Bruce Carey Blogs about Sound and Audio

What Makes a Good Voice Demo Reel (That Gets Bookings)

We often hear the same questions about voice demos, both from beginning and seasoned voice actors.
• What makes a good voice demo?
• Do I need more than one reel?
• What are the benefits of a professionally produced demo?
• Can I record my own demo?
• Where can I get scripts for a demo reel?
• How do I market my demo?

What makes a good voice demo?
A good demo should clearly establish your voiceprint. It should also show subtle emotional range within the spectrum of that voiceprint. This is critical in getting you bookings. A good demo makes it easy for a creative director or producer to hear, “Oh, he’s good at dry sarcasm,” or “She’s got natural heart and compassion.”
A good demo should be cinematic, like an action movie. Act I should engage. Act II should thrill. Act III should resolve in a satisfying end. It should have movement. Taking you up and down like a symphony.
A good demo shows you at your best. It shows your strengths. A good demo holds the casting director’s attention throughout. A good demo gets work!
We build national quality voice over demos in all categories. Our process is turn-key. We cull and write copy to fit your unique sound and character. Then we record, direct and produce, all in house.
Other producers offer more expensive demos. We will stack ours up against theirs any day of the week.

Do I need more than one reel?
If you are a serious, professional, yes. I have demos in ten categories I regularly send out. Casting people are often looking for something specific for their particular project. If you’re just starting out, you should know that most will accept a commercial demo to get an idea of your general sound. Character work is the fun stuff. Commercial and narration pay the bills. That’s why we always advise doing a commercial demo first.
Having said that, if you are super talented or super focused in a specific area of the work such as anime/video game or audio books, then you should have those demos.

Can I record my own demo?
The short answer is you probably shouldn’t. Unless you have years of acting under your belt and thousands of hours of production experience. It’s hard to even find someone like that. If you try it, you risk putting a bad product out there that people will remember. It’s hard to be objective about your own performance. You need a master director. You need a producer with a great ear and great vision. To do all this and perform is asking a lot of any voice actor, regardless of talent.

What are the benefits of a professionally produced demo?
A professionally produced demo offers many advantages to a voice actor and many benefits the actor will probably be unable to do for themselves.
A pro-produced demo is very skill and work intensive. Even though a finished demo is only one minute long, but it can take up to 30 hours of writing original copy to suit the actor’s voiceprint , directing, recording, listening, rough editing, fine editing, gathering the perfect music and sound effects and placing each piece in the right order. It is not just 60 seconds of work!
A pro-produced demo is recorded in a sound-proof, acoustically isolated booth. The actor’s voice is captured on some of the best audio equipment, like Neumann microphones, and recorded and edited on industry equipment and software.
And an experienced sound engineer, director and producer bring years of industry experience to the process.
An actor should focus on acting. Let the pros help you accomplish your best work.

Setting up your home studio and making your own voice over demo
* Spare no expense on a microphone. Rent one if you have to. A $50 USB microphone will not do.
* Have a sound-proofed recording room.
* ONE minute.
* Half-second intro silence (but no more).
* Have your demo content on topic to the types of work you want: anime/video game for anime work, commercial for commercial work, narration or announcing for those types of work, etc.
* Audio books is an explosively growing area of voice over work. Consider a specific audio book demo for that type of voice over work.
* Political voice over work is seasonal but busy during election season. A specific political as demo can get you work during those times.
* File format should be MP3, recorded at 44.1KHz, 16-bit. I like a sample rate of 192kbps. The quality is higher than 128kbps and it does not increase the file size by much.
* Traditionally, we slate our demos. Which is you saying your name only, before the demo rolls. Its official name is a “name only slate.” Say your name clearly without too much performance. Leave a half-second between the slate the start of the demo. There is a new trend toward un-slated voice over demos -which will work if your name is in the audio filename (which you should do anyway).

