Voice Over Education Blog

November 2015

“Mailing in” your VO performance. Is it always a bad thing?


Are you familiar with the term “mailing it in”? We’re not talking about emailing a file to your client. Sometimes people will say “phoning it in,” but we’re not talking about transmission over a phone or Internet connection, either. We’re talking about it in the acting sense.

It’s when an actor delivers a performance that’s routine, competent but nothing special, no different than other performances the actor has delivered over his or her career. Taken literally, it’s when the performance arrives, but the actor’s mind hasn’t come along with it. Mailing it in is generally thought to be less than exemplary, and thus a bad thing to say of someone.

But is it?

We looked up some discussions of the subject, and got interesting results. The term doesn’t mean quite the same thing in all cases.

Sometimes it can even be said with pride, especially with the job requires a cold read. On a cold read – where there has been no time for even a brief rehearsal, or even pre-reading the script (as with a ton of routine retail sale copy, or the day’s news) – sometimes something’s gotta give. Like it or not, the talent might have to fall into a set pattern, as he or she focuses on being mistake-free. Being good at a cold read also requires experience at “seeing ahead,” pacing, subject knowledge, expert pronunciation and enunciation skills, and more. Such a capability, when required, can be a matter of pride. In that case, the talent might even say, “That sale copy is no problem. I can mail it in.”

However, although we can imagine one talent saying this to another talent, we can’t imagine someone saying it innocuously to a client. It’s not flattering to hear that a narrator has given the copy no attention at all -- that it required no effort, and was deserving of none.

In most situations, the interpretation is not so kind. Here are some we found:

Earplugs to protect your hearing: Which type for you?


We recently talked about hearing loss, how “easy” it is for today’s environments and personal habits to damage your hearing, and ways to help preserve it. One of those ways is to use earplugs when you will be exposed to unusually loud sounds for even a short time, or a louder-than-normal environment for a sustained period.

What kind of earplugs might be right for you?

The purpose of this article is to bring these issues to your awareness. It is only a summary and details are generalized. To fully appreciate what hearing dangers exist in your environment, and to determine the extent to which you should be concerned and/or take precautions, and what precautions are best for you, please look further into the issue or consult a hearing health professional. Some solutions perform differently for various individuals. If you have any hearing difficulty, noticeable hearing loss, ailment (including but not limited to pain, discharge or pus in the ear), or want expert advice, please consult your physician or a hearing specialist promptly.

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People wear earplugs for various reasons, not all related to hearing preservation. We’ll take a quick look at many types of earplugs. In order to determine which kind you need, and judge their efficacy in meeting your needs, first consider what your needs are.

Some people want to block out snoring. Some (swimmers) want to block out water. Some want to block as much environmental noise as possible, others want just to bring it down to a safer level but still need to hear their surroundings (such as the presence of announcements or emergency alerts), and others (such as musicians) want to protect their ears but need to hear the full spectrum of audio frequencies, as faithfully as possible.

Before you leave for a voice-over recording session ...


We recently wrote about what to take to a recording studio session. But except for a pencil, reading glasses and business cards, a lot of it was optional. In many ways, what you do before you leave is more important, and not so easily skipped. One of the most important factors is the avoidance of stress. Having a checklist and a regular regimen can help with that. Here’s a sensible routine to follow.

The night before, have a sensible dinner, with plenty of fluid. Skip alcohol, and especially avoid red wine. Whatever its long-term health effects, in the immediate term it can affect your voice. It could also cause you to wake up with a headache and/or nasal congestion. (Effects of red wine vs. white may vary by person.)

Get to bed on time and have a full night’s sleep.

When you wake, have a glass of water or two, and some more at regular periods. Give it time to hydrate your body, and you won’t be thirsty or waterlogged during the session.

Dress business casual, in soft materials (non-noisy, nothing stiff or crinkly). Polyester sometimes makes noise against itself, so soft cotton is best. Choose quiet, soft-soled shoes, and avoid jangling jewelry.

Read a bit, just a warmup, don’t wear out your voice.

Breakfast should be just enough to tide you over till lunch. But be sure to have it. No grumbling tummy, please! Avoid dairy products, spicy or acidic foods, alcohol and carbonated soda. Coffee and black tea are sometimes of concern. Herbal tea might be best.

Brush your teeth, floss and mouthwash. Shower but avoid perfume or scented deoderant, etc. You’ll be better appreciated (or at least not unfavorably noticed) by those who share the mic or come after you.

Fill your reusable water bottle and close tightly.

Before you leave for a voice-over recording session ...


We recently wrote about what to take to a recording studio session. But except for a pencil, reading glasses and business cards, a lot of it was optional. In many ways, what you do before you leave is more important, and not so easily skipped. One of the most important factors is the avoidance of stress. Having a checklist and a regular regimen can help with that. Here’s a sensible routine to follow.

The night before, have a sensible dinner, with plenty of fluid. Skip alcohol, and especially avoid red wine. Whatever its long-term health effects, in the immediate term it can affect your voice. It could also cause you to wake up with a headache and/or nasal congestion. (Effects of red wine vs. white may vary by person.)

Get to bed on time and have a full night’s sleep.

When you wake, have a glass of water or two, and some more at regular periods. Give it time to hydrate your body, and you won’t be thirsty or waterlogged during the session.

Dress business casual, in soft materials (non-noisy, nothing stiff or crinkly). Polyester sometimes makes noise against itself, so soft cotton is best. Choose quiet, soft-soled shoes, and avoid jangling jewelry.

Read a bit, just a warmup, don’t wear out your voice.

Breakfast should be just enough to tide you over till lunch. But be sure to have it. No grumbling tummy, please! Avoid dairy products, spicy or acidic foods, alcohol and carbonated soda. Coffee and black tea are sometimes of concern. Herbal tea might be best.

Brush your teeth, floss and mouthwash. Shower but avoid perfume or scented deoderant, etc. You’ll be better appreciated (or at least not unfavorably noticed) by those who share the mic or come after you.

Fill your reusable water bottle and close tightly.

Do you make these annoying vocal “mistakes” in voice-over?


In everyday conversation, some people do certain things that many other people perceive as wrong. In fact, most people do some of these things, so you – and most other people -- might not consider them to be wrong at all. That’s why we put the word “mistakes” in quotation marks.

But when you’re reading for a client or director, or need to adopt a certain vocal persona, that’s a different situation. A voice-over recording has special needs and limitations. And casting pros listen for a living. So casting pros and clients may listen with different standards, a different sensibility. When a voice-over professional is listening to you, it helps to know what they might hear as annoying.

(If you do these things to fit into a group, or convey a character, that’s a different matter. Congratulations on your insight! But you might be surprised how many people aren’t even aware they have these habits.)

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