From the desk of Sylvia Aimerito, Voice Talent & Creative Director of AudioGirl Productions
I teach a voice over workshop about three times a year and one of the first questions I ask the aspiring actors is: what is your primary motivation for taking this class? And what is one of the most common answers I receive? “Well, I hear these people on TV and radio and say to myself, ‘Hey! I can do that! What’s the big deal?’”
Then, after a couple of weeks in the class they understand what the “big deal” is. They discover that it’s more than just reading copy into a microphone; it takes a lot of talent, skill, and preparation to do what we do. And like any profession, the better we are at our job, the more we work. And how do we get better at our job? By continuing to raise the bar and acquire, improve or add skills to our voice over tool belt.
Which brings us to my area of focus: the skill of giving a fast paced performance while maintaining the proper attitude, emotion, and intention. Or in voice over language, the skill of fitting 40 seconds of copy into a 30 second spot.
Many of you know that copy time constraints are a common demand of clients and producers so it’s an important skill to master. A great place to start is with your preparation. As my old music teacher used to say,” Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” and it’s a philosophy that also works well in the field of voice overs.
Preparation suggestion number one: Forget about time.
Anyone can read the copy fast enough to fit into a time constraint. To quote the aforementioned student, “What’s the big deal?” The big deal is maintaining your attitude and emotion while making the copy fit. But first you must approach the copy as if you had all the time in the world.
Now, with time limits out of the way, you’re ready to study the copy in some depth and work out the technical, academic details such as word pronunciation or where to take breaths, if that’s an issue.
After that part of your technique is worked out, you’re free to get creative and embrace the next level of focus: bringing the right attitude, emotion, and intent to the piece.
Throughout your preparation it’s a good idea to remind yourself that your primary goal as a voice over artist is to sell the attitude and emotion – not the product. Again, without any consideration of a time limit, practice the copy until you feel comfortable.
Now you’re ready to work on speed.
While maintaining the emotion and relaxed delivery, start increasing your speed – little by little, a second at a time. Keep applying this technique until the goal is reached. Be patient with yourself and you’ll be fitting 40 seconds of copy in a 30 second spot with your emotion, attitude, and intent wonderfully intact!
Having a rock solid technique in working within time parameters is an important skill to master because it comes up often on the job. And, as with all skills, the only way to master it is with disciplined practice and patience. This skill, is one among many tools in our professional belt that keeps us sharp and confident and consequently – working.
One final thought. A great tool for every voice over artist to have is a convenient way to record your practice sessions and play back for critical listening. And now, more than ever, there are a plethora of terrific hand-held digital recorders on the market. They’re also handy for the particular focus of time constraints since most, if not all, automatically give the record time making it easy to determine your progress.
Well, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
Stay positive and fierce.
…Mastering Copy Time Constraints is my contribution to the very successful book The Art of Voice Acting by James R. Alburger. In the book the title is What’s the Big Deal?