The Do’s of Working with Voice Talent

September 10, 2012 4 By Brian
The Do’s of Working with Voice Talent

For many people, hiring Voice Talent is a new and often confusing process. In order to help out newcomers to the industry, here are some tips when working with Voice Talent.

Do: Proof your copy.

This should be obvious, but often it isn’t done. Proof-read your copy so you’re certain the content is exactly what you want to hear. In addition to proofing it, read it aloud. Seriously. There are things that you can write down and are just fine, but as soon as you say them out loud, it just sounds silly. Harrison Ford once teased George Lucas about the scripts from the original Star Wars trilogy: “George, you can write this %$#@, but you can’t say it!”

Along with proofing the copy, make sure it is formatted in a clean and easy to ready format. Remove any notes to yourself or animators or anyone else working on the project. Voice actors only need what affects our performance.

Spell out numbers, acronyms, unusual or foreign words, and names. As an example: $1.99 can be read as “One-dollar and ninety-nine cents” or “A dollar, ninety-nine” or even just “One-ninety-nine.” Acronyms are sometimes said just their letters like this: FTC is pronounced “Eff-Tee-See.” In computers, there’s an acronym WYSIWYG, but is pronounced “Wizzy-Wig” or an older and more confused one is SCSI which is pronounced “Scuzzy.” Town names are another good example of spelling versus pronunciation. In Massachusetts, there’s a town called Leominster. In spite of it’s spelling (and due to the colorful dialect of the region) it’s pronounced “Lemin-stah.”

Do: Give Direction

Please, tell us exactly what you want to hear. Voice tone, inflection, accent, and so on is crucial to the performance. Better to hear it up front, rather than after we’re spent hours working on a project. Also to include: Time limits (both minimum and maximum), bitrate for delivery, and any other notes you feel are relevent to the project.

And give a sense of your audience. There are very distinct tonal differences when talking to adults versus talking to kids. Is this a casual audience or a formal, business audience. These factors affect how we speak, our cadence, and use of informal language. As an example, in informal speech, I’ll use contractions. In formal settings, contractions are never used.

Give examples of what you want to hear. An actor or character as a basis is often a great start. If you want a dead-on impersonation, be up-front about that. Many actors do impressions, many do not.

Do: Shop Around

I know I’m probably shooting myself in the proverbial foot, but I want to be right fit for your project. I want you to have auditioned several people (including myself) for your project. I want there to be no doubt in your mind that you hired the right guy (or gal) for your project.

Ask questions. Listen to demos and auditions. Be thorough.

Do: Talk About Us

Voice actors live and die (metaphorically) on word of mouth. Talk us up with your colleagues and coworkers. We love the publicity and we need it. Often, we’ll prioritize existing customers (or their friends) on our task list. We love repeat customers since we know what they want and we know we can count on them paying us!