Thursday, October 7, 2010

Talent of the Month: Jim Anglo


"Funny, I think every VO artist can relate to hearing this: 'You should be one of those voice over guys -- you have that soothing radio voice that's easy to listen to ...'" -- Jim Anglo, Professional Voice Actor, on why he got into voice overs

Jim Anglo decided to go into voice acting when he was perusing the classified ads back in August 2009 for something more interesting to do. Like many, he had recently lost his job. This time around, he knew he wanted to jump start career path he was passionate about!

"I knew instantly what I wanted to do and that I really had to commit myself to the VO field," Jim says. "What I liked about Such A Voice was that it was a structured program that brought everything together (marketing, home studio recording & demo production)."

A denizen of Minnesota, Jim joined our voice over classes in Burlington, Vermont, for the Master Program in November, 2009. He liked meeting people from all over, and he noted how interesting it was that so many people from different backgrounds could come together to be part of the VO industry. "Oh yeah," he adds. "Burlington was pretty cool, too. I worked with Brian Thon and Brendan Coyle -- incredible guys!"

One of the things that Jim loves most about working as a Professional Voice Actor is reading and breaking down scripts, a process that took him a while to appreciate. But he's definitely good at it! Jim describes his voice as a "warm business commercial/narration type," and since graduating from the Such A Voice Master Program, his clients have included 3M, GM (The New Chevy Volt Electric Car), PeopleNet, Polycom Communications, and Veolia Environmental Services.

Of one of his more recent voice over jobs, Jim says, "The Chevy Volt spot was a great launching pad and confidence boost for me, something that I was awarded through a P2P site. If you can land one job on a site like Voices.com, it just gets easier!"

Jim's marketing advice for people just getting started in the industry: "Give yourself web presence and add yourself on all P2P sites (which is free). If you can afford a premium membership, great, because it exposes you to many different types of reads. In the beginning you will feel like going after everything, but only audition for the ones that are the right fit for you!"

Congratulations, Jim! Cheers to your success!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Insights from the Mentor Program: Lori Linskey

Meet Lori Linskey: Master Program graduate, Mentor Program student and budding Professional Voice Actor! Here are some excerpts from our conversation ...

Me: How did you hear about the Mentor Program?

Lori: I learned about the Mentor Program through an e-mail that I received from Such A Voice. I knew about the mentor program from reading the Such A Voice Newsletter and the e-mail arrived at the perfect time. I had completed my voice over classes, the Master Program and had received my demos, but felt like I needed more guidance and direction. After learning that I'd receive one-on-one guidance and have that special point of contact for all of my questions, I realized that the Mentor Program was just what I was looking for.

Me: Who did you work with, and what were your expectations going into the program?

Lori: I have been working with Heather Costa, and she is a fabulous mentor. She is incredibly supportive and really focuses our sessions on questions or issues that I am having at that time. As you know, when you are new to the world of voice overs, the hurdles that you face span a very wide gamut - from figuring out technical recording or Pro Tools issues to how you market your skills or bill your first client. My expectations were pretty modest going into the program. I knew that I had a lot of questions and wanted to feel that I had one person to go to for answers. I had started surfing the web for answers to questions, which is not always a good source for reliable information. Knowing that I could have an experienced voice over artist that I could trust for honest answers was a very attractive option for me. I also felt that the structure of monthly sessions would help keep me moving forward to make progress as a voice over artist.

Me: In concrete ways, how has Heather helped you get your voice over business off the ground?

Lori: Heather has helped me focus my expectations and goals, which has been a tremendous help. By becoming more focused, it's been easier to move forward. She has also had very helpful suggestions regarding branding and finding niches that would work for my voice. Heather is able to provide constructive criticism on both technical and performance issues in a manner that is really positive. This feedback has been so important in helping me grow and improve as a voice over artist. Heather has also helped me with billing and invoice questions. I was thrilled to get work, but was having a difficult time figuring out what I should charge the client. Heather also identified some background noise issues that I was having so that I could correct them before they stood in the way of getting new business.

Me: Have you been able to land voice over jobs that you wouldn't have been able to get?

Lori: I had gotten a small job from auditioning on an online voice over site and then had an opportunity to obtain more work from the client. Heather helped me by critiquing the audition and also helped me figure out how to put together a proposal for the second set of recordings. Her assistance was invaluable and helped me appear to be more experienced than I was. We all have to start at the beginning, but I didn't want to appear as new to voice overs as I was to the client.

Me: Any recommendations to people who are getting started in the voice over industry?

Lori: I highly recommend the Mentor Program. Being able to receive one-on-one assistance specifically focused on your own questions and concerns is a priceless resource. Knowing that you can ask any question about any issue that you have and that you will have a friendly encouraging voice with answers on the other end of the phone is a tremendous source of encouragement, particularly at the beginning of a new voice over career.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Technique Tip of the Month: Get Your Hands Out of Your Pockets!

"You can't voice act with your hands in your pockets!" -- Scott Pollak, Voice Over Actor & Coach

Think back to when you just started voice over classes. When you stepped up to the mic, what did you do with your body? Did you look like this guy [
see picture on left]?

Many students who are practicing to become professional voice actors have subconscious mannerisms that actually inhibit their ability to perform. One bad behavior pattern to break early on is putting your hands in your pockets.

When you put your hands in your pockets, it is nearly impossible to get into character. "If you look happy, you sound happy. If you look like your hands are in your pockets, you sound like your hands are in your pockets," says Brendan Coyle, Post Engineer.

Not putting your hands in your pockets is part of a greater lesson to learn to relax when you step behind the mic. As soon as you get your home recording studio put together, make sure to spend all of your practice time in it. The more you practice in front of the mic, the more comfortable you will become.

When you feel comfortable behind the mic, you will look and sound comfortable. Your body gestures will sync up with the character and the voice over job, and you will sound like the professional voice actor you want to be!

Remember: the only time your hands should go in your pockets is when the script calls for it! [See this picture to the left!]

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Marketing Tip of the Month: A Typical Work Week

The punch line is, "There is no typical work week!"

One of the beauties and challenges of doing voice overs is that work tends to ebb and flow depending on the seasons and holidays, as well as your own productivity and networking.

