Conversationalism is Sweeping the Nation!

Dylan Tishler, Producer at Lotas Productions shares some thoughts on modern conversational voiceover styles.

connect

We’re friends, right?

Every company wants to be your best friend. Modern TV and social media campaigns are increasingly moving towards this approachable vibe and it’s why so many auditions ask us to be “conversational, non-announcery”.

Conversational…but what does it mean? Well, it means….

Who knows? It depends on the client. There are different levels of conversational that a brand could be aiming for.

Let’s examine a current campaign by Chase. Banks usually try to convey an image of security and trust in their advertisements. After the 2008 bailouts, it might have been tough for JPMorgan Chase to sell that image. Instead, the Chase Freedom campaign has a fun, upbeat vibe with indie rock music, clips of people doing the things they love, all supported chase11by a warm female voiceover (Julianna Margulies) with the tag “Chase, so you can.” She delivers the line with a smile, a knowing grin. It’s casual and in some versions the company name “Chase” is less emphasized than “So you can”. How often does a company, let alone a bank, deflect attention from their name? This gives the audience the impression that Chase is selfless, giving you freedom, finishing your child’s science project, etc.

Your turn.

So, you’re in the session. The ukelele and happy whistling music bed is present. Your director asks “can you sound a little more conversational…like you’re talking to a friend?” It’s a simple concept, but it can be challenging to sound conversational while reading corporate copy. Most of us don’t say to our friends: “Hey Steve, did you know you can refinance your mortgage with great rates at ___ Bank?” Do your best.

How do I adjust if I’m not getting what the client wants?

In my opinion, it’s all about the cadence. For decades we’ve grown accustomed to the classic “and everyone lived happily ever after” – sound, where the announcer lands comfortably on the last word, with even pacing throughout. This style certainly still works and many companies continue to go that route. But when you’re in a session or auditioning for a major account or reading great, clever copy you need to stand out from the pack.

Sometimes it helps to throw away everything you know and to not revert back to the voice that you’ve been successful with. New producers are listening for a natural cadence. They are growing tired of the classic announcer cadence because it comes off as too “sell-y”.

Less is More

Try something different. Be simple. Try using a smaller voice with less projection. Change up your pacing. Experiment with a more monotone sound, less sing-songy.  Practice reading copy like you’re talking to your friend on the phone. Be a little less exacting in your pronunciation. Investing in acting and improvisation classes can be just as much, if not more valuable than a voiceover workshop.

264-HARD-SELLWhen you overemphasize how great something is, it can come across as disingenuous, especially to younger viewers. If you’re less revealing and have an attitude of “take it or leave it”, it draws in the audience.

Don’t throw out that announcer voice just yet!

The authoritative announcer isn’t leaving anytime soon. Actually, we’re so familiar with being sold products, that the authoritative announcer is now a comedic element. For example, the Bud Light “Up For Whatever” campaign features a big authoritative announcer (Mark Morettini) who is basically making fun of the indecisiveness of young people…who are “up for whatever, bro.”

Just keep in mind that “conversational” means something different to everyone. Some brands can be very subtle, some have to appeal to a much wider audience. If you’re really not sure it may be good to ask the director for a line read.

What is your approach to being conversational?

The Producer’s Chair-with Jim Kennelly

Positive Interaction with Project Managers BlogPic 05.29.2015

The phrase “wearing many hats” is synonymous with being a freelancer or small business owner. In 2015, this phrase is part of every industry, especially for proactive talents. Many ad agencies and production houses use the title of project manager and producer interchangeably. The person directing you may also be sending you scripts, scheduling studio time, invoices, etc.

I work with young project managers everyday. I help them cast, hire and record voice talents. I’ve learned that 1000 words of copy doesn’t leave as deep an impression as one deed to help a project manager. The first step to making your project managers life easier is recognizing their challenges.

1. The Project Mangers Task

Project managers manage resources. They hold their productions master plan. They serve as the creative teams coordinator. Project managers consider  “on budget” and “on time” as their measure of success. But, they also love and long to be involved in creative work. They are heavily invested in the project and are equally proud to see their production delivered and have impact.

