5 thoughts on voice over artists

Microphone and cansI recently finished a job that required using a few voice over artists. I remember when I first started working in advertising how cool it must be to actually say that you’re a voice over artist. Imagine dropping that at a dinner party when people ask what you do. Or a world, in my mind at least, where girls suddenly listen harder to what you say when they find out you’re a VO (after all, if  other people pay money just to hear you speak, that voice must be nice to listen to, right?).

Not a lot is ever said about voice over artists. Usually, casting isn’t given enough time and/or consideration.  But I think it’s important. If you don’t agree, simply listen to the great Miller campaign directed by Errol Morris. First, listen to this ad. Then listen to this one, or this one, or this one. In my opinion, the second voice adds so much more to the spots. It helps create a great tone and personality for the brand.

So, here are 5 thoughts on voice overs:

1. Voice over artists should never sound like voice over artists.
Unless you’re doing an ad that takes the piss out of voice over artists, or a trailer for this Summer’s film blockbuster, your VO should never sound like the guy in the video below.

Honestly, in the real world, who talks like that? Except this guy.
Yet, casting for VO talent is hard. Usually, the only useful part on their demo reel is the bit at the start where they say, ‘Hi, my name is ……, and this is my demo reel’. After that, they launch into ‘the big voice’, so it can be hard to get a good grasp on what they really sound like. For that reason, I find actors are generally better than pure VO artists. Actors understand the character or role they’re playing and tend to speak rather than project their voices.

2. Talk the talent through your idea.
Don’t just hand them a script and ask them to step into the booth. Before that, talk them through your idea or script. Give them a bit of context so they can get a feel for the type of read you’re looking for.

3. You can tell early.
I reckon you can tell in the first 4 reads if you’ve cast the right person or not. People either get it or they don’t. Sometimes this isn’t the case and people can get it with a little more time but, generally speaking, they’ll be reasonably close to the mark early on. And that brings me to my next point.

4. Don’t burn the talent out.
Usually, when a voice over is freshest, you’ll get the best from them. The writer knows the way they want it read (the tone, where the emphasis and inclinations lie, the type of character etc). Get that down first. Then feel free to try some other stuff – good talent sometimes add things that can really improve your script.

5. Have a great sound engineer.
A great sound engineer brings so much to the table. They know their stuff, can make useful suggestions and, like good VO talent, make 30 seconds seem much longer when you need it to be.

What about you? What other tips would you offer regarding the use of a voice over artist?

2 responses to “5 thoughts on voice over artists

  1. 6. Give your voicing artist a backstory of the character to be voiced. If you haven’t thought through the brand as a person, then you are likely to get a voice that sounds like Ted Williams

  2. Amen to numbers 2 & 6! Many VO talent can pick up the feel & tone for the character in your head IF you give him an example of the attitude of what you are hearing. Choose from millions of spots or clips on Youtube, or attach an mp3 of a previous spot. Most VO talent WANT direction. Be as specific as possible, but remember… we’re not “that” person. Many times advertisers want a $30k Morgan Freeman or Sam Elliott on a $150 budget. Chances are, you won’t find it.

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