Voice over training
Voice over training is the first step in achieving quality voice over work. Indeed, proper knowledge and practice of voice over are essential in mastering this art and craft and delivering extraordinary performances.
This post has been updated in August 2021.
Voice over work basically means providing a voice for use in a particular piece that demands it. Usually, it is about recording off-camera narration or dialogue for use in productions. The people who do this sort of job are usually called voice over talent or voice over artists. There are many genres and styles of voice over work such as video games, cartoons, commercials, dubbing or ‘re-voicing’ of foreign films, audiobooks, documentaries, trailers, training videos, amongst many others.
Some voice over work is quite specific. ADR, for example, is used for sections in movies that perhaps were not very well recorded at first. A voice actor will mimic the main actor’s voice and fix the problem. Another very specific thing that voice over talent does is called looping. This is when voice actors produce conversations for the background conversations in a particular scene.
In the past, voice over was done by classically trained actors. Today, however, voice over work is becoming more and more specialized. The most famous screen actors do voice over work in big animation movies, for sure, but there is a wide range of work for voice artists in other facets of entertainment, such as voice over announcers, voice over narrators, voice actors in general and other voice over artists like those who, for example, do guiding voice announcements at a subway station.
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Voice Over Training in Detail
There are different types of voice over training though it is possible to divide them broadly into courses and independent training. The point, however, is that voice over training, to be effective, must cover a broad curriculum.
Courses may have several components, for instance they may be in-person courses, online courses or workshops. In the case of independent training, there are different ways to train, depending on the person. This could be by reading books or watching YouTube videos. Also, it is possible for the aspiring voice over talent to join things like choirs to learn to use their voice safely and effectively. Also, it is a good idea to join community theater and to take improve classes.
Learning technique is all about voice talent being able to handle their voice and accomplish with it all the things that the job demands. The idea is to be able to have a certain range to take on the different types of jobs that may come about.
A voice artist, moreover, must discover their own signature voice, range and style. It is important to understand that voice talent may have very different styles of voices, not only classically beautiful voices. In anime, for example, voices that are unique but not classically beautiful are highly prized to voice particular characters.
Sometimes, voice talent will have to lip synch to an image on a screen and curiously enough though, this is often an ability which is not trained for but should.
Health & Safety
One of the most important things that voice over talent must train for is for safety in using their voice. There are several things that a voice artist must be able to do in this regard.
For starters, a voice artist must be sure not to overuse their voice. It is important to learn the proper rest and the risks involved in extreme using of the voice (whispering or screaming carry their own particular risks, for example). Voice artists are also taught other basic precautions to care for their voice such as not smoking, avoiding drinks which are too cold or hot or foods which may cause phlegm.
Practicing good breathing is important too. In fact, breathing alone is a huge component in the training of voice talent. Voice must be supported by deep breaths from the chest and not solely from the throat to achieve power and safety.
Warming up the voice is usually the first step in the work of a voice artist and is closely related to the previous point on safety. There is a proper procedure to warm up, which voice talent trains for and learns extensively. Such a drill would go as follows:
- Proper posture. This is the first point. It is necessary for a voice artist to first attain proper posture, be it sitting or standing. If standing, feet must be flat on the floor, head and shoulders should be back. If sitting, the back must be kept off the chair, by sitting towards the edge of the seat.
- Drinking a warm liquid. As mentioned earlier, very cold or very hot water are to be avoided, but a warm drink is encouraged.
- Doing scales. Voice artists will usually be taught to do scales to prepare for exerting their voice.
- Lip and tongue exercises for proper relaxation.
Understanding a script is an important part of voice over training, often overlooked. Talent must be able to read a script and be able to break it down. This is particularly important in the case of voice talent who wish to work in film, television, and anime. The idea is that the voice artists should know what makes a script work in fiction.
There will be many jobs in which a voice artist will have to bring a script to life. This means a sense of understanding the character, the character arc and the obstacles for the character’s desire. Also, a voice talent must learn the different breaks in a script, that is to say, the different acts and beats and how the script builds up towards a resolution at the end.
There are two types of auditions that voice over talent will encounter. These may be online or in-person. For both, there are different tips and training that voice talent must remember.
The first thing is, naturally, that the voice talent must do the proper research of director, genre and character.
