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VOcation Tips: Do It Now
& Listen Before You SEND!

By Rory O’Shea
Voice Actor
imEdge Communications
Here are two things I’d like to share that I’ve discovered as beneficial in my VOcation.
They’re simple reminders or valid points to keep in mind prior to, during and following your next session.
Just a couple of copper coins I’d like to throw into the mix. My two cents worth ...
There’s an old expression, "Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
However, there are many who live life with the credo, "Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”
I get a kick out of that one, but it’s a mantra that won’t serve any business or entrepreneur well.
This tip is essentially a yellow flag for home studio talents who are already firmly ensconced in their VO career to try to mitigate potential speed bumps along the way ... aka, those unpredictable or unforeseen variables that could cost you a gig, if not several, because you didn’t get your audition out soon enough or complete a narration when you had the script for days.

Generally speaking, tackle the money-making project(s), jobs you’re already hired for, lickety split.
However, if you have an audition or two with a deadline hours away that will only take five minutes to record, edit and send – do it, get it out the door and then forget about it.
If it comes through for you, bonus. Then move on to your bread & butter.
Here’s where "variables” come in. These can really throw a wrench into the works, affect your bottom line and add stress:

There’s construction on your street.
Even if the noise is blocked, that subterranean rumbling from jackhammers could infiltrate your session.
I was once about to start a phone patch session when city workers began digging two blocks away. The vibration created waves in Audition 3.0 that might as well have been 3.0 on the Richter Scale. Session postponed.

There could be a blackout, brownout, or your computer just decides to take a page from Murphy’s Law book and pack it in right before your session. Session postponed.

You come down with a sore throat, cold or flu – Session postponed indefinitely. (Sincere sympathies to VO talent who are also allergy sufferers.)

Your child or pet gets sick and you need to shut off the mic and turn on the TLC. Session postponed.

The Rapture actually comes through this time – Session CANCELLED!

So, as our Latin forefathers exclaimed when they entered the VO booth – "Carpe Diem” – roughly translated means - do it now! ·

The next tip doesn’t deal with time as much as it does timing.
With the explosion of home studios in the past decade, a voice artist is expected to wear more hats than just that spiffy number with a flashing red light and lightning bolts you wear as a talent.
Or maybe that’s just me.
More times than not, you have to be your own director and audio engineer. If sending a raw session to another producer/engineer, this won’t apply.
But If you deliver completely cleaned files ready to be used by the broadcaster or corporate client, this is a little something extra from me to you.
Remember after editing your session to step away from the finished product and return with a fresh set of ears before delivering.
I still find myself about to pull the trigger on the SEND button or uploading the file to my FTP site and say to myself (occupational hazard),
"Yeah, I’ve listened to it a few times through the various editing stages, but I’ll give it ONE more listen from start to finish."
99% of the time I’m glad I did, and it was worth it because of one or more fixes I should have made.

I admit I’m obsessive about the final audio I send.
Some call it perfectionism. Technically, the condition is called anal retentive.
I need that VO to be of superior quality without so much as a miniscule snap, crackle or pop.
Even though those particular fixes should always be addressed, here’s what many don’t take into consideration as their own engineers – breaks, breaths and pauses.

After editing your 5-minute or 45-minute narration together with its several takes, be certain it sounds like one cohesive piece. It needs to sound natural.
Personally, I prefer removing all breaths before a sentence or paragraph, while I’ll simply reduce the volume of some breaths between words if they come across as too pronounced or loud.
It just cleans it up nicely.

However, if you omit breaths and shift audio it could affect the overall cadence of your file if not careful.
Edit. Leave it for a few minutes. Go record that audition that’ll pay off your house if you land it.
Upon returning to the session that you were prepared to launch off to the client in a flash, give it a final listen.
Close your eyes or simply look away from the screen when listening back.
Your ears will pick out any spot that had an insufficient pause or too long of a break.
Does it sound like the pauses are natural, or is your phrasing spaced too close together or far apart?
Make any necessary revisions and then send with confidence.
And good luck. I’m sure you’ll leave the client breathless.

Rory O'Shea is a very busy voice actor and owner of ImEdge Communications. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the firm offers corporate and media clients a full range of voice-over services.
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Comments (10)
Cat Smith
12/4/2011 at 3:00 AM
I can't stress enough how important it is to listen to every copy of every VO you do. Here's what I mean by that: Listen to the first recording (although, why you would be moving on without that step, I don't know?). Then on your first export, listen to that file. If you need to convert to another type, listen to that file. (Are you catching the pattern?)

My first recording had an insane hiss and pop to it that made me think I had a dud mic. Listening to other file types of the same recording made me realize it was just my mp3 converter had a problem.

Anyways, this lengthy comment is to say I concur, I agree, and don't forget to listen!
6/14/2011 at 7:47 PM
Thanks for the input, Carl. Best of luck in your VOcation!
Carl Bobb
6/13/2011 at 5:57 PM
Thanks for the many good reminders about that last "listen" with fresh ears. I like to git 'er dunn and then hit send. I'll take that break you mentioned in the future. I love to learn about this wonderful craft and I enjoyed your humor.

Best wishes for continued success,

6/11/2011 at 1:48 PM
Excellent term for it, Debbie: 'Breathalyzer Strategy'.
Debbie Irwin
6/11/2011 at 12:21 AM
Spot on, Rory.
I too have found that a final listen as I'm about to hit SEND, will generate an observation of something I could fix or do better.

It may not be something technical, but rather related to the delivery ...
'Gee did read one and two sound so different after all? '
Things like that!

I'm going to try your breathalizer strategy ... when to cut and when to reduce.

6/10/2011 at 7:52 PM
Good stuff, Bobbin. I think you'll find it makes a difference. Let me know.
Bobbin Beam
6/10/2011 at 4:47 PM
Your excellent advice resonated with me. The idea of taking a break and listening again before sending the audio is a great idea. I'm going to make the time to do that from now on.
Rory O'Shea
6/10/2011 at 12:37 PM
Thanks Roy & Johnny for the feedback. Much appreciated.
Johnny George
6/10/2011 at 11:06 AM
Rory....Right on target. I couldn't agree more with your insight. Too many times, I will be working on completing my paid work that doesn't necessarily have a definitive deadline of "right now" and I'll let auditions with specific deadlines go by and I lose out on a potential gig. Or only 10 people have responded when I first record and I get a phone call and find that 110 have now responded by the time I get off the phone. Damn!

Carpe Diem is right! And give it that extra listen after leaving it to "mature with time."

Thanks for saying what many of us needed to hear.

Roy Wells
6/10/2011 at 8:46 AM
A most complete and fulfilling article. I really enjoyed reading it.
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