Almost every man I know wants to drive like a pro. Its a strange thing this fascination the male members of the human species have with moving vehicles. Not so much tractors and heavy machinery… with those we would like to think of ourselves as instinctively intuitive, as in, you can operate this behemoth of a machine instinctively without instruction or prior training. But the truth of the matter is that there are good drivers, and bad drivers… and everyone in between is the norm… the moderately good drivers. The truth is that if I decide to drive a Caterpillar Earth Mover without instruction… I wouldn’t be able to make it move.
In the Acting world there are those who are called character actors. People like Heath Ledger, Danial Day Lewis and Johnny Depp. Those people are well known for their chameleon like versatility. Almost like they have multiple personalities. On the other side of the spectrum you have actors that play themselves over and over in movies. Seth Rogan (I still like his work… but seriously lets face it … its the same guy over and over) Adam Sandler and David Spade is another.
Then you have some of those dedicated actors… who are good, well liked, prepare like crazy… and have talent. Christian Bale, Robert De Niro, Gary Oldman.
I’m sure every actor out there wants to be known as versatile. That would mean he gets more work doesn’t it? If they can play the Good guy and the Bad guy with equal conviction …. then the doors of possibility are endless.
The Art of Voice
I am not a Voice coach, I don’t have the patience or the disposition. What I do is observe and convey. So This is me conveying what I have noticed.
The truth is that there are a crazy amount of factors associated with providing a great voiceover performance. Our physical appearance does not come into play… We are in effect the actor, the cameraman, the editor and the director (at times) but we can do all of this in our Pajamas.
Some VO talent are versatile in most of these different elements. We’ve spoken on several occasions on the technical side of Voice acting on my blog so I’ll skip the redundancies and go straight to the idea of understanding the Art of creating art.
The Art of Oration
I personally don’t have the ability to dry read a script for the first time and make it seem conversational… I have to read it several times and underline what I need to emphasize. Some actors put circles around the word, a visual cue that helps the VO talent to build up to that point.
Then again I do voiceovers in two different languages so it can get a bit confusing, or I could be making excuses for my lack of intuitive reading ability..
But there are people out there, voice talent, who have the ability to pick up a script and dry read it into victory. I don’t have an equivalent for them in the Visual acting world. Maybe they can be considered prodigies. Or maybe its a talent that has been honed through years and years of experience, trial and error, and failure.
I have seen people who are like that perform in studios. And it is crazy intimidating. But personally I prefer to be inspired rather than demotivated. You see that is the difference between one who wishes to learn and one who just wishes.
The Talent Meter
- Not all talents are created equal. The ability to analyze a script and perform it in a way that is both convincing and accurate by yourself is a talent and the ability to take direction from a director and perform according to their vision… is a talent and maybe you are better at one than the other.
- Some Talent can be improved through study: A good teacher is a priceless commodity… someone that can convey their knowledge to you thereby saving you years of trial and error is an unbelievable gift… but to find one that you are comfortable and receptive to… that is a whole other story.
- Not all those who study VO will be phenomenal: If that was the case then everyone who went to school would be exceptional, everyone who went to college or university would be successful and everyone who became a scientist would get the Nobel prize.
- And not all those that are adept at the Audio Editing aspect of VO are adept at performance: Not every mechanic can be a racing driver knowing the inner workings of sound and DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) is a talent unto itself and those who specialize in it become Studio Engineers but that doesnt make them phenomenal performers.
There are a whole load of other facts but for now… I ask only that you reflect upon your own talent. Can you truly be unbiased when attempting to judge your own work?
Personally I cringe sometimes when I listen to older recordings of myself. Alternately I smile when listening to some of the better recordings I’ve done.
Was it hit and miss? Or has there been a significant improvement since I began as a VO?
I have noticed a definite improvement in the way I write and in some cases the way I perform. I hit the mark more often and increasingly clients don’t come back for retakes and re-voices. So it is possible that there is some kind of improvement in the way I perform.
Recently (well a year ago) I fired one of my clients. They were almost always late in payment and were often lying to me about the payment schedule. Would often want rush work and not want to pay for it (the extra rush charge)…and would ask me to read some of the most terrible scripts I have seen. In fact I would often rewrite the scripts they sent me and then email them my edits for approval.
But I digress… so this client moved on and hired another Voice talent to do their VOs. Nothing strange about that. Guy is good … but he does things a little differently than me. Emphasizes different words, brings a different quality to the video.
It is then that I came to the realization that there is no one right way in performing Art. A Vase can be painted in the Cubist, Impressionist, Surrealist or the Pop method… and it would still be a correct interpretation of that vase.
The most correct way to perform the script, ultimately, is the way the client is happy with.
What ends up on your demo reel is the version you prefer… and that is also correct.