A huge sticking point for voice talent in auditions is being able to beat nervousness. There are several different ways to train to handle nervousness, be it for auditioning in general or at the moment of booking a job and performing. Voice talent who encounter this problem must train in meditation and deep breathing techniques to achieve a measure of relaxation.
A demo is a voice talent’s calling card. It is extremely important since a sloppy demo will without a doubt limit opportunities from the start. To get a good demo there will be a substantial amount of trial and error. Usually, voice over training courses will finish with the creation of a voice over demo in a studio.
A home studio will help a voice actor train constantly. This is because it is possible to record and analyze closely what has been done and thus keep on improving. It is essential to set up a space which is soundproofed, complete with a microphone, pop shield, XLR cable, mixer/interface, computer and recording software.
Another thing that voice over talent must learn how to do is marketing. A voice talent must learn how to get started with very little money. The idea is to understand how to work with little, and how to thereafter work up towards the high profile jobs.
Networking is very much another facet here. Voice over talent seldom receives any instruction in this very essential side of the business. Understanding where opportunity may be found and mastering the skills to capitalize on it are important aspects of a voice over talent’s training.
Finally, use of social media to acquire a following and profile is essential too. Many voice artists these days have some sort of presence in social media and it is not unusual for voice training to instill at least a desire to learn the different promotion and marketing tools available online.
Tweaking Depending on Genre
Naturally, things will change depending on genre. The point of understanding these differences is to comprehend the particular message that each product demands. Voice talent must learn to understand this difference and act upon it professionally.
For example, voice over narration for a public service announcement must leave an emotional impression, whilst the voice over in a commercial may simply be about sparking excitement for a particular product. Infomercials and promotional videos demand that voice over be used to provide things such as additional data. Meanwhile, television shows or films need voice over to narrate plot elements, or may require looping and ADR.
Voice artists may sometimes run into a situation where their time management proves to be faulty. This is because voice over work is usually not a 9 to 5 job. Especially when it is a side job, time management skills will be something that a voice talent must learn to develop.
Problems with Voice Over Training
There are situations when voice over training will not necessarily do the trick. Two particular scenarios are prevalent: voice talent may find that training courses provide them with training which is too cookie-cutter and not tailored to their particular needs. Another situation where training falls short is when an injury of the voice happens.
Cookie Cutter Solutions
The main problem that voice over talent encounter when training for voice over is that courses will sometimes provide training which is too cookie-cutter.
For instance, very usually, a voice over talent who seeks out training will be charged a fixed price, paid upfront for a specific number of lessons. At the end of this set number of lessons (be they 6, 10, 12) the voice artist may get a shot at a recording session to create a demo. This is a typical approach. This demo, in turn, will be recorded fast, with very few takes and little say in the way of selection of music or sound effects.
Evidently, this is too rigid an approach. The thing with voice over talent is that sometimes they need to find a particular way to train which is not necessarily what works for others. There is a certain need for personalized training at some point because one size does not necessarily fit all in voice over training.
Injury & Therapy
Another situation in which training alone will not fix is injury due to exertion. For this, a speech pathologist or medical professional will have to intervene.
The Future of Voice Over Training
New technologies will most certainly create new tendencies in voice over training. The main one is that there will be more training online instead of training in person.
There are markets which are opening up with exponential speed. One of these is video games. Training specifically for video game voice over is going to be an essential part of voice over training in the future. The main problem with video games is length. Voice actors have described them as “100 hour long movies” Voice talent going into this field will have to emphasize safety (because video games have a lot of whispering and screaming) and also stamina to endure extremely long projects.
Voice over training remarks
Voice over training is essential in achieving quality voice over work. There are different types of training available.
To be effective, voice over training must cover several areas such as technique, health & safety, voice warm up, script reading, auditioning (be it online or in-person), proper creation of demos, use of technology, marketing (including how to best use social media), variations depending on genre and how to manage time effectively as a working voice artist.
Voice over training is insufficient when a training course fails to address particular needs and personal requirements. Another situation where training falls short is when injury of the voice happens.
New technologies will most certainly create new tendencies in voice over training. The main one is that there will be more training online. Also, there are markets that are opening up at exponential speed such as video games and this will demand specific voice over training.
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