Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

“Seeing It” -Visualized Acting

Good acting not only requires listening- it is also about clearly seeing.

I wanted to share some videos that provide great insight into visual story telling, which is something I feel is important particularly in voice acting for animation and games.

Voice acting isn’t like a stage play with sets and lighting and an entire cast for an actor to to inspire believable emotional nuance. In VO, the peaks and valleys of your performance are usually sustained and informed only by your own imagination, that is, by the “movie playing in your mind.”

VO is often just an actor standing alone in a recording booth with a script and no visuals. Despite this isolation, a voice actor is called upon to fully conjure a performance that perfectly fits with the scenery, music, sound effects and other performances which are to be later created and edited together.

I once heard it said that with on-camera you shoot first and edit last and with animation you edit first and shoot last. There is an interesting insight to this, especially on a “board driven” animation project, where the comic book-like animatic may be set and edited before the voice actors do their work. You add to the smorgasbord of available choices the animators and editors select from to fashion the final “locked” version of the visual story. The voice actor’s performance, with all its added nuance and improvisation, is an important part of the upfront “editing” of a voice over project, before the animation process kicks into high gear.

An often solitary voice actor must anticipate the performances they are interacting with along with the timing, the blocking and gags. It’s as if you must “see it” before it ever exists. You can hear all this in a good read or audition.

For me, seeing the scene on the page unfold in the mind’s eye as I perform it is key to the specificity of a good voice acting performance. Without this visualizing, a voice performance will come off as unrooted, flat or lacking authentic connection.

Animation is visual story telling and the animators are relying on you to flavor the script with your own ideas and variation. An understanding of visual story telling in film can be helpful here.

Along these lines, I’ve found a few mini-features that illustrate the artistry of good visual story telling. Let’s start with the masterful Buster Keaton, whose visual comedy pointed quite clearly towards the visual theatrics that animation was later able to more fully realize:

Here’s a terrific analysis of the brilliance of Chuck Jones.

Want inspiration and ideas for what you do? “Read. Read everything” -Chuck Jones Love that!

Finally, here’s a great analysis of visual comedy in film, which I totally agree with:

Check out Tony’s outstanding collection of film and story analysis on YouTube, Every Frame a Painting.” It’s all excellent and should be required viewing, because you are  not just being directed in a session or audition, you are directing yourself.

© Dee Bradley Baker 2023

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