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Arms Flailing, Torso Shifting - Your Body
In Motion Gives Life To A Voice Over Read
June 1, 2015

By Hugh Klitzke
Casting Director and Coach

When an actor reads for me in a booth (a class, a demo session, an audition, coaching - whenever), I have a habit. I don't look.  

I believe that we hear with our eyes as well as our ears. And the product I am creating with an actor is purely audio.  So I do my best to concentrate on that as much as possible.

More often than not - unless I'm following a script - I even close my eyes. But that does have a drawback. Because I do not see the body of the actor at work in voice over, I am less likely to comment it.   

But I'll try and speak about it now.    


There is a life to the read that is only generated in the voice by a body in motion. 
  • Arms flailing and extended. 
  • Torso shifting and rotating. 
  • Legs planted and supportive, almost like a boxer or a dancer to give the body it's freedom to move while the head is in a focused position on mic. 
I really can't craft an analog of what it looks like. There's really nothing quite like it. But it's almost being attached at the mouth while the body is completely in motion. 

It's a weirdly beautiful combination of natural organic motion and an unnatural posture.    

So - I am saying that the body informs the read and you must master how much motion you need to make the read happen without getting in the way of the recording itself. This comes with time on mic while wearing the headset.    

It's a pas de deux for you and the microphone, and the recording is the dance the two of you make together.  
Hugh P. Klitzke is studio manager and voice casting director for a leading bi-coastal talent agency, who has directed more than 85,000 auditions for all voice over genres. Based in New York City, he is also a coach specializing in teaching voice over for actors, and writes VO4TA, a twice-weekly blog with helpful voice acting tips.


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Comments (3)
Christian Rosselli
6/15/2015 at 9:23 AM
I understand the points here. It helps to be physical behind the mic to "inform the read" as it can make a huge difference. But it's not always necessary. When I'm recording a national spot or a corporate narration or eLearning project, for example, I've found that being centered and not flailing my arms like a mad man has helped. Sometimes that can put off the producer. It also depends on the type of piece you're doing. For a more character-driven commercials or animation I could see this being an absolute must. What I've found works is subtle shrugging of shoulders, smiling and hand movement as if you were trying to illustrate a point to a friend.
Dave Courvoisier
6/1/2015 at 8:34 PM
Thankfully, there are no one-size-fits-all rules in Voice-acting. I constitute a big exception to this article's recommendations by dint of my 30-years at the anchor desk. Can you imagine the nightly news anchor gesticulating wildly while delivering stories about child abuse, and auto/pedestrian accidents? No.

So....over the years, I've trained myself to remain physically motionless while my voice conveys the appropriate emotion.

This sets up uncomfortable moments with VO coaches who insist I move about to achieve the right attitude in a spot. Sorry. Not in my DNA anymore.

Maybe for the rest of you, Hugh's admonitions are spot-on... I'm just doesn't work for everyone. :)

Dave Courvoisier
Dave Airozo
6/1/2015 at 8:04 PM
Being a new kid on the block keeping my head on mic while totally spazzing out at the same time reading copy is extremely challenging, but it does have so much impact on the my read and the sound of my character. The other challenge is not smacking things in my booth while getting a little to overly animated. Good thing it's a padded room. Great article Hugh, thanks.
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