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Tips for Working with Voice Actors

Tips for Working with Voice Actors

Working with a voice actor can be a very different experience from working with any other type of actor or contributor. You, as a director or sound coordinator, truly have no external control over the product that they are giving you. With a traditional actor, you could send them to hair and makeup, tweak their costume, work on blocking, change the scene in which they are appearing, or take a variety of other actions to alter the way they are integrated into your work; however, with a voice actor, the actor maintains full control over the tool of the trade. Here are some tips to make the experience of working with a voice actor go as smoothly as possible:

  • Make sure the actor has gone through a robust audition process. The best thing you can do to ensure that your experience with a voice actor proceeds without any hiccups is to make sure that the actor has undergone a stringent audition process and is the right person for the project. Just as with any other job, you can’t expect someone who is not qualified to fill a role successfully. Ensure that the voice actor can handle the breadth and depth of the narration that they will be asked to offer. Ensure that they can express the range of emotions that are needed in the narration. Ensure that they can transition between these expressions of emotions seamlessly. It is extremely frustrating to work with voice actors who have great talent but have trouble transitioning; it wastes time and puts everyone on the project on edge.
  • Make sure the actor has a clear picture of the project. Sometimes there are secrecy issues related to projects that will prevent the voice actor from being fully debriefed on exactly what character and project they are recording. Consider having the actor sign a non-disclosure agreement so that you can freely discuss the project. However, even in the strictest cases of secrecy where the project must remain under wraps, you must give the voice actor guidance. Compare the actual character with a well-known character from books or film. Have the actor study up on that character and prepare as if he or she were performing voice overs for that character. While a good voice actor will be able to record intense, emotional sound without a character in mind, it never hurts to provide the actor with additional inspiration.  
  • Don’t overtax the actor. The actor knows his or her instrument. Ask the actor what he or she needs as far as rest breaks and how long they can usually record during a typical work day. It is tempting to tell the actor what he or she will need to do. However, the experience will be better for all parties involved if you let the actor guide the process. The worst case scenario is that you overwork the actor on the first day, and the second day you are unable to get a consistent sound. This can lead to a several day delay for everyone involved. It is better to plan ahead and have the actor on a realistic schedule from the start.

Learn how to gain the technical skills you need to develop audio for everything from films to video games here.