Whether you’re new to voiceover, or you’ve been behind the mic for years, you’re always looking to “Get An Edge” for your voiceover business. I hope that over the past two months you’ve gleaned that ‘Edge’ with the series of Performance and Marketing Tips that Edge Studio has allowed me to share.
David Goldberg, his staff, and coaches at Edge Studio are industry leaders in recording and coaching voiceover talent. They are well known as the premier studio for voiceover education and community, providing years of knowledge and insight, not to mention tons of free stuff.
Today, we start another month of giving you the ‘edge’ you need when it comes to one of the most important parts of your VO business, with our series of Edge Studio Demo Tips.
by: Edge Studio Staff
As a voice over performer, you’re really in two businesses. The first is performing. Your training and experience are at the core of that.
The other is “promoting.” At the core of that is your demo.
Almost nobody gets a foothold in the voice over business without having first created a professional-grade demo. And once you’re an established professional, you continue to need an up-to-date demonstration of what you can do at the mic.
That’s why it’s critically important that your demo be of professional quality in every way.
It’s a big job creating your voice over demo, and if creating it doesn’t seem at least a bit daunting, then you probably don’t know everything about it that you should. Once you do, it will feel more manageable if you break it down as follows:
1. Vocal quality and performance
At Edge Studio, we’ve heard countless demos that performers produced all by themselves. And their naiveté shows. Virtually none of them are “professional.”
Often, the performance is lacking. The talent just doesn’t have a producer’s “ears,” the broad listening experience needed to detect what to us are very obvious mistakes. Sometimes it’s because (quite understandably) the performer hasn’t learned to hear himself or herself as others do. Sometimes it’s because the performer doesn’t know what to listen for. Often it’s both.
2. Technical proficiency
Even more often, a self-produced demo is technically deficient. Engineering a marketable demo requires serious engineering skill. If you’ve only begun to learn the intricacies of your recording software, you may not yet have a full sense of all the options, opportunities and pitfalls in this.
Recording your demo segments (and/or collecting them from actual jobs you’ve done) is just the beginning. Next comes bringing them together in an acoustically consistent manner. And if you’re recording tracks from scratch, you’ll want to know all about editing, mixing music and SFX, EQing, compressing, etc. You should be using proper studio monitor speakers in a proper listening environment, and/or studio headphones, but we also mean “hearing” in the same sense as “hearing” your performance. Many of these technicalities are subtle and evade detection. Then fixing them requires some experience and subjective judgment.
All are important to get correct.
• Vocal Quality. You need to sound like you, so don’t over-enhance your performance by using technical tricks. But don’t hamper yourself, either. Listen for hiss, echo or a hollow sound, off-axis mic’ing, insufficient frequency range, and use your software tools to fix any deficiencies as well as possible.
• Editing. Get rid of mouth clicks, breaks, exterior noise, etc., and do it all seamlessly. Fortunately, there is affordable software for this (e.g., Audacity, Garage Band, Protools…). They’re not too hard to learn, and their capabilities should be standard equipment in your studio.
• Sound Effects and music. Finding the sounds is relatively easy. Selecting the right tracks and knowing when, where and how to use them is the trick. Listen very carefully to a wide range of professionally produced recordings, such as national TV and radio commercials, documentaries, promos, etc. You’ll even hear subtle SFX used to accentuate product names, make transitions, indicate “before/after”, etc. A mistake made by many novices is that they use outdated music. Your demo for 2012 shouldn’t be featuring synth tracks from the ’80s. Another mistake is when the music overpowers the voice — good producers know technical methods to prevent that. And another important tip: Don’t let your choice of music or sound effects drive your choice of what script or voice-over style to record for your demo. It might be a really cool sound, or at your fingertips, but if it’s not appropriate to your demo genre and most marketable performance styles, save that sound for some other use.
3. Sequencing and Direction
The order in which the demo segments appear on your demo is critical to its ability to stand up against competition. “Sequencing” includes:
• Choice of passage (which few seconds of each performance to use)
• Pacing (whimsical then serious, or the other way around… and where does the dialog best fit?)
• Timing (just as it does in comedy, timing can make or break a demo segment)
• Most importantly, tailoring the sequence of the demo segments to match the desires of the particular casting professionals you’ll market to.
The point is to present your wares in such a way that the listener doesn’t press the Stop button. And to present your most marketable selections. Talent is often too close to the performance, in love with a certain 5 seconds or the brand name, and so on, when another snippet from the same performance would speak much more to the needs of casting professionals.
Overall, it’s a matter of Direction. Just as you benefit from having a director give you feedback and inspiration during your performance, you will benefit from having the guidance of someone who is very knowledgeable in the areas of creating and marketing voice over demos. For this reason, many voice over performers enlist the help of an experienced voice over demo producer, even if they themselves are technically capable of engineering it themselves.
It’s a lot to learn. As you become more and more experienced in the industry, you’ll have learned all the above and more.
Still, even when you’re knowledgeable and skillful enough to produce your own demo, it’s a lot to do. The trick is to start now, don’t delay, and allow enough time.
And consider this shortcut
You do the performing. We’ll do the demo.
Interested? Click here.