2. We’re Going to Need a Pickup

If there’s one thing for certain in marketing and advertising, everything changes and quickly. Your project manager knows change is part of their reality. They are well aware that updates have to be monitored and integrated into every production. Proactive voice talents make it a point to fully understand the production process. The process should never be seen as an obstacle. It’s the opportunity to change someone’s voice over experience – don’t ever waste it!

3. The Simplest Path

Project Mangers ask hard questions and tackle challenges.They are interested in skill specialization. How can we help them? By providing specific samples of your voice over work. Clearly describing your home studios digital connection capabilities. Let them know you can you edit and deliver a professional file. Suggest clear turn around times and when your available to record.

4. Stay on Budget

A production manager is responsible for all production estimates. They serve as guardians of budget. You need to understand all costs involved in your hiring. This includes your talent fee, paymaster services and studio production costs, everything. It’s critical that you make financial realities part of a transparent dialogue with production managers.

5. Action Speaks Louder than Words

Production Managers don’t trust words, they trust actions. They have high emotional intelligence. They understand how to manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results. When you give something spontaneously, without expecting anything in return, this leaves a powerful impression. Proactive voice talents build strong relationships because they are constantly thinking about others.

many-hats-blog

Don’t Get Sizzled Before You Start

Sizzle

All business and trade need the right tools to succeed, voice over is no different. So this Blog is for people planning an online voice over career whether new or established.

Why is being online different from offline, simply more pressure and financial outlay is put on the talent so its best to get things in shape before you start your online career.

Over the last few years I’ve been keeping notes on the best gear to have in a studio and the best bang for your buck.

Why? Because you maybe one of the best voice actors around but your gear may let you down.

It’s all part of the presentation, walk into a restaurant that looks awful and you will turn around and leave even though they may have the best food in the area.

It’s the same for us, send an audition with poor sound quality and I guarantee you will be over looked and the same goes for a booking that you do from your studio, one mistake and I doubt you’ll see that client again.

Now by saying one mistake and your career is over is a little over the top but the key is to minimise the possibility of them happening in the first place.

Mistakes usually come from hearsay, misinformation and not doing the research first. If anyone assumes being an audio engineer is simply setting levels and pressing the red button, think again.

Have tech support close by and have an audio engineer come set everything up for you.

In previous Blogs Phil Sutfin from ACM has looked at things from an agents point of view and given some great insight, you can see these in previous realtimecastingblog.com blogs.

This is about setting up at home to work online which isn’t a cheap exercise and anyone that says it is could be giving you misinformation.

Like everything in life take the initial hit and get the best you can, it will soon pay for itself.

So here is a list of things that I believe are fundamental to delivering your voice in the best possible way.

  1. The space to record.

Build either in an outbuilding or as far away from noise as you can.

The booth has to be as soundproof as possible, acoustically treated and a place you can be in for long periods of time without dying from a lack of oxygen or over heating!

Use various materials as they all transfer different frequencies. You may start with a layer of dense timber, stud work packed with acoustic bats, sheets of rubber, more timber and finish with plaster board. You can also green glue a second layer of plaster if you wish.

Also build the booth on a thick layer of rubber to isolate if from the floor.

  1. The best software.

There are free programs like audacity but I use Wavelab from Steinberg, it’s very simple to use and solid. Samplitude, Sound Forge and others I’m told are also very good. Protools and Nuendo are probably a bit overkill but find the program you feel comfortable with as you will be using it a lot.

  1. Outboard.

Outboard gear is optional as there are lots of plugins available. I, like many of our members, am a bit of a gear nerd, so outboard I like a lot!

  1. Pre amp.

This is important to your sound so you will need to research to find the best for you.

Grace Design M101, it is in a good price bracket and delivers way above what it costs, so worth considering.

