Getting the Best Performance From Your VO Talent - Part 2

In Part One we talked about getting the best possible delivery from your professional VO talent. In Part Two we'll share some tips and tricks on working with nonprofessionals. Many of the points used with pros still apply. As a director your job will require skills like good communication, leadership and diplomacy.

Getting the most from nonprofessional voice or on-camera talent really demands some effort. Working with in-house corporate folks who want to be the star of their own show is always a challenge. Many of these people are pros at public speaking and may have a natural ability to deliver their message. Others may not be as skilled. Putting them in an unfamiliar sound studio with a big microphone in their face or in front of a camera opens up a new dimension that the non-pro talent may not be used to.

If you're doing an interview with an executive or subject matter expert, get everything set up and in place. After seating your executive, start the conversation by getting the "talent" comfortable with the environment. Talk about anything BUT the subject you will covering. Get them to open up about current movies or their favorite restaurants. This gives the crew a chance to set recording levels and get the kinks worked out. Share a verbal cue with the engineer when you want to have them start recording and move into the meat of the interview-- then just slide into it. At some point you may need to let the talent know you are actually recording for real, but you can often just subtly transition into the interview smoothly. This can ease the pressure on the talent.

For a pre-scripted narration, it helps to get the words to the presenter well ahead of time to review. Don't encourage over-practice, though. And remember the importance of script formatting to make the words easy for anyone to read.

Stopping for re-takes as you go along is not as easy as it is with a professional voiceover talent. Nonprofessionals might be thrown off by frequent interruptions so you may have let them complete large sections and go back for more "global" re-dos of entire sections. You can also make note of sentences where stumbles occurred and do a few variations of those sentences at the end for editing purposes.

During the VO session we sometimes use the technique of telling the voice talent that we are just going to be doing a few "rehearsals." Then we actually record the "rehearsal" takes. This works well for shorter pieces. We"ve gone so far as to actually slate the rehearsal takes to make finding good takes easier. Then we'll stop and record "real" takes. You'd be surprised how relaxed and natural the rehearsal versions come out.

Some sessions have found us stopping after the first set of "rehearsal" recordings with everything we need. At that point we inform the talent, to their amazement, that we were all done.

The goal is to put everyone at ease and make the process as smooth and painless as possible. Just as when you get ready to go out and shoot video, pre-production plays an important role in recording voiceovers. Working out the kinks ahead of time while planning for any unusual circumstances should give you a narration or performance that will be satisfying for everyone involved.

Tim Keenan, Creative Media Recording

copyright 2010 by Tim Keenan

Tim Keenan is owner of Creative Media Recording providing voiceover recording, audio production for video and new media and ISDN connection to voices and studios around the world. Tim provides tips & tricks for audio for video on Twitter @Soundtrack_Pro.

Contact Tim at 714/892-9469 or by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.