall objective of the copy.
3. Wolverine. Yes, that's right X-men and women. Why is that in this list? Because it may be a reference point that comes to your mind after the client call for how they and you want the voiceover to be recorded in order to satisfy point 1 above. There is nothing new under the sun, so use anything and everything to help the voiceover artist to give the vocal delivery that is in the mind of your client. References can include anything from other content pieces, works of art, characters in animation, gaming or film and TV. What other forms of art best evoke the mood that we are all trying to create together? That will then infuse itself into the subconscious of the voiceover artist, whose vocal folds and voice will then create. What a magical process! Think of all the inspirations for the 14 different characters in the gaming reel below:
4. Final Copy ASAP. Sometimes clients can take time to get their ideas together. As soon as humanly possible, get the final signed off copy to the artist. More time in preparation makes for a faster and more effective voiceover session as everyone is on the same page working from the same script. It will also save you money! How? It will cut down the cost of revisions to the project after the voiceover session. Every time copy is tweaked after the recording there are re-record costs associated as the voiceover needs to book another session in their booth. This is good for you, good for the bottom line, and great for the client.
5. Remote Direction. Unless you have a long-standing relationship with your artist and trust them to deliver every time (in which case you can have 1 minute all to yourself right now while everyone reads the rest) make sure your artist can enable remote direction. What does this mean? The rapid pace of technology has enabled the set up of broadcast quality studio's for next to nothing. This means that from the comfort of your office or home, you can listen in to the voiceover artist's studio and direct them in the session, usually at no cost to you. Some of the main players in this space: Source Connect, Skype, ipDTL, BodagoCall. Most voiceovers know them and use them regularly. The price of not working this way: more time and energy spent back and forth and ultimately more money lost in the voiceover process.
6. Conversational, Peer to Peer. A common request from client’s wanting the end voiceover to sound like a friend talking to another friend. How do I get the voiceover to sound like this? Add some of tip 2 above (smile more) and strategies like getting the VO to imagine talking to their friend or close family member. Tell them to imagine having that person physically in the booth with them. Also get them closer in to the microphone and facing slightly off centre to the left or right. The result is a lot of genuine warmth, spontaneity and ease that comes off in the read without little need to push or make something happen.
7. Shake it up A: Pace. Sometimesavoiceovercanbespeakingveryqucikly. Translation: Sometimes a voiceover artist is speaking too fast for the copy. M a y b e I t I s t o o s l o w. Translation: Maybe they are speaking too slow. What’s the solution? For a few times have the voiceover speak the copy as fast as possible if slowness is an issue, or as slow as possible if speed is an issue. Then get them to do a take again normally. See how that changes the read.
8. Shake it up B: Pitch. Humans tend to grow into a limited pitch range for their voice. When it comes to voicing for commercials, corporates and gaming and animation characters, voiceovers need to get out of set rhythms in everyday life and bring a liveliness to the read that is not just through projection. If this is absent from your read, get the voiceover to say the copy in just the lowest pitch possible, or the highest. Have them then go from low to high and back continuously on the script. Again have them go straight into a read and see what it yields. Wonders!
9. Find the music in it. All copy has a musical signature to it. If the voiceover isn’t finding it, then how can you help them get there? Utilising things like 7 and 8 above, along with pausing, volume and stress and emphasis. The copy then becomes like a musical score, where we have to decide the key sentence words that get stressed, where we pace it up a bit so we can pause and land on the finishing word(s) to bring the message home. It’s an invigorating puzzle to solve!
10. Fun. So important, it has a whole paragraph devoted to it! If it’s not the most fun on a workday during the voiceover session for all concerned then that can creep into the voiceover’s voice (if they let it). How can that fun energy be expanded so the voiceover feels relaxed, at ease and in connection to you, the client and the words they are speaking?
Intend it and you will create that sort of atmosphere. Artists are susceptible to energy, so if you are buzzing and alive with enthusiasm for the project, the copy and how the end project will look it will easily transfer to the voiceover who in turn will make the project shine and make your client love the results.
Paul Mclaughlin © Versatile Voiceovers