Networking is one aspect of your work week that should be constant, no matter how busy or bored you are. Reaching out to potential contacts and staying in touch with producers and clients is the only way to ensure your plate will be full when big holiday opportunities come along.

So, how far in advance should you prepare for the holidays? Three months is a good rule of thumb for all major events. That means that you should now be checking in with clients who might need your services for winter holiday commercial promotions. By this time next month, you should have your eye on Valentine's Day voiceover work, then Mother's Day, and so on.

If you did not get on the ball soon enough, you can still get ahead by contacting producers and clients for the next major tide of holidays. Be sure to keep a pulse on the timing of holidays or events that fluctuate from year to year, like Sweeps, which is typically in March.

When you start to get the hang of the yearly work flow, you will be able to plan ahead to dry spells more accurately. For example, January and February tend to be relatively slow periods for national commercial spots. Being able to predict a slower work flow will let you be more responsible with your voiceover business planning, as well as help you relax when you do not have a lot of work to do!

Preparing for a light load of national commercial spots does not necessarily mean you will not be working much. Take advantage of the down time by concentrating on networking within your local community. Local companies do not need to plan ahead three months in advance. Balancing your efforts and planning ahead is how you will stay as busy as you want to be!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Editing in Pro Tools!


Once you have laid down your voice track, it’s time to listen back and do some editing.

This idea may feel daunting, but relax! Editing in Pro Tools is somewhat foolproof because Pro Tools uses non-destructive editing. This means that no matter how much editing you’ve done, your entire original recorded file always remains intact. Any edits that you perform only cause Pro Tools to reference your original recording file in a different way. Take a look at the way Pro Tools sets up your session by opening up your session folder wherever you saved it on your computer to view, and you should see a number of folders.

... Go here for the full article on editing in Pro Tools!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pro Tools 101

If this manual looks familiar to you, then you either took voiceover classes with Such A Voice or caught my guest blog post on Taji's Voice Emporium a few months back. If this is the first time you're seeing this manual, I hope you find it useful!

For more information on our live Pro Tools Workshops with Recording Engineer & Post Production extraordinaire Aaron Sullivan, click here!

Stay tuned for an expanded list of dates & locations for 2011 -- coming soon!

Getting started as a professional voice-over artist is thrilling and confusing at the same time. All of a sudden you have to become a pro at voice-over technique, a marketing expert, and a tech-savvy Pro Tools guru. I trust that you got your professional voice-over training, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of social media marketing tips to help you get started. Pro Tools LE takes a bit more time to get used to, so here are some beginner tips to help you figure out the rest.

The Hardware

We’ll start off by looking at your Mbox. There are many different variations of the Mbox, which is the hardware required to operate Pro Tools. Most of them connect to your computer via USB, but some also connect via firewire. Your Mbox must be hooked up to your computer in order to operate Pro Tools.

Make sure that your mic is connected (with your XLR cable) to mic “input 1” on the back of your Mbox. Check your microphone instructions to determine if your mic requires phantom power. Phantom power means that your mic will need to be provided with power through the mbox. If your mic does require phantom power, you’ll need to click the button on the Mbox labeled “48v” in order to power your mic. If you’re still not sure if your mic needs phantom power or not, this can be determined when you’re setting up to do your first sound check.

Your headphones should also be connected to the headphone output. If you would like to use speakers instead of headphones, you may do so by running 1/4″ stereo cables from the “Mon Out” (Monitor Outputs) on the back of your Mbox. Visit Radioshack or your local music store in order to find cables that can run from the Mbox into the speakers of your choice.

What Settings to Use for Your New Session

1. After installing Pro Tools LE on your computer, open the program by clicking on the icon:

2. The Quick Start Box will pop up. Get started by selecting New Session from the File drop-down menu at the top of your screen. You are shown a screen that allows you to set some parameters for your session, which can be confusing. Under “Audio File Type” it is best to select a wave file because it is a high-quality setting, and it is both Mac and PC friendly.

Bit Depth is a measure of the quality of the recording you are about to make. A 16 bit is CD quality, whereas the 24 bit gives you a little bit better recording but takes up twice the space. The 16 bit is the way to go because you don’t want to make a client spend too much time downloading your file in order to hear your audition or demo.

Under I/O Settings select stereo mix if this is your first time using Pro Tools. After you use Pro Tools a few times, it will automatically remember this setting as last used. Click OK and save the session somewhere on your computer.

3. A blank session opens, and you can see your Edit window, your Mix window, and your Playback Transport.


The Edit Window is the large window on the left hand side of the screen.

Your Mix Window is the tall window on the right hand side of the screen.

The Transport is the playback controls on the bottom of the screen.

4. The first thing to do now is to create an Audio Track. To do that, go up to the File menu “Track” and select New. On the menu that pops up, select 1 — mono — audio track — samples, which is the standard format to make a track. Click Create.

5. Once you have created your mono audio track, this is what your screen should look like:

(Note: the edit window on the left side of the screen and the mix window on the right side of the screen now show your mono audio track.)

A tip to make the audio easy to follow and edit is to click on the ruler bar on the left hand, vertical side of the track, and select jumbo size.

6. Label your audio tracks to help keep your sessions organized by double-clicking on the white area of the edit window that says “Audio 1” and type “Voice” (or whatever your project name and date is).

7. You are now able to set up to record your track. Under “Audio 1″ (or the new title that you gave it) on the left side of the screen, click on the Track Record Enable button, which will start to flash red after you click it.

8. Click the Record Button (the button with the small red dot) on the transport in order to record-enable the transport.

The button should now be flashing red.

Note: You are record-enabling in two locations because there are often multiple tracks recording at the same time in Pro Tools. The program is designed for complex music recording sessions, and the system needs to know what track(s) you are recording onto.

9. On the track in the mix window, double check to make sure that the input is set to “In 1” (where your mic is plugged in to the Mbox). The output should also always be set to “Out 1-2”, which routes a stereo signal to the outputs of the Mbox. “In 1” and “Out 1-2” tend to be the default settings, but it’s good to be aware of this in case those settings happen to change for any reason.

