Thursday, October 21, 2021

"Let's Get Physical!"

 Some of us remember the old Olivia Newton John song, "Physical," from way back when. It was a song full of sexual tension and play. Here's the chorus line.

"Let's get physical, physical, I wanna get physical, let's get into physical. Let me hear your body talk, your body talk, let me hear your body talk" 

Why am I posting this on a voice over blog? Folks are often surprised to see all the physical movements that voice actors use in the booth. Established Hollywood stars often find voice over quite challenging. That makes sense. Think about it. If you're on camera, you have both sound (your voice) and visual (body movement) coming into play. With voice over, visual is not a factor. So, there's that additional requirement of needing to convey the emotion through words alone. Not always an easy task.

Beginning voice over artists are often told by their coaches to go ahead and get physical. (Not the kind Olivia sang about but you get the idea). Move those hands! Make those facial expressions as you voice! In other words, don't just stand at the microphone!  It all comes through in the recording. So it should come as no surprise to see  voice actors gesturing a lot in the recording booth. Watching an animation recording session is particularly loaded with actors using body language to the max.

Here's an experiment. Grab some copy for an auto dealership ( or write a paragraph or two) where the direction is "High energy-over the top" with the delivery. You've no doubt heard these hard sell spots on your TV. (Yep, the loud, annoying ones). Now, put both your hands in your pocket and try voicing with that high energy direction in mind. I'm sure you'll find that the hands in your pocket will clamp you down considerably. It's much more productive to get those hands moving as you read. It's the same reason why many VO artists record standing up. Sitting down can cramp your style. Studies have shown there is a direct correlation between your vocal chords and body movement. 

When I was in high school, I used to get teased for talking with my hands. When I entered the voice over world, I realized that talking with your hands can make you money. Not a bad trade.

So, go ahead, get physical when you voice that copy! 

ZZZZZZZZZZ! Are you getting enough sleep?

Without a doubt, sleep, or the lack of it, plays a major role in our daytime performance; whether at work or at play. We spend a third of our life sleeping. The great inventor Thomas Alva Edison slept only 3-4 hours a night and was also a "power napper." He had this to say about sleep:

"People will not only do what they like to do — they overdo it 100 per cent. Most people overeat 100 per cent, and oversleep 100 per cent, because they like it. That extra 100 per cent makes them unhealthy and inefficient. The person who sleeps eight or ten hours a night is never fully asleep and never fully awake — they have only different degrees of doze through the twenty-four hours."

I have never been one to sleep for long periods of time; 6 -7 hours. As a kid, growing up in a rural area of Ohio, my Dad use to write up a list of chores for my brother and I to do while he went off to work to support himself, my Mom, and 9 kids! Yep, a very large family. Kind of like the Waltons. When in junior and senior high, sometimes I would hear a schoolmate say, "Oh man. I feel SO good. I slept in this weekend way beyond 1 PM." I was never one to sleep in. My father made sure of that. Everything was geared toward getting up and getting at it. These days I find I need a bit less sleep. 

If you have a voice over job you'll be doing next day in your home studio or a session to go out to, enough sleep is essential. And yawning in front of the director is not a really good thing to do. As some would say, "a bad optic." I find  sometimes it's hard to fall asleep when I have an important voice over project to get to first thing in the morning.  I'm thinking about the script, the client who is expecting speedy turnaround, my strong desire to give him or her the read they need, and a host of other things. For sure, I've had some sleep issues. Thankfully, there are remedies. 

Here's a link to some 22 surprising facts courtesy of sleep specialist Dr. Michelle Drerup.  It may provide some needed input if you struggle with sleep. Here's one of the facts on the list...

"Being awake for 16 hours straight decreases your performance as much as if your blood alcohol level were .05% (the legal limit is .08%)."  


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Taking direction and the importance of listening

 I've done voice over for many corporate, radio and TV commercials, explainer videos, as well as documentary style. Nine times out of ten, I have not seen the video BEFORE I record. So you have to listen carefully as the person you're recording for gives you direction. You also must look at the copy beforehand for clues as to how you're going to voice the copy. Much of it becomes instinctive over time, having recorded similar scripts. It's all about making choices. 