Where can I get scripts for a demo reel?
Copyright law in the US protects the rights of any and all content producers and all their creative work. You cannot “find” scripts on the internet – well, yes you can – but you shouldn’t use them. So search for ‘royalty free voice over scripts’ or ‘open source voice over scripts’. Don’t borrow a Pixar or Disney film transcription! Voices Carey provides scripts for our students and we have a large catalog of voice over scripts for our demo clients. We also write original scripts for our demo clients.

How do I market my demo?
How do I market my voice over demo after its produced and where do I post it?
Post your demo in MP3 format on casting sites such as voices.com, voice123.com, and send it to production houses, recording studios, creative directors and broadcast production directors at advertising agencies.
If you have an agent, they will post it on the agency website also.

How do I Become a Voice Over Artist?

Private Voice Acting Classes and Group Voice Acting Classes

“How do I become a voice over artist?”

Voices Carey is a professional voice acting studio. We get calls and emails all the time asking, “How do I become a voice actor?’ or “How do I become a voice over artist?” Simple answer. Good voice over work comes from good voice over training, yielding good voice over auditions booking good voice over jobs.

Voice over training helps all actors hone their skills and perfect their strongest tool: the voice. Voice acting physical quality like diction and range – but more importantly the emotion component of your delivery – filtering someone else’s words through your own head an heart as you move through a scene.

For years, Voices Carey has offered private voice over classes. They are intense, one-on-one acting classes, focused on your individual growth as a voice actor and voice over performer.

Our group voice acting classes offer an opportunity to hear others perform and learn from their oral interpretation. While not as individually focused, they offer a chance to get new ideas and hear a different spin on voice over scripts. And, of course improve your voice acting.

The aim of both is to learn new voice acting techniques and improve the voice actor’s skill set. They both are built around the Voices Carey Voice Acting Method, which is a scene based acting method similar to the Meisner acting method.

Private voice over classes are more expensive and well worth the price; group classes are more affordable.

The results: anime stars such as Cherami Leigh, Lindsay Seidel and others, have gone on to stellar voice acting careers, and attribute some measure of that success to our coaching and refining their talent.

Being in Dallas, the home of FUNimation studios, Dallas is the “third coast” of voice over. Literally thousands of hours and tens of thousands of lines of voice over script are performed in Dallas every month, making Dallas one of the largest voice over job centers in the country.

Voice Over in Dallas

Dallas Texas Voice Over Voice Acting

Dallas is a major hub for voice acting.

Traditionally voice over was thought of as an east coast and west coast profession – LA and NYC. LA is the center of entertainment production and where all the film and TV production studios are and where actors go to create careers. NYC is where all the powerhouse ad agencies are that create commercials.

Few realize that a huge amount of voice acting and voice over production takes place in the Dallas area.

FUNimation (www.funimation.com) is the largest studio for looping, dubbing and ADR of English-translation anime in the country. FUNimation employs hundreds of voice over actors to create the voice over for the hundreds of games and films it produces.

The major Dallas talent agencies, Mary Collins Agency (www.marycollins.com), The Campbell Agency (www.thecampbellagency.com), and the Kim Dawson Agency (www.kimdawsonagency.com), represent important and large numbers of voice over talent.

Audible.com (www.audible.com), the major audio book publisher in the US uses several studios and directors in the Dallas area and Dallas area voice actor talent.

The Dallas area has launched voice actor careers. Lindsay Seidel (bio at Behind the Voice Actors) started in DFW, Chermi Leigh (animenewsnetwork.com) began her voice acting career in Dallas, as did the upcoming voice star, Julie Shields (www.julieshieldsvo.com).

Dallas is also home to important voice over coaches and voice over studios that teach voice acting classes.

So, you see, it is not important to “Go West!” (or East) to start your acting career. It can start right here in Dallas, Texas.

British Accents – What They Sound Like and Learning to Hear Them

Siobhan Thompson talks about diverse British dialects in her “One woman, 17 accents” Anglophenia episode of her video blog on YouTube. She is good! And she’s a blast.

