Talent in the Raw, Continued

Learn how to improve the overall voiceover performance of new talent.

Engineer and producer John Billingsley of SuchaVoice.com tries to match copy with the person reading it and to find a niche or angle for each voice and personality to improve the overall performance. John recommends that you “ask the newcomer how they see themselves, and how they think others perceive them. You may get anyone from a 70-year-old granny to a lawyer looking to do something new. They may have been told they have a great voice, and now want to control their retirement, or do something new just for fun. In any case, you want them to be relaxed before they come in.” Billingsley adds, “Certain styles of music complement certain voices. Keep a consistent music aesthetic and work the niche you develop for the new talent.”

Worried about actor or client egos? Jon Van Horn, former engineer for Full House Productions in New York and now a freelancer with his own project studio, warns, “You can blow a session if you don''t handle an actor in the right way. Be supportive and be professional especially if you''re dealing with [a producer] who''s green or has a bad attitude. Part of your job is to act as middleman between actors and producer—so keep the peace, and use diplomacy.”

A checklist for getting the best performance from inexperienced talent:

• Have talent warm up his or her body to raise energy and eliminate excess adrenaline.
• Provide vocal exercises such as humming, yawning, sighing and tongue-twisters to loosen and warm up vocal cords.
• Prep talent for what to expect in the studio. It''s the unknown that makes people nervous.
• Give guidance on keeping a consistent distance from and focus on the mic. For those with popping issues, have them speak just slightly to the right of the mic, or place the mic a little bit above and angled down a bit toward the actor so plosives (t''s, b''s and p''s) come out under the mic.
• Help your talent find a simple goal to achieve in voicing copy.
• Make them laugh and feel comfortable – encouragement goes a long way.
• Get multiple retakes due to “engineer error” rather than make the talent feel inadequate.
• For character voices, encourage voice placement in different parts of the facial cavity and use of a mental image of the character.
• Be patient and supportive.