Standard industry preamps would be the Avalon 737 or the smaller M5 but these are more expensive. If money wasn’t a consideration look at Neve 1073, Millennia, Universal Audio and even something I recently discovered from right under my nose, Melbourne built Sebatron.

  1. Microphones.

Standard industry kit is the Sennheiser 416 and the Neumann U87.

I have been testing various microphones over the last few months and got some interesting results.

I took 2 of my Microtech Gefell microphones into a few top end studios and AB tested with some very good microphones and the end result was the M930 stood out. One studio has gone out and bought a couple of them and another studio asked me to bring it with me for the next session I do there.

So for around half the cost of a U87 the Microtech Gefell M930 could be a good choice according to the experts.

Alternatives to the 416, once again I did AB testing with a Rode NTG3 and it did the job well and will save a couple of hundred dollars.

  1. Soundcards.

There are many options, so it depends on whether you use Mac or PC and your needs.

If you want a top end soundcard look at Lynx or RME but you may find others that will work well for you.

  1. On the road.

Try to get your road case as close as possible to your studio sound and think about who will ask you to record with short notice.

These clients are usually radio or TV who want quick turn around promos. This will help when putting together a road case.

For me I use the shotgun microphone for all imaging and promos, so that is the one I take on the road.

Maybe a Harlan Hogan Porta Booth Pro to help control the sound in the room.

  1. Connectivity.

In this area things are on the move, now ISDN has some strong competition with Source Connect, ipDTL and others.

This is the last part of the puzzle as there’s no point offering voice overs down the line if your studio sounds bad.

Also make sure you can connect ISDN or you have enough bandwidth.

There are some things to be mindful of with internet connectivity like a static IP.

Do your research here to make sure that none of these will let you down because a mistake can be costly.

  1. Websites.

The key to any website currently is not a mind blowing home page that needs medication to really appreciate it! Keep it simple.

Marketing is where the money goes now like SEO, ad words and social media.

All of this is part of Realtime Casting and other online casting sites, that’s why you pay a membership fee.

I always compare casting websites to business cards and casting websites win hands down as far as value for money and reach.

All of this is just my opinion and information from others. It is purely a guide for those setting up a studio and an online voice over business but may help a few veterans change things around a little.

The other thing to remember is as voice actors online we invest more than ever before, so its important to make sure your fee reflects not just your talent but the extra time spent and investment made.

If you have any ideas or tips we would love to hear from you.

Online voice casting – it’s not the future…it’s now

I’ve recently heard commentary from the most unlikely sources concerning the ‘legitimacy’ of online casting and was surprised that this is still a discussion point.

There are still concerns with some sites, but each has its target market, which may not suit all voice actors – the choice is an individual one.

Computer

In 2015 if you’re not online you’re not really in the game. On-line casting sites are simply a place to showcase your talent to a large global audience, which you may or may not have been exposed to before.

For some reason there is still push back from certain quarters and this is baffling. The most successful business’ today are online, people shop, search and bank online, in fact just about everything is done online.

People under 30 have known nothing else, so why do some people still think a young producer will get on the phone?

When business’s decline it is usually due to an inability to adapt.

Around ten years ago I could see the fracturing of the industry globally, some say it was due to the online market, the home studio or the industry not reacting quickly enough to change. These are all partly true.

Change is not always a problem, most of the time it’s an opportunity.

The choice is yours to select the site that best reflects you as a talent.

Realtime Casting was built to offer the professional industry an online tool that truly reflects their skill and expertise allowing them to compete in an appropriate environment.

What has surprised me is that we are still being asked the same questions.

Online offers potential clients the ability to find and book talent simply and quickly, it is not the future of our industry it is the present. We need to embrace the site that’s the ‘right fit’ and encourage it to grow.

As a footnote I want to share this email with you from, we shall call them ‘John Doe’.

I feel there’s still a misunderstanding about them (RTC) with voice agents and I frankly just don’t get it. 

 

I say, it’s good for all of us.  

  • They’re not taking work away from pro’s.  They only use pro’s.
  • Their rates are the Union/industry agreed rates.
  • They link to agents
  • They may call for auditions from home studios but they often book a professional studio for the job.  So they’re not diminishing work that gets done in sound studios.

