Behind the mic … tell stories

One of my day jobs concerns itself with reading; among other things, I’m a voice actor. I love words, the sound and power of the human voice, and like most people, I love telling stories. From a DVD training video to a commercial, I consider every voice-over  job I get as a story-telling challenge.

My former day job concerned itself in part with training actors’ voices, and coaching them through the finer points of text analysis and vocal characterisation for the microphone. We approached every script as a story to be told: there were hard and soft-sell commercials and how to tell which was which, work on ADR techiques, fantasy character creation, narration, how to sound like yourself (not as easy as you might think), and how never to sound boring. Life was never boring or dull in the training booth. There were lots of laughs … we do our best work when relaxed and happy as Ben Kingsley notes … and I was never more delighted than when I’d see the looks on my students’ faces when they nailed a characterisation, brought their 30 sec read in at 28.5 secs, got their tongues around a particularly difficult phrase, and generally started to open up their voices to their imaginations – told the story well.  Their voices in stage and screen work got better too as they discovered nuances of vocal tone, placement and timing which work on mic seems to open up so well for an actor.

Now I find all of those sessions as a real bulwark as I prep my own texts for a client, step up to the mic, and deliver the required read. Being ready for anything a client or producer can throw at you is absolutely vital, so some preliminary forensic analysis of the script as well as vocal prep can pay back bigtime at the session. Clients love a ‘talent’ that is on-time, prepped, pleasant to work with, flexible, and can do the job quickly and well.

If the people behind the glass are not quite sure what they want at the outset, I like to provide them with some ideas – 3 or 4 varied reads will usually get you into their wave-length. I base my starting point on the character’s point of view. This is where basic acting skills and the capacity to allow ideas and the feelings to influence your read – your story – come in very handy. Who is she? What’s the situation she’s in? How does she feel about what she’s talking about? What does she want?  I then give three or four quick variations on the ‘who’ ‘what’ and ‘how’ standpoints, and work on from the client or producer’s direction. Generally this approach works well, and has me in and out of the booth in quick time.

Like to hear a sample? Check me out at Brisvo.

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Author: Kate Wilson

Actor, director, teacher, dabbler with paint, serial traveller.

4 thoughts on “Behind the mic … tell stories”

  1. This is very interesting. Some clear insight into specialist work. What really comes across here is the sense of precision involved;; that you arrive at the job ready to record with a minimal amount of rehearsal time. Almost like a photographer, turn up, take the shot and leave. How often do you find yourself doing multiple takes of recordings? Also, you use the term ‘talent’ to refer to the recording artist, is that an industry-specific usage of the word?
    .-= Andrew Eglinton´s last blog ..Adventures in Movement (part 1) =-.

  2. Andrew, multiple takes is pretty much a standard thing, which is why it’s good to have multiple reads prepped and ready to go … saves time. The reader can also request another take if she feels it’s not up to scratch, or if an inflexion has gone off the rails – one is the first to hear it usually. Yes, the ghastly term ‘talent’ is industry-standard, though I find that 99% of all the folks I meet on the job are pleasant, easy to work with, and treat one as an individual rather than a ‘voice.’

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