Voice Over Education Blog

October 2014

Telephony: Are you listening to the caller?


Sometimes telephony specialists seem the most unsung heroes in acting. As many well-known actors have famously observed, the art of acting includes the art of listening. Acting requires reacting to lines as realistically as you deliver them. An actor can greatly help his or her partner by truly listening to them, in character, and responding authentically through facial expression, body language, etc. A generous movie actor might even stand next to the camera during the other actor’s close-up, in order to do them this favor.

We once observed a young hopeful in his first acting class. The assignment was to deliver a monolog. Delivering it to a point on the far wall, he was doing just terribly – repeatedly pausing to remember the next line (even though otherwise he could rattle it off in machine gun fashion) and totally not in the moment. After a few starts, the teacher had another student sit in front of him.


“Now try it,” the teacher said.

Suddenly, the lines just flowed out, as naturally as if the thoughts came straight from his soul.


Different things work for different folks.

What does this have to do with Telephony? Telephony is acting?

First, let us grant that most voice-over acting situations resemble that student’s monolog performance. You’re alone in a booth, and if it’s in your home studio, you probably don’t even have a director to give you feedback. Surmounting this limitation is part of what goes into being a voice over professional.

But telephony pros have it especially tough. In telephony, you’re actually in a conversation with the caller, yet it’s a caller you will never, ever hear.

What a voice artist can learn from a PowerPoint artist


Like all industries, the world of Voice Over constantly evolves. New genres emerge, others fade, styles go in and out of ... uh, style.

Yet some practices and advice in voice over remain unchanged. They’re based on virtually universal truths, not just in our industry, but in the nature of effective communication.

Like all industries, the world of Voice Over constantly evolves. New genres emerge, others fade, styles go in and out of ... uh, style.

For example, Microsoft has produced a very entertaining set of videos about how to create effective PowerPoint presentations. The lessons are aimed at graphic designers. But with a bit of translation, they also provide sound principles for a voice artist to follow. Since the videos are related to e-learning, we’ll apply them to the e-learning voice over genre.

Here’s where to see the videos:
http://www.microsoft.com/office/powerpoint-slidefest/do-and-dont.aspx
(If you’re not able to view the videos at this time, no worries -- the rest of this will be meaningful whether you’ve seen them or not.)

In essence, Microsoft’s overall message is this:

  • With the great power of today’s presentation technology, its users often tend to get carried away – they let “creativity” and overused options get in the way of effective communication. For example, amateurs tend to use too many typefaces in too many sizes.

Here’s how every one of these videos’ key points also applies to voice over in an e-learning situation, as well as most other VO genres.

Advice to the designer: Don’t have too many charts, and don’t make them complex.

Lesson for VO: Don’t embellish your read unnaturally. Use your natural voice, in a natural manner. As in most other genres, “natural” is what works. And is what’s in demand.

The Long-Practiced Practice of Dubbing


“Dubbing” is one of the oldest voice over genres. We all know dubbing from when a film crosses linguistic boundaries. It’s the alternative to subtitles. If the actors originally spoke English, the film might be dubbed into German, or Japanese, or Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Or vice versa.

But more broadly defined, the genre includes any situation where the voice talent is putting words in someone’s (or something’s) mouth after-the-fact, in a way that makes it appear the voice is actually coming from the on-screen character.

It might be to replace another actor’s voice, or it might be to replace their own voice. (For example, if conditions on the set were too noisy). It could be a talking-dog video, or a commercial where the on-camera model needs a different sort of voice or accent. This specialized voice over field has come to include all sorts of situations. The one thing it doesn’t include is Animation (a genre unto itself) because in animation the voices are often recorded before the characters are drawn. But there are many times where Animation is produced the other way around, and functionally, that sort of work is Dubbing, too.

We’ve said it’s a specialized field because it typically requires special skills and even special studio equipment. And it’s evolved over a long, long time.

You’d think that dubbing and dubbing technology would date all the way back to the invention of moving-picture technology itself. But first, whether the sound was to be recorded live or added later, the industry had to solve the problem of synchronization.

People did begin working on it right away, but practical synchronized sound didn’t emerge until 1926. Meanwhile, at first a live narrator explained the screen action, later replaced by on-screen text (“titles”).

The Long-Practiced Practice of Dubbing


“Dubbing” is one of the oldest voice over genres. We all know dubbing from when a film crosses linguistic boundaries. It’s the alternative to subtitles. If the actors originally spoke English, the film might be dubbed into German, or Japanese, or Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Or vice versa.

But more broadly defined, the genre includes any situation where the voice talent is putting words in someone’s (or something’s) mouth after-the-fact, in a way that makes it appear the voice is actually coming from the on-screen character.

It might be to replace another actor’s voice, or it might be to replace their own voice. (For example, if conditions on the set were too noisy). It could be a talking-dog video, or a commercial where the on-camera model needs a different sort of voice or accent. This specialized voice over field has come to include all sorts of situations. The one thing it doesn’t include is Animation (a genre unto itself) because in animation the voices are often recorded before the characters are drawn. But there are many times where Animation is produced the other way around, and functionally, that sort of work is Dubbing, too.

We’ve said it’s a specialized field because it typically requires special skills and even special studio equipment. And it’s evolved over a long, long time.

You’d think that dubbing and dubbing technology would date all the way back to the invention of moving-picture technology itself. But first, whether the sound was to be recorded live or added later, the industry had to solve the problem of synchronization.

People did begin working on it right away, but practical synchronized sound didn’t emerge until 1926. Meanwhile, at first a live narrator explained the screen action, later replaced by on-screen text (“titles”).

Podcasting: PART TWO 17 Podcast Programming Pointers


NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. Click here to read part one.

Last week, we talked about how the podcasting field has grown and changed. We said that we like the idea of thinking of a podcast as “plain, clear talk.”

This week, we’ll present some tips to help reach that goal, so that your podcast content will be plain and clear to listeners, as clear as its audio quality should be.

First things first ... “Content is King.” That’s been said forever about websites. It’s should also be your first concern in podcasting. So what’s the most important thing in podcasting content?


1. Have a goal.
On any sort of project, a clear objective makes it easier to be productive. It’s especially important in podcasting. Unlike some projects, on a podcast you could just open your mouth and start talking. About anything. But unless you’re a fabulous raconteur, you it’s too easy to wander verbally all over the place. You’ll appeal to no particular audience, and probably won’t communicate your point very efficiently. That is, if you have a point. So rule number one is, have a point.


2. Be unique.
If you can’t be unique, at least be special. In short, give your listeners a reason for listening. If they’re heard it before, why hear it again? (Our apologies if you’ve heard this before.)


3. Be meaningful.
Meaningful to your listeners, that is. If your goal is to discuss the life of an obscure Namib Desert beetle, it may be specific and unique, but how many people care? How do you know if it’s relevant? Easy – identify the benefits it provides to others. You’ll soon be marketing your podcast, and in marketing, “customer benefit” is what it’s all about. If the subject is beneficial to people, it will almost automatically be interesting ... if you also follow the rest of these principles.

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