10. Now are you able to do a sound check. Adjust the audio level on your M-Box and gauge the level of the audio on your Pro Tools screen by looking at the green, yellow, or red line that spikes when you speak into your microphone. Check the sound by reading the copy that you are about to record, and make sure to speak into the mic at the same distance and volume that you will when you record. Ideally, you want your audio to check in about three-quarters of the way up. If you are “red lining,” then you need to back off a bit.

11. Become familiar with the basic tools that you’ll be using in Pro Tools. You’ll find them at the top of the edit window, and when you scroll your mouse over them, they will be defined for you.

From left to right you’ll find the Zoomer, Trim, Selector, Grabber, Scrub, and Pencil tools. I recommend that you stick with the Trim, Selector, and Grabber tools for now.

With the Selector tool highlighted, click inside the track somewhere near the 5-second mark. This will be where your recording will begin.

12. Optional Step: The Pre-Roll

Because you will most likely be both the recording engineer and the voice-over talent, some people find it helpful to have a little bit of extra time to prepare to switch from recording engineer to voice talent.

Pre-Roll means that Pro Tools will roll or play a specified amount of time before it actually starts recording. To activate your Pre Roll, click on the button on the transport labeled Pre-Roll. The button will become white, which means that Pre-Roll is active. Then, select the length of your pre-roll. The time count shown is minutes: seconds: milliseconds. Next, click on the seconds, and type in how many seconds of Pre-Roll time you would like. Finally, hit enter or return on your keyboard so that the new Pre-Roll time registers.

I entered a 3-second pre-roll, so that Pro Tools will roll for 3 seconds before where my cursor is placed (5.294 seconds) when I start my actual recording. It will not begin recording any audio until it reaches my cursor.

13. Now that you have your track and mic level set up, you are ready to record! Either tap the space bar on your keyboard or click play on the Playback Transport to start recording, and then tap the space bar or click stop to stop recording. When you play back the recording, turn on your speakers, and turn off your microphone so that you don’t get feedback.

Note: You’re rarely going to be happy with your first take. But the good news is that editing in Pro Tools is fairly easy to do!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Voice Over Mum

While many argue that pursuing voice over work is a full-time job in itself, it's high time we heard from real people who successfully tackle the full-time job of being a mother, a father, or full-time professional in addition to being a busy voice actor.

Natalie Donegan is one such busy voice talent and active mum who was happy to share a snippet of her life with us.

My desk is covered in sticky-notes and lists, for which I am very grateful and without which I would be lost! I am first, and foremost, a mother of an energetic toddler, but I am also a Voice Over Talent who decided to start my own home business when my daughter was one year old.

This may seem an odd time to choose to get into the industry and start a business, but for me it was perfect and came down to two words. Nap-time!

Before I became a mother I worked for over ten years in advertising; long hours, targets, deadlines, pressure etc. I went from this to being a stay-at-home Mum, a whole new type of pressure! Thankfully my daughter naps very well, every day like clock-work, and I had time on my hands every day during this period and when she went to bed at night.

I needed something to fill that time and I needed a challenge for my brain. I had the opportunity to try something that I had always wanted to do, but;
1. I had never had the time to dedicate to it; and,
2. I previously had to rely on a steady day job to receive a pay-check.

I had my plan in place, if it failed, nothing would be lost except for the price of recording my demos and the equipment I bought, which could be re-sold if necessary. It has been one of the best things I have ever chosen to attempt and has been a huge success.... but it takes a LOT of organization!

When I started out in the business I had zero client base and there weren't enough auditions available to keep me busy all day every day, so a number of hours each day was perfect. Now, as time has moved on and my client base has grown, things have had to change slightly.

I start each day before my daughter gets up with checking last nights e-mails, due to the market being international you have to think about the time zones -- for example, yesterday I received an urgent message from India and had to act quickly, as I knew even though it was the early morning for me, their office would be closing in one hour.

I update my social networks, which are all linked so it's only necessary to make one update (Twitter, Linked In, Facebook etc), and I check to see if any of the voice over jobs on the voice networks don't require a personal audition that can be applied to immediately. If any jobs require a personal audition to be recorded, scripts are printed off and are ready for my recording time later in the day. I check back on my e-mails as America arrives at work, 7am - 9am, for any urgent requests and I keep my e-mail logged on all morning with the volume set to the highest, so I can hear if any messages arrive.

On days when I have a lot of recordings I have to plan my days from start to finish. I may be busy with my voice work, but things still need to be taken care of, as to the rest of the family I am Mum, Wife, military spouse, cook, cleaner, grocery shopper, laundry-mat, etc. Food can be an issue, but this is alleviated by planning meals for the week or even using the trusty crock-pot. On days when recordings take longer than nap-times, recording time carries on after family time, but I make sure that once my daughter is in bed my husband and I have a little us-time before I go to work.

My husband is very understanding, and as a student he has plenty of books that he can pop his nose into when I need quiet time into the evenings to record. It is always good to have a back-up plan in place should the larger recording projects arrive. My back-up plans are my friends and relatives, where I know that my daughter can go and have fun when I need extra time to work. Or the weekends, as a stay-at-home Mum there are no weekends really as Monday - Sunday merge and your daily tasks don't change just because the day starts with an 'S'.

I try to take the weekends off from searching for new job opportunities and any of my marketing, but if I have to record, my husband takes our daughter out for the day, she loves it when I have to record as it means she get's some one-on-one Daddy time -- normally meaning a trip to the zoo or Chucky Cheese!

So, the long and short of it is that if you want to balance bringing up a toddler at the same time as starting in this business, you can do it! Your house won't be spotless, television will never be watched, you will be on the go constantly and your days will not be the same as any of your other stay-at-home Mum friends ... but you can do it and keep your family happy at the same time. Just buy a BIG wad of sticky notes and start planning!

Visit Natalie Donegan's website at: www.britishvoiceovertalent.com

Are you another voice actor who wears many hats? Share with us how you manage to balance your time and your energies!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Insights from the Mentor Program: Tennyson Williams

"I have landed more voice over jobs since I began my mentoring with Heather, and I am fully confident that I am on track to continue landing more!" -- Tennyson Williams, student of the Mentor Program

Tennyson Williams first heard about the Mentor Program from our Scheduling Director, Bethany Craig. At the time, Tennyson was interested in getting one-on-one quality time with a professional voice actor who could examine his approach to launching his professional voice over career.