 

It’s clear that RTC are not huge players, but they are legit, playing by all the rules, and simply offering opportunities for work in a global landscape.

 

What Andrew Peters wanted to do in the beginning was set up a ‘professional’ online directory that said ‘if you want a premium voice actor, this is where you’ll find one’, as a serious alternative to Voices 123, Voices.com and those sites that would (and do) seek to under-cut and undermine our rates.

 

Andrew Peters

Founder Realtime Casting and fulltime voice actor

The Producer’s Chair with Jim Kennelly

Why does every audition seem to say, please no announcer types, we want an everyday guy or gal, must be conversational?

The answer is simple and it’s a warning shot across the bow for voice talents looking to be successful.Producers chair

In the future, our lives will be made easier by technologies that schedule our needs and desires. And as technology becomes less invasive, smart advertising will answer that call. Conversational means human. This new sound will not be loud or intrusive. The future looks bright for voice overs because voice actors will be incorporated into every device in our homes, our cars, our bodies…everything. The goal for marketers is to capitalize on opportunities when consumers invite brands into the everyday moments that matter most.

“What happened to all the National spots I made a living on?”

Honestly, the era of mass-marketed products is coming to a close. We’re living in it. TV and radio commercials that used to reached millions of viewers do not offer the engagement clients look for. Advertising in the future will calculate the exact moment of a users need and supply consumers with the solutions or options they are looking for in real time. As we all become more comfortable with connected devices in our homes and on our wrists, it’s being predicted that advertising in the next decade will progress more than it has in the last 50 years.

The future voice over business will be instantaneous. In real time. A producer will have a script to cast…voice actors will be standing by in professional studios ready to audition. When they find the voice they like, producers will hire talents immediately, a one touch payment system. The focus will be on ease of search and transaction. Online casting sites and voice actors will need to work together to make these systems fluid so producers are instantly gratified.

Get ready for Realtime solutions.

So, the next time you see conversational on a script and roll your eyes. Think about making your voice over skills viable in the future…you must be ready to offer a human quality to all your reads, be able to connect with producers when they want to reach you and be ready to add value to the producers experience of working with you. If you can create those opportunities your brand should be ready for the next step in voice overs.

These are a Few of My Favourite Things

Sound of music
Its 50 years this month since the release of ‘The Sound of Music’.
Those of us old enough to remember, it was a box office smash, had a great cast, beautiful scenery and a brilliant music score.

While I was reminiscing, or trying to get those songs out of my head, one stuck.
So I thought I’d run through a few of my favourite studio things and why I like them and also thought it would be good to find out yours.

So here are mine.

The Samson Cque8 headphone amp

I love this, it has made headphone monitoring so much easier for me. I now have control over all 3 sets of cans and the bonus is I also run skype through it.
Samson

Microtech Gefell M930art

This mic is rare, it’s the 80th anniversary Georg Neumann version. They upgraded the spec on this and it sounds absolutely perfect, I will never sell this one.
M930

Neve 2254r

This was a crazy purchase but I love it. Its one of those things you cannot justify financially but I would never part with it as it’s a modern version of a classic.
Grace

Grace M101

What a great little preamp, well made and great bang for your buck. I bought this with the M930 and the two together make for a very clean and flat signal. There are very few products that deliver like the Grace.

Rode NTG3

This mic is a workhorse, tough and durable.
It’s not a 416 but its pretty close. When I got this I was a little suspicious but I was quickly convinced how good it is. I use this mic for at least 90% of my VO’s from home and I’m not the only one using one of these. As a VO mic Rode have a winner here.
Rode

AKG K601

Great headphones, you can wear these for hours on end without fatigue. Not cheap but a must have if you edit narrations or audio books.
AKG

Mackie Big Knob

What a great name! and its a tank.
It’s a great studio command system that I use as the main controller for all my monitoring. It’s easy to use and works!
Mackie
So these are a few of my favourite things, what are yours?

