Actor ... Singer ... On-Air Talent:
Check Your Skills For Voice Acting
By Marc Cashman
Voice Talent & Coach
©Marc Cashman 2009
Stage, TV and film actors - as well as singers, instructors, public speakers and on-air talent - ask me questions all the time about whether they might have a shot at voice acting, or voice-over - especially when the number of voice acting productions is growing every year.
Indeed, the field is huge: commercials, narrations, animation, promos, trailers, audiobooks, video games, voice-mail systems, e-Learning modules, corporate videos, interactive CD-ROMS, telephone interactive voice recordings (IVRs), web site narrations and much more are being produced worldwide, due to the advancements and growth of media technology.
If you’re in one of the aforementioned fields and you’ve ever considered exploring the arena of voice acting, you may have an edge or a leg up in this industry. It depends on the amount and/or type of experience you’ve had in your particular field.
Let’s explore some of the skill-sets that you have that you can use in voice acting,
Stage actors have a number of advantages.
These abilities are very helpful for voice actors in commercials and animation, as it prepares them for producers who’ll tell them what emotion(s) they want exhibited in a script, and encourage them to improvise beyond just the words in a script.
BUT USE NORMAL VOICE
But voice acting is based upon using your normal voice.
Stage actors are taught to project, so that their voice can be heard in the back of the theater, without the need of a microphone.
And, being in front of a live audience calls for a bit of overacting, not the nuances called for in many radio spots.
A voice actor knows that a microphone needs to be treated as if they’re talking into someone’s ear, never to an audience.
LISTEN TO VOICE-OVERS
When you listen to a documentary, a voice-menu-prompt system, or even a national television commercial, you’ll tend to hear a more natural-style voice-over.
Voice-over directors typically search for voice actors who can use their natural voices behind the microphone, and don’t want any theatricality.
Once stage actors understand the difference in dynamics between live theater and a small recording booth, they can easily make the transition into voice acting, particularly in commercial and animation VO work.
TV & FILM ACTORS
Film actors also have an edge because of their ability to lift their lines, as well, eventually memorizing their lines and internalizing their emotions and attitudes. For instance,
YOU'RE OFF CAMERA
But while expressing emotion without saying a word is very powerful on screen, voice acting requires actors to emote without being seen.
They need to learn how to express emotion and attitude through words alone, because no one can see their face or body.
And they have to learn to express themselves nonverbally, as well, sometimes communicating without uttering actual words, but sounds.
But, like stage actors, they’ve developed a way to access emotions quickly and believably, and this puts them in good stead to be terrific actors in voice.
Singers bring a wealth of skill-sets to voice acting.
MUSIC OF THE COPY
What singers quickly realize when they’re working in voice-over is the amount of “music” there is in copy.
But their innate musicality gives them a keen insight into the “music” of copy or text.
Good instructors have a great way of getting concepts across in an intelligible way, and never talk down to their students.
Voice actors do the exact same things when they’re telling a story. When they’re performing fiction especially, they bring all their acting skills to the fore.
GREAT FOR E-LEARNING
However, narrators who are not great actors but who are solid in their articulation and interpretation are quite adept at doing non-fiction material (instructional material like e-Learning modules, CD-ROMS, telephone messaging, etc.).
So an instructor who speaks clearly and intelligently - even though he or she isn’t an actor - has a good chance of being successful in voice-over, particularly in the non-fiction areas.
Professional public speakers bring together the attributes of stage actors and instructors.
AN AUDIENCE OF ONE
But public speakers thinking of transitioning into voice acting need to realize that in a studio, they’re talking to just one person, not an entire audience. For instance:
So, they’re going from a stage and spotlight and large audience (like stage actors) to a small booth and a microphone, with an audience of one or two (the director and the engineer) or none (if they’re recording in their home studio, alone).
If they don’t mind this sea change, they, too, have a decent shot at a career in voice acting.
Radio DJ’s, hosts and personalities have a lot of skill-sets that many people in the voice-over world don’t appreciate.
COMING TO YOU 'LIVE'
But most incredibly of all, they’re able to do all these things live, with thousands, hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of people listening to them.
That’s a hell of a lot of pressure on a person, something that most professional voice actors rarely, if ever, encounter.
In any given VO session, you’ll have an audience of just a few people hanging on your every word.
DITCH THE CANS
Unfortunately, many radio DJs, announcers or personalities wear headphones while they’re on the air, and have basically fallen in love with the purring, resonant sound of their own voice.
Most have been inculcated by their program director to deliver station-written and produced copy in the same style that they talk on the air, because that’s what the advertiser wants and is paying for.
And many on-air talents have listened to their predecessors for years, and have consciously or unconsciously emulated their sometimes unctuous, sometimes in-your-face, sometimes over-the-top style.
VOICE ACTING VS. VOICE-OVER
Now, if you aren’t in the above-mentioned categories, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a shot at voice acting.
But the skills that people in these areas possess can be applied to a potentially successful VO career. And they don’t necessarily have to be great actors.
I make a distinction between voice acting and voice-over. Areas like commercials, animation, video games and audiobook narration call for voice acting.
Animation, video games and audiobooks, in particular, require a lot of emotion and characterization.
But there’s not much call for acting in an announcer tag that reads, “2.9% APR financing for 60 months.” That calls for solid articulation, interpretation and resonance, as do many areas of non-voice acting, like instructional or documentary narration; all of which instructors, public speakers and on-air talent possess.
I know many people who make a very good living in this latter category.
So if you’re thinking of transitioning into voice acting (or voice-over), or adding this area to what you’re currently doing, use the skill-sets you’ve developed over the years to make this fun career work for you.
ABOUT MARC ...
Marc Cashman creates and produces copy and music advertising for radio and television and has won over 150 advertising awards. Named by AudioFile Magazine as one of the “Best Voices of the Year,” he instructs voice acting of all levels through his classes, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques in Los Angeles, and does One-on-One coaching via phone and the Internet. He was also a keynote speaker and instructor at the VOICE 2008 and VOICE 2010 conferences.