Other than voiceover technique, Heather and Tennyson examined his website, demos, business cards and general forms of branding. With feedback, Tennyson was able to get a better handle on how to employ direct marketing strategies, including who to call and what to say.

Tennyson says:

"Heather is a very dynamic voiceover professional! She has a very positive attitude and provides me with superb encouragement. She began by asking a series of tough questions about my expectations, personal resources, goals and objectives. Her questions caused me to sit down alone and perform important introspection and gut checks. After answering her questions, Heather offered tablespoonfulls of reality about the industry -- like, how much money can be made in what period of time -- very important. I've successfully incorporated many of Heather's suggestions into my branding and audition techniques."

Furthermore, Tennyson said he would recommend the Mentor Program to other new voice actors because:

"It's a great big competitive world out there in the voiceover biz. This is both a positive and negative. Positive because the opportunities are virtually endless (commercials, narrations, voicemail, e-learning, etc). Negative because one can become lost and disillusioned in the vastness without some navigational support from an industry expert like those working at SAV. Anyone aspiring to reach peak performance should seek the help and support of others who have traveled the roads and know the terrain.

"If coaching and mentoring is good for professional athletes, performers, even company CEOs, then it follows that coaching and mentoring can be good for those in voice over work as well."

Thanks, Tennyson!

You can check out Tennyson's website and demos at: www.voiceoftennyson.com

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Talent of the Month: Shobha Srinivasan

"I've been able to successfully market myself as a 'global' voice using an accent that is neither American or British." -- Shobha Srinivasan, Talent of the Month

Shobha first found out about Such A Voice by attending one of our introductory classes with Heather Costa out in California. Afterward, she signed up for more training and recorded her demos with Such A Voice a few months later.

Her proclivity for voice acting is hardly a surprise. To say she participated in radio and theater in India is an understatement -- Shobha was actually the first English language anchor on Calcutta TV before she got a scholarship to come study in the United States. Although she didn't pursue voice over jobs then, she continued to act in college, and immediately put her voice to work for in-house videos at the non-profit where she worked as Director of Development.

Shobha has successfully landed voice over work around the world for a range of humanitarian projects because her voice is distinctly elegant without belying a specific nationality. She has provided the voice over for a UNICEF sponsored project for Kerala Tourism in India, as well as other social documentaries for award winning directors, online recipe books, health manuals and a documentary on yoga.

Already enjoying a successful career as a voice actor, Shobha is looking forward to recording a children's poetry book -- and all of them are her original poems!

Shobha's advice for new voice talent? She says, "Be persistent and respond regularly when you see gigs that might be right for your voice!"

Congratulations, Shobha, and we look forward to hearing more of you!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Technique Tip of the Month: Fake It Till You Make It?

If you're a new to voice overs, this may not have happened to you yet. But it will!

At some point, you may get called in to read a script by a repeat client who you
think you know. You will walk in anticipating a script on a familiar subject matter only to be blown away by a left field commercial -- one that might not jive with your personal views.

What do you do when you're asked to voice a part you aren't comfortable reading for moral reasons?

Knowing how to handle the voice jobs you don't feel good about reading will help you deliver the goods. Handling the situation gracefully will prevent you from burning bridges, and your clients will respect your professionalism in the long run.

Take it from Mel Allen, who was once hired by a company to voice a "feel good" piece about their commitment to the environment. He says:

"
I knew they had recently been fined by the EPA for illegal dumping, and I was handed the script in the studio. It was a two-minute narration piece that I wasn't comfortable reading, but I didn't feel like I could back out. At that point, I had to weigh which was more important -- my word that I would do the job (even though I hadn't seen the script beforehand) or my moral disagreement with the piece."

What did he do? "
I completed the project for them, but after I completed the project I informed the producer that I wouldn't be comfortable doing a piece like that in the future."

The producer admitted they were not comfortable with the script either, and they respected his honesty. Because of the way he handled the situation, Mel actually got
more work from them in the future -- work he felt comfortable voicing, that is.

Furthermore, Mel says, "
I learned from this experience, and since then I have never given full commitment to a project without seeing the script first."

If you have this similar experience, try getting into character first. Become the person who would voice this script with conviction, even if it's hard. There are hundreds of voice talent who will never become voice
actors. Figuring out which describes you will only come in time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Marketing Tip of the Month: Optimize Your Sick Days!

For voice actors, getting sick is a particular inconvenience. Working freelance has many perks, but paid sick leave sure isn't one of them!

As tempting as it is to work through your flu-like symptoms, complete a big project for that important client, and tell yourself that you can edit out the stuffy nose sound in post -- your efforts are better spent on other areas of your voice over business!

Let's get that first part out of the way. If -- no,
when you get sick, do yourself a favor and simply let your clients know that you are unable to complete the project by the agreed upon deadline. Giving your clients as much notice as possible will let them decide whether to hire someone else for the voice job or extend the deadline. Sure, it's a bummer to pass up a gig, but you should never send your clients less than your best.

Don't despair! Sick days needn't be wasted on your couch when there are so many creative things to do in your studio. Suggestions from our Facebook page:
  • Mix and match existing files.
  • Re-record famous opening narrations for TV shows (i.e., "Space ... the final frontier ... ")
  • Record a newscast for a fictional TV station.
  • Write zany voice overs for real or fake products.
  • Marketing!
It's nearly impossible to stay on top of all the trends in the voice over industry. Use your sick time to catch up on social media posts/tweets/blogs/comments, make sure your website is up-to-date with a list of project you are most proud of, work on your newsletters, check out new products for your studio (even if you can't afford them!), and check out what your fellow voice talent are up to.

Even if your vocal abilities are temporarily impaired, your ability to organize isn't! Clean out old files, tidy your in-box, and balance your work account.

If you're really under the weather, then surrendering to your jammies and daytime TV for a day or two won't hurt you either.