I was hired to record a series of voice overs for a new power spray washer. The client suggested I put a little grit in my voice which would work well with the videos. Many voice talents have their own way of interpreting and marking copy before recording. (That reminds me. Always have a pencil with you if you're being directed so you can write any changes on your copy). I also like to look at copy and determine if it's a male or female audience who will be listening to me. Sometimes it's both. Other times, more male than female, or vice versa. Take an auto parts store. We all know women go in to auto parts stores, but it's more of a man thing usually. So the voice style I would use would lean toward gritty, tough, durable, masculine. I certainly wouldn't use a "ladies skin care voice" for an auto parts voice over. It wouldn't sound right. Look at the copy carefully for clues as to what type of vocal delivery you're going to use. 

 Last week I recorded an on hold message for a popular Pittsburgh pizza place. They've come to me many times for updates on their on hold recording. When I record for them, I put on my "fun and happy" voice; and use lots of uptempo energy. Look for key words in the copy beforehand that you can emphasize. When you're saying the word "delicious," make it sound delicious.  It's what voice over folks call "coloring the words." It will make all the difference in your voice over. Don't just read the words on the page, make them come alive. If you're very new to doing voice over, it takes patience, practice, time, and instinct. Sometimes, a good voice over coach can pull the best out of you if you're struggling to breathe life into your reads or having a mental block. If you were getting paid just to read words off a script, everyone would be doing paid voice over jobs.

If you're being directed to record a voice over, it's important to listen to the input and then deliver what they're looking for. They may ask for multiple takes on the same copy. That's not unusual. Don't get paranoid. They may just want to try various ways before deciding they have what they need from you.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

How do you like your fries?

 Yipeeeeee! Wendy's has just announced that they're coming out with a "Hot and Crispy Fry Guarantee." That should allow some french fry fans to sleep better at night. There are few things in life more disappointing than a cold and soggy fry. And how awful you feel when heading over to the Wendy's drive-thru window and you're already prepping your taste buds for some mouth watering  fries, only to bite into a cold and limp fry. "It's just not right. What an injustice! I ought to sue!" Lawmakers need to pass "The French Fry Ordinance." Simply put, any restaurant that knowingly and willingly sells cold and soggy fries shall have their license taken from them. And the manager of the store may be subjected to a few days in county jail where he or she will be force fed soggy fries.

So here's the deal. Wendy's says if you receive cold french fries, all you have to do is exchange them back in for some hot and crispy ones. No questions asked. They've also changed the way they make the fries with a new french fry recipe to make sure they stay hot longer.  I'm sure the competition is watching this roll-out very carefully. "Hot fries! Crispy fries! PLUS, a free exchange guarantee!? How do we compete with that?"

While we're talking fries, did I ever tell you about the time I took a few friends up to see a San Francisco Giants game on a Saturday? I didn't go for the baseball. Nah, I went to try some of their famous GARLIC fries. And I wasn't disappointed. One of my friends held her nose a few seats down from me as she hates the smell and taste of garlic. Not me. "I'll have a double dose of garlic on those fries Miss." "Comin' right up sir." 

Life is good. Happy munching. Someone pass the ketchup please. 



Wednesday, October 13, 2021

"One man's sandwich is another man's..."

 A number of years ago, I would leave my home studio to record in San Francisco. As mentioned on this blog, working alone from home can be very isolating. So, it was fun to get out and be around other voice talents as we recorded together at the wonderful Pyramind Studios. (Yes, "Pyramind" not "Pyramid.")

I can hop on our rapid transit (BART) here in East Bay where I live and be in the heart of the city at Powell and Market Streets in about 30 minutes. Super convenient. The walk down to the studio is 10 minutes or so. Always the early bird, I landed in San Francisco with about half an hour to kill. I decided to buy a croissant ham and cheese sandwich  from a vendor at the Westfield Shopping Plaza. It was much larger than I anticipated. So, I finished half of it and wrapped the whole other half in the food wrapping paper it came in inside the bag. It was great that the lady used a knife to neatly halve it back where I bought it. The thought quickly occurred to me as I walked down the sidewalk to the recording session, I could give the food to one of the many homeless folks frequently seen. After a short while, I spotted a man down on the grass near a bus stop. I told him I had an untouched, half, fresh ham sandwich in the bag and he could have it. He immediately declined and said "I want money, not food." So, I bid him a good afternoon and continued down the street a bit where I saw another homeless man lounging on the grass. As I approached and told him I had free food for him, he jumped up excitedly and snatched the bag from my hand and put it in a backpack he had on.  He was thrilled. I told him to enjoy the sandwich and continued walking to the studio. Off in the distance he yelled at me, "Hey man, can I come with you?" I told him "No, but thanks for asking." I had work to get to. But the encounters left an impression on me. Money well spent on the sandwich and an  interesting study in human behaviour.