How would you describe your job as a voice actor?

Thinker
Who can remember the days when as a voice actor you arrived at a studio, was offered coffee, handed a script, had someone set up your mic, had an engineer press the red button and a producer directing you and when you were done you said goodbye and waited for the check to arrive?

This still happens but not from your studio at home.
More is put on the shoulders of the actor and this can be a major learning curve or an expensive mistake if you get it wrong.

These days most voice talent will have a studio at home, it may be audition quality or broadcast quality.
It is important to know the difference and what is expected when you say broadcast quality.

With broadcast quality the expectation is you can deliver the same results as a professional studio and to do this you need to have a good understanding of what it means and more importantly what it sounds like.

When you are working in professional studios have a look around, check what mics they use, where do they place them, which way do they face you in the room, what headphones do they have?
There are industry standards like the U87, 416, Avalon 737, Genelic and AKG 141’s. This doesn’t mean you have to have them but use them as a reference when setting up your studio.

One thing to always remember, keep everything sounding as flat as possible, a good engineer can work with this but if you add color at your end chances are they cannot remove it.

With the room get advice from a reliable source, this will save you time and money. Get a good audio engineer you trust to help you, they understand treatment, isolation and set up.

Technology has changed the way files are delivered. Apart from ISDN the new kids on the block are internet based and offer high quality connectivity at a good price.
There’s also FTP, phone patch and Skype.
To cover yourself you need all of these to be considered a professional set up.

How are your ears? Unfortunately for me years of headphones and seeing bands have taken their toll and certain frequencies have gone. So I have to be aware of this when I’m changing settings.

The things to consider when you say broadcast quality are;
• Can you deliver a large sound file?
• Is the sound of your room and equipment up to speed?
• Do you know industry standards and expectations?

We as talent are expected to know much more than ever before and have to be ready for change.

So what is the future of voice over? We can only guess but one thing is clear, if you are not moving with the times and able to offer what producers expect you will soon be wondering why things are going quiet.

At Realtime Casting we have a depth of industry knowledge and have been working hard to gain an insight into the future. We believe the union industry is very important and needs the tools to compete and prosper.
We will continue to support the real industry because we believe now more than ever we need to speak with one voice, so join us today.

Lets keep it real!

Andrew Peters
Realtime Casting Founder

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The Producer’s Chair with Jim Kennelly

FullSizeRender

Can you feel it? There’s a change in the air.

When spring arrives, we enter into this colorful time, where we make room for new growth, both within us and around us. A wave of freshness takes over… and we all feel it together.

I love springtime and I try to do all I can to feel its presence deeply. I also love my work in voice overs and I try to do all I can to share the joy it gives me.

Here are a few voice over ways to immerse yourself in all things spring:

-Try something new: In the spring, we naturally feel more energized than we have over the last few months. Our minds feel clearer and our hearts bigger. Use this wave of energy to get into something you’ve always wanted to do. Even if you don’t feel totally ready, just go for it.

-For many actors, it’s starting an improv class or signing on for a few weeks of voice over training.

-Contact studios and producers and collect some of your work and build new short voice samples for demos.

-Challenge yourself to learn and appreciate how the voice industry is working online all the time.

Do a little spring cleaning!

Ciappa studio

Clean studio. Clean reads.

Spring is the perfect time to purge the unnecessary and make some room in your home studio.

-Back up your hard drive and clear space for new projects and gigs.

-Upgrade your home audition set up.

-Create a better sound for yourself with a professional microphone and improve your acoustics.

Uncluttering the area you work in can actually have much deeper affects than you may realize. I recently read that clutter is the junk food of the mind, and I couldn’t agree more.

Yes, a new season is afoot. … Renew your voice over career, clear the cobwebs from your mind, and enter spring with open arms.

The Producer’s Chair with Jim Kennelly

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Every week at Realtime Casting there’s one project that stands out. That wows me, even after 30 years and many rounds of producing anything that requires a voice over. The Producer’s Chair answers the question we all hear…

How did that spot get cast?

