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

Newbie Mistakes

TOP VOICE OVER NEWBIE MISTAKES TO AVOID:

#1 Overlapping:

Talking over some one else’s read (i.e. talking while another is talking) is generally a no-no in cartoon voice over sessions. Don’t step on other’s lines (that is, don’t talk until they are finished)! Make sure to leave a slight space in between the other actor’s performance and yours for the sake of editors and oversea animators who don’t necessarily know the language they are animating to. This slight space in between takes also allows the recording engineer to quickly turn up one mic and turn down the last mic so there’s no sound “bleed” and each character’s track is kept separate. 

Exceptions:

  1. Occasionally, a group response is recorded in unison as a group, but sometimes even in a group the individuals are recorded separately and mixed together later.
  2. The “no overlap” rule generally doesn’t apply to commercial records (produced locally), where some vocal overlap is usually okay to make it feel “real.” Same goes for ADR work or film recording. Overlapping here is usually okay.

#2 Not Acting:

If you are asked to give multiple takes, switch up your read a bit each time– don’t just repeat the exact same read (unless directed to). If you are working on perfecting the read of a particular sentence, you are typically expected to give three takes, one after the other– a sort of little menu of choices the creator can choose from or consider before directing you otherwise.

More than three reads per take can be cumbersome for them to sort through. Don’t do ten different takes on a single sentence and then leave them to have to play all that back to find their pick. Three is usually enough, allowing the director to notate first and second choice or redirect for another round of three takes.  If your line(s) is super stressful on the voice (e.g. yelling), you can maybe do one take to make sure you’re in the ballpark and the engineer can set levels before you offer more. With a more stressful read, I’d recommend offering fewer takes, one or two, instead of three.

#3 Distracting wardrobe sounds:

Wearing crunchy clothing or clanging jewelry to a recording studio. Don’t! Mics are very sensitive in a small enclosed space! Your top/shirt should be essentially silent while you read. Lose the watch, bracelets and bangles. Empty your pockets. If it jingles or creaks or rustles, take it off before approaching the mic, or better yet, before you leave home!

#4 Not being silent during recording:

Sometimes a newbie or an on-camera actor unfamiliar with VO will walk around, rummage through a bag or just talk while others are recording. These are all classic mistakes of on-camera actors who have no idea that studio mics are very sensitive and will pick up all sorts of sounds in a room.  If whatever you are doing is silent and doesn’t interfere with the record it’s okay, so long as you don’t lose focus or performance energy or connection with the room.

#5 Ruining takes with your cellphone or electronics:

Silence your cellphone completely (both texting and incoming calls and notifications) and keep it away from the mic, as the cell signal can cause interference and kill a take.  Also, don’t let your silent use of your smartphone distract you or cause you to lose focus. A cellphone will often interfere with the microphone (the distance depends on the mic) and cause a buzz to botch the take as well. Don’t be clicking around with your texting on your iDevice either. Gotta be silent!

#6 Ruining a take with page turning during a sentence:

Page turning while words are being spoken kills the take. If you must turn pages during a take, do so silently and in between sentences– the space can then be edited out. Separate your pages before each take so you don’t have to turn them in the middle of someone else’s performance.  Don’t have your script displaying only one page at a time!  Before the take, lay out your script pages like the facing pages of an open book, two or even three side by side, centered under the mic, so you don’t have to turn the pages at all in most cases.  Silence is golden in the booth!

Runners Up: 

1. Not accepting the director’s decision to accept your take and move on. The insecure actor keeps stopping the session’s progress wanting to re-do lines that everyone in the booth already likes. This can be okay, though, IF the actor has a strong new good idea.

2. Ignoring direction and continuing with giving the exact same read.

3. Booking a role on an established series and not watching any of the show in preparation is bad form for a number of reasons. It demonstrates a lack of enthusiasm on your part for the show and the gig. It has you acting in a vacuum without understanding the relationships and history of the characters in the show, weakening your performance. It wastes everyone’s time on retakes and time needed to bring you up to speed on the show’s details.

4. Turning your head during a take for eye contact with another actor in your scene. This is typically a stage or on-camera actor new to voice overs. They don’t understand that it takes your voice away from the microphone’s “sweet spot” and blows the take. It’ll have to be re-recorded– facing the mic.

5. Giving the booth too many choices and not shutting up. Some newbies get carried away with their insecurity and give way more than they need to, maybe offering six or eight takes at a time. This is confusing for the booth to sort through and slows down the process with an over-abundance of choices for the booth to wade through. Give three good takes and leave it for their response. If they they say, “moving on,” then accept this as a sign of their satisfaction and move on. If you must, offer your one last “great idea,” but you want to keep this moving as much as they do. Don’t overwhelm them with choice.

6. Only notating script changes that apply to your lines and not marking in your script changes to the lines of other actors.  This can result in you missing your cue because you didn’t note your cue was changed. Also, you could end up cutting off the previous speaker who had extra lines or effort sounds that were added– when you were ignoring it. 

 

Back to Studio Etiquette.

6 Responses »

  1. …I cannot thank you enough for creating this site. It’s exactly the kind of info I was looking for.

  2. This is amazing thank you!! I just got into vo, and i was wondering how long it took for you to actually book a gig […}.

  3. This site is stellar. I’m majoring in radio in college right now and hope to develop my voice more and break into the business of V.O. Dee, your voice has been with me since KND and recognizing you in Ben 10 is what started my passion for recognizing voices and creating my own. Thanks again! Maybe see you in L.A. someday!

  4. Any advice for people that want to pursue VO jobs in the US that don’t currently live there yet?

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