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Translation Please! Taking Your
Client's Vision And Bringing It To Life ...
April 23, 2015

By Debbie Irwin
Voice Actor

We’ve all seen unintentionally funny translations on signs or menus, written by proprietors whose native tongue is not English.

But what about same language miscommunication? That’s what this anthology is about.

Creative people, writers, illustrators, designers, actors and voice artists for instance - folks in creative professions, are tasked with taking a client’s vision and bringing it to life. How that vision gets communicated, translated from thought to word, is nary as simple as it sounds.

In the course of giving direction to help the artist, it can become clear that expressing a feeling, sound or image - that’s so clear in the client’s mind - can be hard. So hard that the directions, once given, need translating.

Creativity is defined as "the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”

There’s no specific lexicon for creativity. Terminology changes with the times. There are cultural trends and industry specific trends. Plus, intrinsic to creativity is the all-elusive X factor.


How do you define the unknown?

In voice overs, the current trend for direction on most commercials is "non-announcer,” "real person,” and "conversational.”

Even though these terms are understood by voice pros (don’t be stiff, don’t sell, don’t put on a veneer, don’t talk down, sound casual as if you’re talking to a friend), the real direction comes when you’re in a session and your client wants to hear something more specific.

Sometimes they’ll say the phrase for you as an example of how they want to hear it, but mimicry misses the mark. Creativity is spawned from a spark that’s unique to the creator.

Take a listen to audio below to hear entertaining examples of several voice over colleagues' experiences with the matter.

Thanks to my talented colleagues, Christian Rosselli, Kelley Buttrick, Johnny George and Brad Venable, whose voices you'll hear sharing some of their own experiences.

Debbie Irwin got her start in voice overs over a dozen years ago when she found a new outlet for an old passion: acting. She took her stage skills and transformed them into studio skills. Today her work focuses in a few "M” genres - Medical, Museums, Money and Makeup - sometimes in Spanish and Italian. She has traveled the world from her recording booth in NYC, voicing projects for major corporations and organizations, among them AstraZeneca, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, HSBC and Revlon. She is also the voice of the Statue Of Liberty and has voiced multiple award-winning videos and films. She’s worked on Wall Street, at the Guggenheim Museum and has raised three kids with her husband in NYC.


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Comments (5)
Earl Thomas
8/16/2016 at 12:18 PM
Thanks, Debbie - excellent practical & very helpful. Clients at times are too unspecific & expect us to go inside their mind & know exactly what they think & mean. I thank God for my ideal client 2 voice-overs with happy satisfaction & redos. Have a great day, Debbie.
Debbie Irwin
4/26/2015 at 4:32 PM
Thanks for the feedback, ladies! Yes, that plaid direction was really given.
The stories are true, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent. :-)
Diane Maggipinto
4/24/2015 at 6:15 PM
Debbie, I enjoyed reading this - yet another reason to admire you and your tres chic way of being. Hope to see you soon.
Debbie Grattan
4/24/2015 at 11:05 AM
So true! this is one reason I often will recommend an ISDN or phone patch session with the client directing on the other end. Words of direction in an email can be interpreted in so many ways. And I hate wasting time crafting a read that I feel delivers what they've asked for, only to have the client come back and ask for it to be more..."insert direction here". When I have them live, and they're listening, there's a much better chance I can quickly dial into what they want.
Amy Liposky
4/23/2015 at 9:44 PM
Thanks for the comforting article, Debbie. The audio was awesome...great to hear crazy directions and be able to laugh about it. "More plaid" ... did somebody really give that direction?!?
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