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Röster i etern (2): en yrkesvägledning

Categories: Språk
Sunday, Nov 18, 2018

Nedanstående satte jag ihop för några år sedan, efter att många frågat mig hur man tar sig in i voiceover-branschen, för det finns några basics som är bra att veta. Det är alltså skrivet i ett engelskt sammanhang, men mycket går ju att överföra på svenska förhållanden också (om än kanske inte det där med arvodena på slutet…)

Gunnar Pettersson – VOICEOVERS : A START

If you want to get into voiceovers (VO’s), these are a few tips you might find handy. Bear in mind there’s a lot of competition, even in foreign languages, so don’t give up at the first hurdle, or even the second, or third.

First things first. If you haven’t heard your own voice in playback that often, then it’s high time you did. Record lots of different stuff on your mobile (the sound quality is good enough on most phones), listen back through earphones and get to know your own voice: what it can do, what it’s not so good at, etc. Be critical and be positive. If you have a friend who’s an actor, their help could be really useful.

Next you need to produce a voicereel, showing off your voice in various ways. It’s important you get the voicereel right, because that’s how agents and clients first get to know you, and possibly select your voice for a job. It’s more than worth it to pay for a professional sound technician to record it for you, in a proper studio, not least because it shows you’re serious about the work. I think it might cost between £100 and £200 to have it done, depending on the studio. But anything other than a professional recording won’t do, you won’t be taken seriously.

You need 4 or 5 voice samples of about 15-20 seconds each (don’t go much over 1 min 15 sec in total for the voicereel). Start with introducing yourself briefly: name and nationality/language will usually do. You need the recordings in mp3 format so you can have them on a CD, as well as being able to send them as email attachments (zipped, because they’re large files!). Also, the sound guy might suggest you put music in the background for effect. I would advise against that because a lot of clients and agents these days feel it’s a distraction.

The sample scripts should obviously be things that really suit your voice, but also show your range. Choose for example some upbeat, enthusiastic advertising copy. Then a more serious piece that allows you to sound believable and confident. Then a straightforward narration (sort of “Then, in 1939, war broke out…”) where you sound quite neutral.  Some people also include a really boring text, like a lawnmower manual, to make it sound exciting and so show off their acting skills, but that’s up to you.

Finally, if your first language is not English, you should read a short piece in English anyway, even if you have an accent, because clients sometimes want English-with-foreign-accents. If English is your first language and you have a regional accent, include that too.

A few basics about voices, reading , mics and studios. Look at the script carefully and read it through as much as you like, see where there are breathing spaces, where to put emphases, i.e. how to make it sound good… You can’t rehearse too much.

Always keep an even pitch, so that you don’t e.g. swallow the ends of sentences and go down in “volume”. Also remember to project and be aware of diction, i.e. pronounce letters and words quite carefully, but of course without exaggerrating – or in plain words: sit up straight and no mumbling! One of the things VO’s do is a lot of “gurning”, making facial grimaces to make the words come out right. By the way, if you need to sound chirpy and upbeat – smile while you’re reading, it really works!

It’s obviously important to be relaxed, or more precisely: to open up your larynx. I usually warm up my voice by singing to myself for 20 minutes or so. Warning: do not eat dairy products just before recording, like ice cream, because they often produce a “click” in the back of your throat. But don’t go hungry to the studio, either: stomach rumbles can be very loud (have a banana!). Take sips of (still) water in the breaks, because one’s mouth dries out very quickly and that comes through on the mic.

It’s also important to relax when you’re in the recording booth itself. I usually lean back slightly against the back of the chair, because leaning forward makes your diaphragm and vocal chords sort of push upward, so you sound strained. But everyone has their own way of doing it.

You put the headphones on and the sound engineer will usually start by asking you to read a bit “for level”, so he can twiddle his knobs and get the right sound settings. He’ll also adjust your mic if need be. As a rule, though, the distance between mic and mouth should be roughly the same as when you fan out your fingers and put your thumb against your lips, and the tip of your little finger is where the mic should be.

By the way, sound technicians are usually really lovely guys (I’ve never come across a female sound technician…) Make friends with them, they’re very knowledgeable and have lots of experience, and can help you in many ways. After all, they’re there to make you sound good…!

Also, when you start doing VO’s for real, bear in mind that most scripts you read are covered by commercial confidentiality – occasionally you have to sign a confidentiality agreement – so it’s usually the done thing to leave the script behind in the studio and not take it home with you. If they’ve emailed you a script beforehand, bin it when you’ve completed the work.

Anyway, you then send the voicereel around to various VO agents. You’ll find plenty on the web, both large and small. And don’t just pick London agents, either: there’s plenty in the rest of England too, who routinely arrange and supervise recordings in London (all done by ISDN, etc).  If they agree to put you on their books, you just sit back and wait to be called…

About payments. With most agents, you simply invoice them and usually receive payment 60 days after the invoice date. Unless you’re famous and have a well-known voice, you start as most VO’s do with a Basic Session Fee (BSF) of £150 per hour, and then pro rata per every begun half-hour if the session overruns (so, for example, if you record for an hour and fifteen minutes in total, you get £225). As a rule, don’t accept a lower BSF than £150 because it undermines the general consensus about fees – and it pisses off other VO’s…! When you’re more established and experienced you can try and up your hourly fee a bit more. Most agents charge 15-17.5% commission (over and above your BSF) but some charge 20%.

If you’re lucky enough to have a recording broadcast (online, radio, TV, etc) then your agent negotiates a “usage fee” with the client, according to an agreed general tariff (which is negotiable, though): this gives the client a time-limited (anything from 3 to 12 months) right to broadcast your voice in a particular medium. Sometimes, though it’s quite rare, the client wants a complete buy-out, unlimited in time and use. Anyway, this is where the good money is…

(February 2015)

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