In the mid-90’s, I had a morning show on ABC Radio Networks that went via satellite to 61 markets. I was lucky enough to go to the U.K. on my employer’s dime to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Beatles first album release.  For ten days, we walked the streets of London, recording shows and interviews from places like Abbey Rd, Parliament, Pickadilly, Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner, pubs, you name it. At the end of each day, we would go to Capital Radio and upload the show back to ABC.

I’ve always been a mimic and done impressions- that was a big part of the show- and I was amazed at the diversity in accents in London alone. I’ve since made friends with people from Leeds, Edinburgh, Cornwall and Devonshire. It took me a while to tune my ear to know what they’re saying. Glaswegian is the toughest for me. It would be a lot more convenient if people from Glasgow came with subtitles. But that’s just me. I wish dogs could talk and I believe in Unicorns.

My co-host was Brain the Butler, a London native who worked at the network with me and later, on San Francisco radio. He was the perfect guide. We’d be riding on the top of a double decker bus with the digital recorders going and our mics and he’d say, “That’s St. Clemens. My dad was in the RAF and that was our chapel. We used to sing ‘Oranges and lemons, the bells of St. Clemens.’” Or we’d drive by a park and he’d say, “When I was eighteen, I worked on a BBC mobile crew and that’s where we shot Monty Python’s ‘Ministry of Funny Walks’ ” Brian’s a fascinating guy and really helped me identify the various London dialects.

We hit the streets early, walking 10 or 12 miles a day, fueled by bad pub food and strong English tea. We spent an entire day at the British Museum, looking at the Magna Carta and Beatles manuscripts. I said to one of the docents, “Man, you have a ton of Egyptian artifacts, here.” He said, “Oh this is nothing. Most of it’s not even on display. You should see what’s in the basements!”

We got a huge sampling of the diversity of accents. North London, Cockney, etc. “RP” or Received Pronunciation is what Brian spoke. Siobhan talks about these in her video. She makes it look and sound easy.

It’s like here in America. You can almost chart dialects like a weather map. Rolled R’s toward the East- the closer you get to England and our language’s roots. Softer in the coastal South, more twangy in the deep South, sharper and harsher in the NE

To do a dialect, we have to be able to hear the dialect. You know, sensitize the ear and really listen. Is he rolling his R’s? Is there a diphthong? Nasality? A deliberate lisp like Castilian Spanish? What are the components? That’s the key. Being able to identify and reproduce the physical components. Not everyone can do that. Siobhan Thompson is really good at it.

So, by the end of our trip, I could clearly identify about ten distinct London dialects. We took the Tube to Ealing one day, a suburb west of London to interview an author. He was Bill from Liverpool, who supposedly was the guy who introduced John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Who knows. We met him in a mall at 10 am. The first thing he said was, “Hey man, can I get a glass of wine?” He loosened up pretty quickly. It was a great interview. We got thrown out of the mall.

Listen:

Create a Compelling Scene: Preparing the Script Externally

As I’ve said, interpreting a script is always more than just saying words on a page. That’s just the external part. But we do have to practice externally a little bit so we can say the words without tripping. Why? When we speak extemporaneously, here’s the writer – he said, pointing to his brain; here’s the speaker – he said, pointing to his mouth, and there’s no disconnect between the two. If there is, you need to see a neurologist.

But with someone else’s words, an extra step is added. Our eyes have to see the script, our brain has to process it, understand it and fire the right fine muscle motors to enunciate it. So, I’m going to suggest you read the words out loud at least three times.

Once, somewhat slowly for comprehension. Because we can never communicate that which we don’t first understand ourselves.

Second, for enunciation. Really open your mouth and cross every “t” and dot every “I”. Physically exaggerate. We’re creating muscle memory here.

