“How do I get into voiceover?”
It’s a question that most voiceover artists and voice actors get asked a few times in their career and one that I think I asked myself on various social media outlets and forums when I was looking for a career change – so I know where the question comes from.
I thought I’d drop down a few words on how I managed it, and hopefully you’ll find something of use.
Firstly, note: I've made a distinction between Voiceover Artists, and Voice Actors.
I consider myself a voiceover artist, as I work mainly in the corporate/eLearning/Explainer Video area which although does require lending each script a particular style or sound, doesn’t require acting per se. Whereas voice actors work in character, for example video games that require getting into a particular characters head and becoming that character – you know ACTING darling.
Given the distinction above, you can probably already work out yourself that voice ACTORS are able to work easily as a voiceover ARTISTS, not so much the other way round. I personally have had no formal acting training.
So now we’ve got that out the way, what is the first step?
Well, I’d say the first thing to realise is that this isn’t a quick path to riches. Although you can make a very decent income from VO it’s not something that happens overnight.
Voiceover is a business and if you want to make a success of it, you need to get in that mindset from day one. If you fail to treat it as a business, you’ll only ever be a hobbyist.
The first thing you want to do when thinking about becoming a VO(A) is research… what is a VO? What do they do? What areas can they work in?
There are tons of pages already written about VO and what we do, Google is your friend.
Training - You are always learning. No-one in VO has ever said, ‘ah that’s it, I’m fully trained’ – there is always something to learn. Not just about your performance. For example, I’ve recently completed a course on Adobe Audition – one of the standard DAW systems VO’s use to record. I’ve been using AA for a few years but wanted to know a bit more about the nuts and bolts of the system so I could hopefully up my VO game. It worked and now my workflow is more streamlined, and I have a few news tools up my sleeve.
You need to learn how to voice properly. It’s not just ‘speaking out loud’ – you need to learn how to read a script properly – knowing where to breath, where to emphasise, and more importantly where not to. There are plenty of voice coaches touting their wares on Twitter et al, and I’m not going to recommend anyone in particular – that is part of your homework. Use your socials, get recommendations and speak to them.
Demos – When you researched VO, started your training and you still want to go ahead you’ll need to think about what your niche will be, and think about getting a demo created in that genre. That’s not to say that you can’t do other genres of VO, but your voice coach will hopefully have given you a nudge towards a certain genre that they think your voice would suit. Better to be a master of one than a jack of all trades – unless you’re amazing at all, then good on you.
Where will you record – So you’ve had coaching, got a demo cut and are ready to hit the streets and make your name in VO. What are you going to record with, and where?
These days, especially since Covid-19 threw a spanner in the works, a lot more VO’s are working from home from home studios – this can be as basic as a cupboard under the stairs or the other end of the spectrum a professional recording booth. Very good results can be obtained with a little thought and a lot more money.
The first thing you want to consider is /where/ are you going to record? Most houses are going to have somewhere that you can setup a home studio. Be that a spare room, under the stairs, or in a garage. The space you record is more important that what you use to record.
You could have a $1000 microphone, but if you’re recording in an untreated space it’s going to sound garbage.
You need to treat the space to reduce echo/reverb. You know how bad it sounds when you’ve been having family quiz nights over Zoom? The horrible room echo – that is the total opposite of the sound you’re trying to obtain.
The quickest way to stop echo is having lots of dense material around you to absorb the reflected sound. This could be thick winter quilts, or blankets etc. Even a little will really help. You can also purchase foam acoustic tiles which will also help absorb the naughty sound waves. However, have a totally dead sounding room can also be a problem – a little liveliness in the sound isn’t a bad thing, just not too much! It’s also important to realise the difference between sound proofing, and sound treatment.
Sound proofing means trying to stop external sound getting in – professional studios spend thousands on this, and it’s something you can do at home to a certain extent. For example creating a room within a room – an air gap that will reduce the sounds from outside. My office is in our garage, and my sound booth is within that. So the garage walls stop some noise, and the booth stops the majority of the rest so I get a nice quiet noise floor.
Sound treatment means getting rid of the boxiness and echo you get from bare walls. Acoustic foam tiles will NOT stop noise getting in. They help treat the room sound, so what you put into the mic doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a box.
Hardware – The actual hardware required to produce quality voiceovers isn’t amazingly difficult to understand. You’ll need: -
1) A microphone – preferably using an XLR adaptor, although some higher end USB microphones can be used but can be looked down upon as not being professional.
2) If you do have an XLR microphone, you’ll need an Audio Interface. This is the box that takes the input from the microphone and converts it to a signal the DAW can work with. I use an Audient ID14
3) DAW – this is a piece of software that that takes the input from the Audio Interface and allows you to edit it. The most popular DAW’s for voiceover work are: Adobe Audition, Audacity, Pro Tools and OcenAudio – (Audacity and OcenAudio are free, and are very good to begin with). I use Adobe Audition.
4) PC or Mac – this is what the DAW runs on. Windows and Mac are mostly used, and I believe that some software can run on Linux (Ocen) – I use a Mac.
Don’t have your PC/Mac in the booth with you while you’re recording. Although they might sound quiet to you now, the fans can kick in when under load and you don’t want that in the middle of a session with a client as it’ll ruin your recording. Keep the PC/Mac outside the booth and put a second monitor and a wireless mouse/keyboard inside the booth. Not having a PC in their also keeps things a lot cooler in the warmer summer months, trust me on this.
So there you go. Good luck!