Other recommendations? How do you voice actors make the most of a sick day?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Advice Worth Not Following



When you do a basic internet search for training techniques for
voice overs, you will find a slew of recommendations to deepen your voice, raise your voice, sustain your voice, or change the character of your voice altogether. If you are new to voice acting, it's natural to follow the advice of the voiceover sages who have made it big in the industry.


While the pros have great pearls of wisdom to bestow on us all, don't forsake your common sense to enhance your voice and your career! Not all advice out there is worth following, and many pieces of advice can actually hurt you.

Although I can't give you a complete list of advice that's safe to follow, I can give you some pointers of what not to do:

  • Drink whiskey and smoke. Duh, right? Maybe not. DJs used to be [and probably still are in many places] advised to drink and smoke on the job to give their voices resonance. The effects of smoking and drinking help them gain resonance, but they lose their range of pitch at the same time. What most people don't know is that this process happens naturally as you get older. Meaning, the person who drinks and smokes frequently loses the "young sound" so that they get the "old sound" when they're young, and when they are older they have no sound.
  • Drink a shot of alcohol to calm your nerves. During the hours before you record, you shouldn't be drinking anything other than water for your vocal cords' sake. If you are actually doing a live recording session with the client, it's definitely a bad idea to drink before you meet them. Even if that one drink let's you relax enough to get a couple good takes, it looks (and smells) unprofessional. You might get through the recording session without a hiccup, but the client will likely call another voice talent for future gigs. Forget about the mouthwash -- instead, invest in yoga classes or a stress ball.
  • Vocal cord surgery. This one baffles me. There must have been successful operations in the past, otherwise no one would even think about it ... The bottom line is vocal cord surgery is likely to be expensive, and there is no guarantee what your voice will sound like post-op. If you are unhappy with the quality of your voice and want to work in a different niche, consider taking voice over training classes to enhance your technique. Especially because more and more clients are opting for voice actors with good natural speaking voices to market their products, there's simply no reason to mess with what you were born with.
  • "Test" your range to the breaking point. Finding your vocal cords' breaking point will just break your voice! If you aren't able to comfortably work in a low or high range, that means you probably shouldn't be doing it. Stressing your vocal cords won't round out your voice, but it will change the sound of your voice. And you probably won't be happy with the result.

Voiceover techniques that are safe shouldn't make you feel uncomfortable or strain your physical abilities. Trust your common sense, and when you hear something that is too good to be true -- like drinking margaritas will help you get tons of voice jobs -- then it's probably not true! There's no quick fix in this industry, and there's no substitute for hard work.

Have you heard other bogus recommendations? Post them hear so we know not to follow them!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Are Voice-Overs Right for You?

Every now and then I like put out a gentle reminder that working in the voice-over industry isn't always as glamorous as it sounds from the outside. It's certainly not for everyone -- no matter of how good your natural speaking voice is!

Certainly no job is
always perfect all the time, even your dream job. Voice acting, like other professions in the entertainment industry, often requires long hours for not a lot of money or recognition.

If you are considering getting into voice overs, ask yourself what your motivation is. Answer these questions:

1.
Are you willing to work more than a 9am - 5pm job? If not, you might have a hard time as a full time voice actor! Some of the most talented and successful voice actors I know are up before dawn and can often be found recording work for clients well into the night. Sure, there are breaks throughout the day, but you should expect periods of feast and famine.

2.
Have you been passionate about voice acting for a long time? Even before you knew what a voice actor was, did you pay attention to how a good orator speaks? Did you tend to analyze how something should be read aloud, even if it's an excerpt from a book, the back of a cereal box, or a newspaper article? I like the wisdom, "The key to life is finding something you love doing, and then finding a way to get paid for it." Essentially, if you weren't paid to do it, would you still want to do it?

3.
Do you require a lot of face-to-face interaction throughout the day? The life of a voice talent can be a lonely one at times! We joke that voice actors are most comfortable in a padded cell, but there is truth behind that. Unlike working in an office setting, you are often only interfacing with clients via phone or email. A funny student of ours once told me, "I don't mind it at all -- I've got all my character voices to keep me company!"

4.
If you can't take a risk. Voice acting takes training, just like "regular" acting! Investing in voice over training is a prudent decision if you are pursuing a professional career as a voice actor. If you aren't willing or able to take both the financial and career risk, then consider a back up plan. The market for voice jobs is ever growing, so don't let me discourage you. Just remember to treat voice acting with as much respect as any new career -- it takes time to build it up!

Do any of you voice actors have other questions you would ask an aspiring talent before choosing this career? Post your nuggets of wisdom here!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to VO School?

You know summer is starting to wind down when everywhere you look you see "Back to School" sales and fall fashion trends.

As a voice talent with a family, the end of summer might mean you can take on a busier workload when the kids go back to school. If you aren't yet a professional voice actor but would like to become one, the end of summer might get you thinking about which voice-over training program is right for you.

If voice acting is a whole new career for you, whether you intend on working part- or full-time, there are several things to think about when you go shopping for a program.

1. How much coaching will you get?
Figure out how much individual and group coaching you will get right off the bat. While many people think they only want private voice coaching, don't dismiss the value of group coaching. Working with a group of people on your level will give you the chance to see yourself through your own eyes. It is likely that you will make the same mistakes as most people early on, and group coaching is the perfect way to learn more quickly by other people's mistakes.

2. How will you get this coaching?
Some programs offer coaching over the phone, and you might be lucky enough to find a private coach in your area who will only meet with you one-on-one. Again, if you opt for only private lessons, you're actually missing many benefits of training with a cohort. For the most part, your initial training sessions will be over the phone or Skype. Coaching over the phone, especially in the beginning, is a convenient way for you to work with some of the best coaches in the country who may not live in your area. While it is in your best interest to choose a program that will give you in-person coaching before your demo, there are tons of technique tips that you can learn over the phone.

3. What will you get in the end?
If you are going to make the financial investment to get professional voice training for your new career, make sure that you and your coach are clear from the beginning what you will get -- and at what price. I recently talked to a student who came from another program who had spent thousands of dollars on different workshops she was told she needed. It was only when she told the company she was taking her business elsewhere that they said she was finally ready to record her demo! (At an added cost, of course.)

