Anthems are a lot of fun to do. This Shoppers Drug Mart voice over commercial was for the Life Brand at Shoppers Drug Mart, a Canadian drug store chain similar to CVS or Walgreens in the States. I love how whimsical this turned out. Thanks to the folks at CORUS in Toronto for their beautiful work.
I get asked to be the “voice of reason” beside the wacky goings on around me, a LOT. This commercial? It was really hard to keep a straight face. The voice actor that did the voice of the oven was brilliant. And apparently, he’d given the audio engineer something like an hour or more of insane improv to choose from. What they ultimately went with was fantastic and I love how this commercial turned out. (Not to mention that Goo Gone is a great product!) It can be a lot of fun to be the “amused observer”.
– A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a Voice Talent, And What Happens Next
The right voice can really make your project shine. But how do you find that voice? And what happens when you do?
First things first
Don’t let the process intimidate you. If you’ve hired voices before, you probably know what to expect. But if not, just know that each voice over artist you contact is there to make your job easier. Even so, it can still get confusing. The bottom line is that this is a partnership. The voice over artist is as interested in elevating your project as you are (or should be – big hint there!) and at the end of the day, working together should be a collaboration between two (or more) people who care.
The search begins
A great place to start your search, and a location where you can be confident you will find only vetted professionals, is the directory associated with the World Voices Organization – voiceover.biz . That would be my suggestion for your first place to check and you can do a search for many variables within that directory, depending on what you’re after (genre, gender, language, etc). If you’d still like to do a web search though, terms such as “professional voice over” or “professional voice actor” along with the gender of the voice you’re after, could be a good start. You could also add “commercial” or “animation” or “documentary” or whatever type of genre your project is, to your search terms. Or if you’re looking for someone in your area, add the geographical location into your query. These days though, any voice talent can work remotely so geography is less of an issue.
Each of the websites you find will likely give you an idea of the talent’s personality (or should). Demos will be present on the sites to give you a taste of what each voice artist can do. Those demos are generally front and center so you won’t have to go searching for them.
An audition is worth a thousand words
Once you find a voice that interests you, it’s entirely possible to find exactly the tone you need for your project through listening to his or her demos or watching videos on the voice talent’s website. If you’re good with that, great!
Most voice talent will also be just fine with giving you a custom audition – performing a piece of your script with possible options of tone for you to consider. That’s also a good way to make sure that the voice talent is actually able to deliver what they promise. Demos are a great way to narrow down the field, but they’re also heavily processed and don’t necessarily give you an idea of what that talent’s actual studio sounds like. A custom audition will do that.
If you’d like a custom audition, the best way to do that is to put the text you want the voice talent to perform for you, on a single page Word document or pdf, and send that separate document along with your email. Alternatively, you can copy and paste the audition text into the contact form on the voice talent’s website, if they have one.
Keep it fairly short. A paragraph or so – unless the project is a long one (e-learning, audio book, etc.). In the case of a longer project, you might want a longer audition. But keep in mind that you’ll probably have a good idea if you want to work with that talent after the first 15- 30 seconds of an audition – so it really doesn’t need to be hugely long. You’re a busy person, right?
The nitty gritty
Once you’ve heard the returned audition and have determined that you’d like to work with that voice over artist, there are a few questions you’ll probably be asked in order for the talent to get you an accurate quote on your project:
- Where will the audio be used? (ie: Is it broadcast or non-broadcast? If it’s broadcast, how large is the market where it will be used? Will it be used on the Internet? If so, just on the company’s website and on their YouTube channel? Or will it be used in pre-rolls for Amazon, YouTube or Pandora?)
- How long will it be used? (ie: a short, 13 week run? A year? In perpetuity? Keep in mind that many talent don’t offer a full buyout. There are reasons for this and you’re welcome to ask!)
- How long is the project? (ie: is it a :30 TV commercial? An hour long documentary? A 4000 word e-learning project? A 100,000-word novel? Etc.)
- When do you need your finished audio delivered to you?
These are the basics. If you want to also include an estimate of your budget, that can help things move more quickly too. For an idea of what rates are likely to be, depending on the project, you can check http://globalvoiceacademy.com/rate-guide/ . Each voice artist has their own rate scale (feel free to ask them why they charge what they do. They should have an answer!) – or if they’re union, you can check http://sagaftranumbers.sagaftra.org/ to find the appropriate rate for your project (in that case, talent doesn’t negotiate that, the union does).
Some final thoughts
The audition you received was likely in an mp3 format and might have been processed to make the voice “pop” a bit in the mix. When you receive your final file(s) from the talent, you can ask for it in whatever format you prefer. Generally, if no preference is mentioned, you’ll receive a -3 decible .wav file – but if you prefer aiff, a certain quality of mp3, or if you’d rather connect with the talent remotely via ipDTL, ISDN or Source Connect and record on your own end, that can be arranged too. (You’ll want to talk with a studio in your area if that’s the case. They’ll be able to give you all the info you need to proceed with that.)
If you prefer not to work with a studio on your end, you can either arrange a session with the talent where you direct her remotely (through Skype or a phone patch) while the talent records the audio on her end, or you can allow the talent to record on her own, based on your written direction or an earlier phone call. If the talent records without your presence, you may receive two or sometimes even three takes of the text (depending on the length of your project), so that you have plenty of options to choose from – though you will probably only get one recording of long e-learning projects or audio books.
I hope this has answered some of your pressing questions – but if you have more, feel free to contact me. I’ll do all I can to help.
Who Wants To Be A Voice Talent? – J. Christopher Dunn is a very talented voice over artist who gets asked what it takes to be a voice talent on a regular basis (I think any of us that have been in the business a bit have been asked the same). Here’s a pretty detailed analysis of what you need to know if you want to pursue this area of self-employment. Yes, it’s a very rewarding line of work (I LOVE it – and I know I’m not alone!) – but it’s not for the faint of heart. The advice in this article will be hugely helpful to you if you really are determined to make a go of it.
And along the same lines, Paul Strikwerda talks about some of the things you should definitely think about in his article, How to Break into the Voice-Over Business. Paul has also recently written something that you really should read before you jump into this business. If you can get past those words of caution and still have passion for this, then you’re doing really well.
Dee Bradley Baker also has a fantastic website called I Want To Be A Voice Actor – and it has *everything* on there. There’s information on demos, agents, VO myths, learning to act, how to get started with your home studio, etc. Well worth a look.