Voice Over Talent

Top 10 Studio Protocols for Voice Over Talent

When voice over talent is in a studio to audition or work, they have a lot to think about from ahead of to the end of the session. As suggested by Scott Reyns here are 10 protocols regarding etiquette and more that professional voice over talent should normally be sticking to.

  1. Wear noiseless clothes, comfortable and casual but appropriate. As voice over talent, you’re not there to make a fashion statement or to entertain with anything other than your voice (assuming you’re there to do something entertaining which won’t always be the case), so leave the T-shirt that says “Who poofed on the mic?” at home.
  2. No perfumes or colognes. Otherwise, the person who poofed on the mic – cosmetically – is you. If you’re doing a double or a multiple, your fellow actors will thank you. If you’re doing a single, the next person to step into the booth after you – most likely the Engineer – will thank you for not leaving behind a “lingering performance.”
  3. Ditch the watch, any/all jewelry and anything else that could make unwanted noise. This includes turning your phone totally off, not just setting it to vibrate. Those vibes would distract you in mid-performance even if the mic weren’t sensitive enough to still pick them up, which it will be.
  4. Know the vocabulary and lingo ahead of time. Know what phrases like “soft sell” and “give me a level” mean, for instance.
  5. Don’t. Touch. The. Mic. Ever. Not even if it isn’t adjusted for your height yet, because they’ll take care of that as long as you just sit – or stand – tight. Not even if you have a studio and lots of nice mics at home, because you’re not there and this mic isn’t yours.
  6. Mind the clock.The Client wants to make sure all the time slotted gets used, because they’ve booked and will be paying for it. The Producer wants to get the job done ASAP so that it doesn’t run over and become time s/he will be working without getting paid and/or incur overages which might then have to come out of his/her pocket. Stay out of all that by just staying focused on being able to nail whatever you’re asked to do within a few takes.
  7. Know the essentials of the project and the Client as much as possible ahead of time. Have all your research and main rehearsing done before going in, including any questions you think you might have already in mind. This includes things like flagging anything about pronunciations etc. that you couldn’t figure out the answers to on your own, in doing your homework before the session.
  8. Be physically ready. Warm-ups aside, have gotten a good night’s sleep first. Don’t eat a lot of dairy beforehand, to avoid phlegm. Be hydrated so you don’t have dry-mouth. Be energetic but not overly caffeinated, assuming you took the risk of drinking something with caffeine going in. Ask for a moment to step out to grab water if/when you need it (i.e. the bottle you brought on your own – and you did bring one – has run out). Ask for brief breaks if/when you need them, but try to let the Producer / Director call those.
  9. If you got a copy of the script in advance, have reviewed and analyzed it as needed and practiced in advance, but don’t be so locked into what you practiced in preparation that you won’t be ready and able to fundamentally change your reads on a dime if/as directed to. This includes having your own pen/pencil and a couple differently-colored highlighters handy if needed for marking things up between takes, because even if they have some in the booth for you those can potentially dry up or break mid-session.
  10. Be pleasant, relaxed, confident and professional. This includes carrying an internal positivity at all times, because that will help you deliver your best possible performance.
    • Before the recording: Show up 10-15 minutes early to settle in, practice the read, do some warm-ups in a place where you won’t bug anyone and vice-versa. When you come in, learn every key person’s name on the spot if you didn’t get told them in advance, offer a friendly, non-clammy and brief handshake upon introducing yourself or being introduced but don’t be overly chatty. Any networking you’ll do, i.e. passing out of your demo CDs and/or business cards, will be with other voice over talent and not the people who already know who you are.
    • During the recording: Don’t question the Direction. Sure, you’re there as an artist but you’re getting paid to tell the Client’s story per the Producer / Director’s vision, not yours. Ask for clarification if/as needed, and be ready to make your own best choices and keep rolling if clarification doesn’t seem to sufficiently come, because persistently vague Direction will happen on occasion. Also, stay confident and beware of perfectionism. There will be times when the peeps on the other side of the glass say “That’s great, we’re moving on,” and you’ll feel the urge to do just one more take. Unless that urge is really strong, like you’re really not comfortable with that last take to the point that you can’t move on undistracted, fight that urge to ask for another one. There are many “perfect” takes possible and they’ll all sound very similar if you spin your wheels – and the clock – laying too many down.
    • After the recording: When the session’s done and you’re let go, wrap up whatever final business if/as any discretely (typically only applicable if you’re working self-represented), wave a friendly “Thanks, bye!” parting gesture to everyone and then get out. Chances are the overall session isn’t done, just your part. Let everyone else now get back to work while you go relax (w00t!).