You definitely don't want to get side-lined by hidden costs or tricky salespeople when it comes to your investment in your education. The best training programs out there will only record your demo when you're ready -- and not make you pay extra!

4. Who is recording your demo?
Leave it to the engineers! While voice actors record and edit their own material for voice jobs all the time, it doesn't mean they know how to choose your scripts, arrange the voice overs on your demos so that your versatility shines, and then pick contemporary background music to match. Engineers spend many years in school for a reason -- trust them! There's nothing more embarrassing than not being able to give an interested client your professional demos.

5. What about the other stuff?
When you shop around for a voice-over training program, do you think you only need technique training to succeed? Most students don't realize until they finish the training program that they're not sure where to start! For example, setting up a home recording studio is riddled with challenges that require creative solutions, and hopefully you invested in a training program that has a lifetime support policy.

What about marketing? Unless you have experience setting up, marketing and running a small business yourself, which isn't many of us, you'll need guidance.

Signing up for a voice-over training program is like going back to school! Making a career change shouldn't be taken lightly, and you should expect to put in long hours, get frustrated, and want to quit at times. It will make you feel that much better when you start getting the voice jobs and you realize you're making it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Talent of the Month: Jesus Ivan Blanco (JB)

This month's Talent of the Month recipient goes to JB for his success in carving out his niche(s) in both English and Spanish voice-overs!

Jesus Ivan Blanco, or JB for short, stumbled into voice overs almost by accident! Ever since he was a teenager, JB liked voicing commercials and doing narrations for friends and family.

The first time he realized that he had a shot at a professional voice-over career was when he visited a friend in North Carolina and ended up participating in a show! When people around him started saying, "Wow, listen to that voice. Who is that guy?" JB just smiled to himself and decided he would go for it and get voiceover lessons.

JB came to us for his voice over training because, "I knew that I needed to work with people who know what they're doing. At Such A Voice, I got good hands-on training that helped me become successful in my career."

It wasn't hard for JB to get started either. Having done
radio voice jobs for Venezuela and Costa Rica, as well as commercial spots for companies in Panama and Argentina, his resume already spoke volumes when he started his formal training at Such A Voice. Now, JB does the voiceovers for a show called Real Women Have Curves.

What does JB love about being a voice talent? "I love the flexibility of the job," JB says. "I am my own boss, and I can spend more time with my family this way. -- Plus, this is definitely not a boring profession!"

JB explains, "The market for Spanish voice overs is so big right now. I get regular work from all over Florida [not just Miami], California, and all of Latin America!" He adds, "Sometimes, I'm actually too busy!"

JB is an even more special Talent of the Month because he is joining the Such A Voice team to teach intro classes in English and in SPANISH! Ole! Stay tuned for more information on the new Such A Voice En Espanol classes -- coming this fall!


Check out JB's demos here!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Technique Tip of the Month: What's the [Back] Story, Morning Glory?

When working with a short commercial script or even reading a long narration piece, you don't have time as a voice talent to "develop" the character as you go along. Part of your pre-recording practice involves breaking down the script to figure out things, like: Who is your character? What is the point of the script? Who is the demographic you're trying to reach?

Whether you ascribe to method acting or not when it comes to voice overs, asking yourself what was going on the moment before the script begins can be a valuable tool to helping you get into character. Short scripts usually fall into two camps:

1) The character is easy to relate to and the problem or situation tends to be boiler-plate. If these voice jobs are your niche, you usually know what to do with it.

2) The script is so short or vague that you're not sure what to do with it! Sometimes copywriters don't flesh out their vision as well as they think do, and you're left wondering what they're looking for.

In the second scenario, imagining a back story can help you get into character and sound more natural.

Figure out where the script takes place, what your character was doing right before the script picks up, and who he/she is talking to.
Pick a scenario and commit to it. Then match your pitch, attitude, volume and energy to fit that situation. Your performance will probably become very natural after that.

Keep in mind that when you play it back, you may find your interpretation didn't actually make sense at all. That's OK! Tweak the back story and your character, but make sure to be specific with your interpretation. If you don't commit to a firm story or character, it will never sound quite right.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Insights from the Pro Tools Workshop!

This month we are showcasing our new Pro Tools Workshop that we started a couple of months ago, not knowing it would be so popular! In our efforts to provide our students with the three things they need to succeed in the voice-over industry (voice-over training, marketing skills, and the recording & editing chops), we scheduled Pro Tools Workshops all over the country to give students hours of hands-on learning with one of our best engineers from the Post Production department, Aaron Sullivan.

Faith Cripps, a student from our Boston workshop, says, "I found out about the Pro Tools Workshop in an email, and because it was being held through Such A Voice I knew they would teach me just the information I need to know about recording and editing voice overs -- and not a bunch of other information that I wouldn't care about or use."

Students are encouraged to bring their computers and gear to the Pro Tools Workshops in order to get hands-on experience through the entire weekend. For the first two hours, Aaron leads the whole group through a general tutorial on Pro Tools that covers the basics of recording, editing, mixing and bouncing voice jobs.

"Aaron was extremely knowledgeable and taught the class in language we could understand," Faith says. "He was open to any and all questions and was able to answer them without making me or anyone else feel like it was a stupid question."

After the general session, the class breaks up and Aaron works intensively with small groups of three or four students. Students learn to use Pro Tools effectively on their own equipment, learning by doing the recording and editing, as well as by observing while other voice talent.

"The best part of the whole thing was Aaron made it seem simple!" Faith says. "Prior to taking the workshop, I was so frustrated because I seemed to always run into some kind of problem while trying to learn Pro Tools on my own ... The skills I learned in that class are what make it possible for me to use my home studio. Prior to the class I had the equipment but didn't know how to use it. Now I can use my home studio to produce my own work and get it to the client. Things feel possible for me now and that is exciting!"

We suspect that Faith isn't the only voice-over artist who struggles with the technical component of being a professional voice actor! If you think you could benefit from the Pro Tools Workshops, please click here to find a city near you. Also, stay tuned for more dates and locations in the coming months!