Third, flat and quickly to reinforce step two. So, once for comprehension, once for enunciation and once to reinforce the muscle memory.

It’s like driving a race course for the first time. You have to go slowly at first and learn where the turns are so you don’t spin out and hit the fence.  This frees us up to focus on the next task at hand, preparing the script internally by creating a scene.

 

Listen:

 

 

 

Create a Compelling Scene: The Voice Over SCRIPT

Part one of a series that talks about the entire process, the components and the skills that allow the voice over actor to Create a Compelling Scene

 

The script is just a starting point in our craft. Black words on a white page. Just “the shell.”

The words of a script are the be all and end all – for the writer and the agency that got it finally approved by the client. For voice actor, the script is never simply about manipulating words on a page with your voice. There’s a scene to be created.

It may look like a monologue. But, it’s always a dialogue. A conversation.

There are always imaginary friends with you in the booth. You’re not alone in there.

And you have to have the creativity to hear these other character’s questions, answers and feedback in your head as you perform.

BUT, before you can create and communicate the scene, you have to understand what’s being said and why.

Understanding STRUCTURE helps you understand the meaning. For instance, a common commercial structure is: Problem >Solution>Call to Action. It’s a progression.

Problem: You can’t get a good night’s sleep.
Solution: You run into your neighbor at the supermarket and he says, “I got the new Sleep Atomic bed and now I sleep like a baby!”
Call to Action: “So where do I get one?” “You can get it at any Big Box Store or call 877-555-1212.”

A script is often presented in three Acts, often broken down into three Scenes per Act.
& sometimes finished with a “Button Line” that is ironic, comedic or simply observational.
Sometimes you’ll say to the producer, “I know what I did on the audition, but now that we’re doing it for real, what are you looking for here?” And she will say,

“It’s on the page.”

By this she means that the piece is written well enough and contains enough information or clues about who, what, why, where -that you should be able to figure it out.
The converse is – when it’s not on the page! Meaning it is not very well written and there are not a lot of clues and you have to work extra hard to create a compelling scene.

Regardless of how well the script is written you have to figure out the structure.

Once you understand the STRUCTURE of the script, you have the basic framework to begin developing a character, asking the actors questions and creating a compelling scene.

Listen: 

 

Internal vs. External Voice Over

People are always asking me what I mean by “internal” and “external” when I teach my voice over classes. Great voice over, counterintuitively, is not about the voice.

“Whaddaya mean, voice over is not about the voice?! It’s VOICE over, Bruce! Of course it’s about the voice.”

In truly compelling voice over, the voice does not lead. You move through a scene with your head and heart and the voice follows. When you move voice first, you are operating externally.

When you move head and heart first, you are operating internally – from the inside, out.

To move externally, is to manipulate your voice without really feeling or understanding what is actually going on in the scene. Sooner rather than later, a really good writer or producer will challenge you in a way you are not prepared for. I hear a lot of broadcasters moving externally.

Take the game of Chess

If you don’t understand what’s really going on, you think it’s a game of moving pieces on a board. But it’s not. That’s only the external. What’s really going on is strategy. Chess is about strategy, which is internal, hidden. If you don’t understand that, then you think it’s a game of simply moving little pieces on a board, which can be very deceiving.

Same with voice over

Let’s focus on the actor inside, not the voice outside. It’s not about manipulating your voice. It’s never just about words on a page. These are the external things. Compelling voice over is about the internal world you are creating and living in. It’s about being in a scene and filtering someone else’s words through your own experience and emotions and sending them out the old pie hole spun with your particular emotions and point of view. This is the real work. The real work is Oral Interpretation. And that’s very different from a great set of pipes. You can buy a fantastic musical instrument – a Stradivarius violin. But playing it? That’s another matter entirely. Voice acting, like any fine performance, is an internal art.

“That’s not a recording booth, it’s a scene.
That’s not a microphone, it’s someone’s ear.”
~ Bruce Carey

Listen:

 

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