Gyro a B2B and advertising powerhouse in San Francisco reached out to Realtime Casting to find a voice for Cisco Ecosystem.

Gyro’s CEO + CCO Christopher Becker says: Our mission is to create ideas that are humanly relevant. Gyro understands that new technologies are bringing humans together as never before. In just one click we share our innermost thoughts with a million other minds.

Realtime got busy helping Gyro find just the right voice. Little did we know the answer was at the end of the rainbow!

The Irish love a good story and respect the use of language.

The people who surround us influence our perspective. And in voice over, it often comes by word, through a writer or directors notes… it only takes something small to cause our view to become distorted. Sometimes it’s for the better, but I’ve found this can negatively effect voice actors as well.

The casting of the Cisco project took Realtime around the world. We auditioned the talented roster of US and International voice actors on our site. The talented producers in San Francisco gave us this feedback: “It’s a great time to be alive. Keep searching. We want a voice to ignite ideas”.

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people-William Butler Yeats

We reached out to our professional friend Neil Conrich. Neil represents some of the best professional voice artists in the UK. We requested Irish actresses, but did not include notes. We said, let the talents trust themselves. A select batch of golden auditions came back, but only one had that “faith and begorra” moment! Roisin Sullivan!

In honor of St.Patrick’s Day, Realtime lifts a glass to each and every fine casting decision. Roisin was booked at Mutiny Recording Studio in Dublin…where they cherish audio!

In the voice over game, we all share the problem of building our own opinion on top of someone else’s.

Our thoughts and actions are our own. But to a certain point, we inherit some of what surrounds us. When we are auditioning copy, how do we erase what we already know? Can we?

I believe we can. It takes knowing what to allow in, or set aside. I think it takes a little bit of learning… learning that we have control over our perspective, no matter how many influences surround us.

Have a wonderful St Patrick’s Day. I’m grateful for all my relatives who only influence me for the better!

The work praises the man.
-Irish Proverb

Iriah Top Hat

Today is tomorrow’s history.

If you, like many, are content with today and haven’t really thought much about next week, next year or even the next decade here’s a good exercise.

I’m using radio as the main subject matter as it demonstrates how much things have changed in the last 20 years.

Let’s wind the clock back to the early 80’s.

Multi track

This is me back in the early 80’s, in the background is a multi track 2inch tape deck. That was ‘the business’ back then but now for a few hundred dollars spent on software you will leave it for dead.

Beau

Back in the early 80’s something else changed, a new business started which would deliver parcels over night. How did this change our business? Ask Beau Weaver (pictured above from that period) and I’m sure he will tell you that he saw the potential. He and a couple of colleagues realized they could deliver tapes to clients anywhere in the US over night.

This was in the days when you could have a week lead to a booking, no mobile phones, no email and it probably marked the beginning of what is now commonplace, the home studio.

Barry

Through the 80’s digital was moving in, CD’s and digital converters were first, then computers in the office and email.

By the 90’s computer operated desks where arriving and within a decade analogue was almost completely replaced by digital.

(Above 70’s analogue radio studio still common in the early 80’s, below todays digital studio)

90s studio

In my radio career, which started in the late 70’s, I saw cart machines, reel to reel and vinyl disappear to be replaced with touch screens.

In fact if you transported someone from the 70’s or early 80’s to a studio today there would only be a few things they would recognize!

You may ask what has radio got to do with voice over? The answer is technology. Radio has pioneered most of the technology we use today in professional and home studios because they had a need to deliver and connect as quickly as they could.

Today we are able to work from home, recording and emailing voice overs within minutes of receiving a script. We can connect with studios all over the world via ISDN, Source Connect and ipDTL

We audition from online sources and book with clients we may never meet and in some cases never talk to.

So what will tomorrow bring? Only a brave man will try to predict that answer but a smart man will be ready to move quickly as things change.

Are you ready to embrace the future and move with the times? We are.

Andrew Peters Founder Realtime Casting