You want a totally different mood and sound for a voice-over spot that’s selling cars than for a voice-over video explaining a complicated medical procedure. So how do we VO artists know what voice over read to deliver? Well, sometimes we don’t.
Some scripts present a myriad of options, all of which could work. Getting the “right” read depends largely on what a client believes is “right.” Sometimes clients have input on what they’re envisioning for the final result. But sometimes the clients themselves aren’t exactly sure.
When it’s not totally clear from the get-go what type of voice over read is going to be the “right” one for a client, I have several strategies on hand to ensure the final product delivers exactly that.
Considering Various Elements
When a script or client doesn’t offer direction on tone or style, it’s time for the acting abilities to kick in. My first inclination is to review the script to determine how I would be relaying the information to a close friend. Would I be engaged in a quiet, intimate discussion, or excited and enthused? That answer often comes from reviewing three key areas.
Determining exactly who I’m talking to is incredibly helpful for determining the voice over read. Here I assess the gender, age, interests, profession, and other details that flesh out the script’s intended audience. A read that’s highly effective for a 12-year-old girl may bomb miserably for a 72-year-old man, for example.
A lot depends on where the script’s scenario is taking place. Talking to a close friend in her kitchen is going to have a different feel than talking to her at the county fair. You’ll also find different reads at work in an office, at work in a factory, at play in the park, or hanging out at the bus stop.
The read is definitely going to be steered by the topic being discussed. The compassionate, calming tone used for sensitive topics, such as medical procedures or health-related issues, is a far cry from the excited, enthusiastic read exclaiming the latest kitchen gadget is the coolest thing in the world.
Putting all these details together gives me what I need to “act the copy,” or tune in to my acting abilities to read the script as a character in the scene. The strategy is highly effective as well as consistently successful.
Working with Clients in Real-Time
Working directly with the client during the recording session is another surefire way to get the right voice over read, and the phone patch makes that possible even when we’re miles away. In fact, I had a successful phone patch session last week where both a new client and advertising agency were on the phone with me during the session.
They had provided a concept around their branding, with descriptive words like bliss, peace and authenticity, and a very particular sound that would speak to an audience of millennials.
In cases like this, it’s useful to set up a benchmark read in a session, providing an initial read while keeping all the details in mind – and then adjusting the read accordingly, based on additional input from the client.
Specific changes are typically very easy to pinpoint and make when using the initial read as a starting point. Changes can include things like taking some inflection out, putting some pauses in, warming it up with more of a smile, and all the other little nuances a professional voice-over artist can bring to a session.
When clients can listen in on a recording in real-time, they can just as rapidly add useful input to achieve their desired results. Gotta love the phone patch.
Providing Different Voice Over Read Options
Even with a solid scenario and clear direction, there may be room for different variations of a single script.
One place this happens is with audition situations, although some may not provide much direction at all. In audition situations, I may actually give two full takes (or more, if the copy is short) of the audition script. Not only does this let the client review different interpretations of the script, but it also showcases my full range of abilities. And that’s a pretty handy aspect to showcase to someone who is considering hiring you.
Another situation in which I may give more than one voice over read is with relatively short sessions where I’m itching to share a slightly different read than the one I delivered. Here I’ll definitely give clients what they asked for, but I may also go ahead and read the script in a way that I personally feel would work best.
Sometimes the clients are happily surprised and go with the different take. Other times they simply thank me and stick with their original.
It’s all a matter of taste. Kind of like drinking a glass of wine. If two different people were to drink a glass of the same wine, you’d get two different reactions to it. The “right” read remains very subjective, and my overall goal remains to deliver a read that’s always right for the client’s needs.
Looking for the “right” read on your script? Contact me for a custom audition and we can work together to make it happen!
For more information on similar topics, please check out these related blog posts:
“A Client’s Guide to Selecting the Right Voice-Over Talent”
“Before You Hire Voice-Over Talent, Run Through This 10 Point List”