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:

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:

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!