Thanks for the feedback, Faith, and we look forward to hearing your work soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Marketing Tip of the Month: VO Meet-Ups!

A large aspect of marketing yourself as a voice actor involves networking. Networking not only with potential clients, but also with fellow voice actors. Forming and maintaining relationships with other voice-over artists is important for both your career and for your sanity!

One of the few drawbacks of doing voice over full time is that you get used to spending time alone. Lots and lots of time in a small, padded cell -- er, room.

Meeting with other voice actors will give you the opportunity to learn and grow from another person's experiences, ask for advice, and hopefully get honest feedback on your voice-over technique. In the right setting, a casual group could be the most affordable voice over training out there!

One such voice over group is the Orange County VO Peeps Meet-Up, which started out as a small group of classmates from a local voice over workshop. Anne Ganguzza organizes the group that meets bi-monthly, and it's as informal as a potluck with a group of friends with a common interest.

"Our group welcomes all talents, from beginners to advanced professionals in the industry," says Anne Ganguzza. "We strive to educate, motivate, and inspire -- hopefully helping members achieve their career goals and go out and get as many voice over jobs as possible!"

So far, the group of 23 members of varying backgrounds and levels of experience bring a dish to share, and they take turns reading copy and giving each other feedback as if the script were an actual voice over job. They even featured a special guest, Tim Keenan from Creative Media Recording to give them tips on reading corporate narration copy.

The group has set topics to talk about in the up-coming months as well. On the agenda is everything from marketing to finances, editing auditions to bidding, and writing business plans to working with VO agents.

One member, Eila Ulyett says of the group, "As a newcomer to the group and having attended just one event, I have to say how much it helped to encourage and motivate me. As we all work independently and alone in our recording worlds, it's great to have a group of like minded people who understand the problems we face as we build our vo careers. Without doubt Anne's enthusiasm and professionalism is motivational in itself."

While Meet-Up groups can be great for voice-over artists, they aren't a substitute for traditional voice-over training. Meet-Up groups tend to lend wonderful follow-up support and guidance, as the group can certainly become greater than the sum of the parts!

If you are living in Orange County, CA and would like to check out the group, please contact Anne at: info@annespeak.com

**Special thanks to Anne and all the fabulous VO members who contributed comments and testimonials!**

G4QXRVAFPWZU

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Watermarking Your VO Auditions

Today's blog post is inspired by a great question that was posted on Such A Voice's Facebook page about watermarking auditions that you post on directories such as Voices.com and Voice123.com.

A watermark in the audio world refers to a second audio file that is laid over the voice over to protect it from being used by a naughty client who wants to use your talent without paying for it. An example of a watermark for a commercial you audition for might just be a ding every few seconds that doesn't obscure the quality of your sound but would prevent the client from using the whole script without you knowing it. Another common method would be to insert, "This is just a demo by Jane Smith," after 15-20 seconds of a full script audition.

Although watermarking can protect your voice over jobs, it's not advisable to watermark every audition. Especially if you are working with a well-known client or someone you have worked with in the past, watermarking an audition could be interpreted by the client that you are distrustful of them. They might pass up your great audition that was watermarked because, "What, did he think I was really going to use his voice over without paying for it?"

The risk of having a dishonest client rip off your work (and hard-earned voice-over training!) often doesn't out-weigh the risk of offending a potential client. Good working relationships are vital to your success in this industry.

So, when is it a good idea to watermark your work?

It depends. As a professional voice-over artist, it is up to you to use your own good judgment. Instances that you might consider watermarking your audition could include:
  • An over-seas client you aren't familiar with;
  • A new client you haven't heard of who would like the entire script read for the audition; or,
  • An "unknown" client or project that was posted through a questionable venue. (I love craigslist.com, but anyone can post jobs there with any goal in mind.)
One good thing about the highly globalized world we live in today is that it's easy to network with voice-over artists all over the world. If a client treats you badly, you have the option to let the world know through social media. If someone is trying to scam you, it's also easy to get that information out there to protect future victims. (Ref., the Sleazy Sneeze Guy.)

What's your take on watermarking your auditions? Post them here for discussion!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

5 Habits of Highly Successful VO Actors

If someone doesn't succeed in the voice-over industry, chances are the person neglected one of the three legs of the stool that a successful voiceover artist relies on:
voice-over training, marketing, technical ability. If one of those three legs is shorter -- or non-existent, the stool will topple, taking the would-be voice talent with it.

There are, however, common habits and attitudes that professional voice talents share. See if this sounds like you --or if it sounds like your voice-over career could benefit from doing these:

1.
Never stop learning. Successful voice-over artists are constantly working on their technique through auditioning for voice over jobs, spending hours practicing, reading a book or blog, or taking a lesson. Embrace new technology, and stay on top of marketing trends.

2.
Never settle for mediocrity. A job is not done until it's perfect, even if it is late and you want to get to bed! Professionals aim for perfection in each recording, editing session, and communication they have with clients. If the client isn't thrilled with your voice-over job, then neither should you be.

3.
Always be fair with pricing. It is fair to expect the industry standard payment from a client for a given project, but don't take advantage of the client either. Be reasonable with late payment fees on the rare occasion that a client doesn't pay for your voice-over work in a timely fashion.

4.
Maintain sincere relationships with clients. The problem with a sales pitch is, well ... it sounds sales pitchy. Regardless of whether you're the client or the employer, everyone wants to do business with someone genuine. Be your professional self from the get-go, and send quarterly voice over newsletters or hand-written notes to stay in touch.

5.
Love what you do! Love it, and have fun with it! If you don't love it from the get-go, you might want to re-think your career path. Never lose your faith in your ability to achieve, as long as you are putting in the hard work.

Does this sound like you? What other habits do you have that contribute to your success?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Acoustic Treatment and Sound Proofing

Setting up your professional voice over home recording studio can feel like an impossible feat. Nearly every single house has at least one unique challenge: from noise up/downstairs to cars driving by, air conditioner vents to plumbing sounds, not to mention the ordinary conundrum of how and where to set up.

As you do your research, you'll hear two terms pop up quite frequently: acoustic treatment and sound proofing. What does this mean?

