Is your voiceover demo effective AND efficient?

Producer and audio engineer at Lotas Productions, Dylan Tishler, shares information on what makes an effective and efficient voiceover demo

Is your demo effective and efficient?
One of the challenges in a voice artist’s life is getting opportunities to display your full skill set. Face-time is almost impossible and emails are easy to forget and delete. It is especially important, that when asked to submit your voice over demo, it contains good samples and is packaged well.

At Realtime Casting we are constantly trying to get into the heads of producers and understand how they work. Young producers are under a lot of pressure, and now that everyone has smartphones, casting and production comes together more quickly.

Here are some ideas make your voice over demo more effective and efficient.

Shorter is better

less-is-more
Specifically, try to keep it under 90 seconds. There are many reasons why shorter is better. First, when a client is listening to 20-30 demos the time starts to add up. (*Note: always assume no one has time). If 30 demos are two minutes long, that is an hour of listening! That may not seem like a long time, but some projects are cast and recorded in less than a day.

Second, most young producers are working from their phones. Shorter demos mean less data storage, which makes loading time faster. Think about it. When you’re on Youtube or Facebook how long does it take for a video or image to load, before giving up. For me, once I’ve seen some spinning “loading” icon for five seconds, I’m exhausted. I’ve already moved on.

Warning! Loading is hazardous to your success

Third, quicker loading time is even more important now in the wake of Net Neutrality, as Steven Lowell explained last month.

So…

Technical stuff!
Don’t be the demo that takes forever (5+ seconds) to load. To ensure your demo loads fast the demo should be an MP3, 128kbps, mono or stereo. To my audiophile friends out there, I say this, “Don’t worry. Producers aren’t listening for sonic quality as much as the tone and character of your voice. When the recording session takes place, the quality will be great.”

Order is important
It’s good to show some variety in your reel. If you have a few different commercial “sounds”, try to showcase them all within the first 45 seconds. For example, an Olay spot and a Dove soap spot will likely both feature a soft, soothing, warm voice. You can use both of these spots in your demo, but it would be wise to not put them spots back-to-back. To a producer it may sound like the same thing twice, which is inefficient use of their precious time. Unless it’s absolutely you’re best work, try to put your longer samples towards the end. In crunch time, your client might only be listening to the first 30-45 seconds.

Isn’t it a pain getting a copy of a mixed spot back from your clients? This is one of the world’s great unknowns. If you’re fortunate and do have copies of spots that have aired, you should put those first. A producer might recognize the spot right away and remind them that yes, you are the real deal!

Keep a focus
If your file is labeled as commercial demo, try not to stray too far from that. It can be a little confusing to hear a Listerine spot followed by a few words in an Irish accent, then an IVR sample. Personally, I think you could sneak in a good narration sample, but I’d keep character voices and accents for a separate reel.

Present your demo to fresh ears

listening to demoIt always helps to get feedback from a fresh set of eyes or ears. This is true in almost any profession. Ask your friends, family, or peers. Sometimes I’ll work on a mix for a few hours to the point where I like it. Then I play it for someone and right away they think of an idea I never would have thought of by myself.

What I’m trying to say is that the spot you think you sound great on may just sound OK to others. And vice versa.

Some ideas for making cuts
Every spot is different so some of this advice may not apply. In general, beginnings and endings of commercials are solid, just like a well-written story. It’s often the stuff in the middle that is dispensable. For example, let’s look at this Tide laundry detergent script:

“When you find something you love, you want even more of it. And that’s why the new Tide Plus collection brings you more of what you love, like more freshness that lasts three times longer. And one cup of Tide gives you more cleaning power than six cups of the bargain brand. Also available in powder with Acti-lift Crystals. The new Tide Plus collection. What’s your tide?”

If you’re trying to cut this down, you could take out the third and fourth sentences, from “And one cup….Acti-lift crystals.” In commercials for consumer goods (especially P&G), there’s usually some line that explains the “technology” of a product … and it’s not crucial for your demo.

A demo is just like a résumé in that you want a potential employer to easily understand who you are and your voiceover ability.

resumeSo, take a listen to your demo. Is it easily accessible to producers on all platforms (phone, tablet, Windows, etc.)? Is it both effective and efficient for getting the work you want?

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