Acoustic treatment is used to:

1) To prevent standing waves and acoustic interference from affecting the sound of the recording studio;

2) To reduce the "echo" sound in small rooms and to lower the reverb time in larger studios, churches, and auditoriums;

3) To absorb or diffuse sound in the room to avoid ringing and flutter echoes, and improve stereo imaging; and,

4) To keep sound from leaking into or out of a room. Meaning, keep your voice over jobs inside the booth, and keep the passing trucks outside your studio!

The acoustics of your home recording studio will affect both your recording and the sound going in and out of your studio. Despite all your voice over training, there is no way to make a bad recording sound great in post production if the acoustics aren't up to par.

If you need help sound proofing your home recording studio, you should know that there are only three things that effectively stop noise:

1. Space -- a commodity that most voice-over actors don't have a lot of! Simply put, the further away you are from the source of a sound, the softer you'll perceive the sound to be.

2. Mass -- a solid thick wall of concrete that is six feet deep will stop just about all sounds! Again, that's not something that is realistic for most people's home recording studios, but it is certainly something to think about when you are looking potential rooms as a recording studio.

3. Dampening -- a way to absorb the noise by stopping the reverberation and reflections. Voice-over artist can effectively reduce noise by using household items, such as carpets, blankets, sleeping bags, and mattresses. Check out how professional voice-over artists record on the road!

One challenge of becoming a professional voice actor is figuring out the home recording studio. Don't let this task daunt you! Figuring out your studio is a learning process of trial and error, but the payoff of getting your professional studio up and running is well worth your efforts!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Technique Tip of the Month: "What?"

Every voice actor will at one point or another hit a wall while recording a voice-over. A place where the energy doesn't deliver, where you just sound dull and monotone.

If you dream of getting to a place in your voice-over career where you are so good at voiceovers that you only have to do one take to get it perfect, then keep dreaming. I have never met a voice actor who can do that, despite having years of voice-over training and professional experience!

Knowing that this will happen, the key is to keep a bag of tricks on hand that can pull the energy out of your voice when you yourself have none. Such A Voice Coach & Producer Jody Petersen's answer to this dilemma is, "What?"

This voice-over technique works wonders if you are having trouble nailing the billboard. Let's say that you landed an LG voice over job, and you're having an off day -- for some reason you're having trouble hitting "LG: Life's Good."

Instead of getting frustrated and banging your head against the wall, try voicing the script and the billboard, followed by "What?" and then voice the billboard again. So it will go like this:

"blah blah blah. LG: Life's Good.
What? LG: Life's Good."

Nine time out of ten, the second time you read "LG: Life's Good" you will deliver the goods! Just make sure to edit out "What?" after you get your good take.

Talent of the Month: Mike Markham

"I believe God blessed me with the voice to do it and He expects me to follow through."

Congratulations to Mike Markham, our Talent of the Month of July!

Like most other voice-over artists, Mike enjoys the freedom that comes with being a professional voice actor. The lack of a rigid schedule doesn't mean that he's not hard at work -- actually, Mike has hit the ground running as a full-time voice actor since he participated in a Vermont Master Program in September, 2009.

"The best part of my voice over training was learning to break down copy," say Mike. "Although I have a good voice, I needed to be taught the technique of script analysis, which Brian Thon was great at!"

Mike has found that his voice works well for "informational" voice over jobs, and he has already established his niche. Since graduating from the Master Program, Mike has been the Master of Ceremonies for the 2010 World Women's Military Volleyball Championships, voiced a narration project for the United States Marine Corps Hall of Fame, and even worked as a PA announcer for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights Minor League baseball team where he lives in North Carolina.

As Mike sees it, the most important components of his marketing plan are his website and branding. His business cards and stationary were professionally designed by Artist Upgrade, and he knows that a lot of his present success comes from investing in his professional image from the very beginning.

His advice for new voice-over actors?

1. Practice. Even if you're not great now, you WILL get better by working at it.
2. Figure out what you bring to the table as a VO artist and build a brand around that with a great website and other marketing materials that match.

3. Always market yourself with confidence and honesty and do so as if you were a seasoned professional. You're not a new voiceover artist or an up-and-coming voiceover artist ... You're simply a voiceover artist, and you don't need to sell yourself short or apologize for stepping up and taking a seat at the table!


We couldn't have said it better ourselves! Congratulations, Mike, and we look forward to hearing more of your successes!

Mike Markham

mike@mikemarkham.com

Voices.com Profile

www.mikemarkham.com

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513642500

http://twitter.com/MikeTheVoice

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Insights from the Mentor Program: Harold Graham

"In my lifetime of 68 years, I've had hundreds of people say to me, 'Gee, you've got a great voice. You ought to be on the radio.' and I agreed!" -- Harold Graham, Mentor Program Student with Brian Thon

Harold had never had any voice-over training, but in grade school he did play the part of a radio announcer, Ted Graham. He loved doing it, but never considered going into radio -- and at the time, voice-over classes were unheard of.

Flash forward fifty-some-odd years, and Harold is still being told he should get into voice over work! After a meeting last year, a woman approached him and asked if he was on the radio. Another man next to him said, "I've been in the audio/visual business for twenty-five years, and trust me -- you should be getting paid for your voice!" The man forwarded Harold a couple websites to help him get started, including the Such A Voice website.

After completing the Master Program in December, Harold quickly set up profiles on Voices.com and Voice123.com. His son was also able to put his website together, and his daughter introduced him to a Pro Tools pro who spent a few hours helping him out.

Harold's marketing plan was still lacking, which is why he signed up for the Mentor Program with Voice-Over Coach & Producer Brian Thon. Brian helped him through various challenges: cutting 33 seconds down to a 30-second spot, giving him advice on negotiating a voice-over contract, and even giving him tips on nabbing an acting gig!

When Harold wasn't sure if he was being offered enough money for his first voiceover job, Brian put it in perspective and asked, "How much would you make by not doing it?" He did it, got paid, and now feels more comfortable asking for the industry standard rate.

"Brian reminded me that having a voice for the business doesn't mean you're going to get work," Harold says. "He helped me find my edge -- and some of Brian's sharpness is starting to rub off on me, too!"