Voice Over Education Blog

November 2016

What stage acting, screen acting and voice acting have in common. Part 2 of 2.


NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 1!

Once upon a time, before the age of microphones, singers had to make themselves heard. In a band setting, some (like Rudy Vallee) even resorted to using a megaphone. But along came Bing Crosby, who became famous for his ability to sing with a new form of expressivity, thanks to his using a microphone. However, they had one thing in common. They could sing.

Similarly, actors on stage, on screen and at a microphone all face differing arrays of challenges. But all three disciplines also have many factors in common.

Acting is acting. All three types of actors are working in an artificial situation. Whether on a stage, or isolated in a little room, or in a real setting with a camera in their face, they need to convey the appearance of reality in that situation. The stage actor must learn to ignore the audience, yet sometimes play off them. The film actor may need to create an audience – the person they're speaking to might not even be in the room! And the voice actor needs to envision the listener (be it an audience or a character), so they are not, say, speaking words of love to just a pane of glass, foam wall, or the engineer.

Professionalism. There's more to acting than "acting." The actor should be able to take direction. And to do so without taking it personally. Actors need to show up on time and respect their peers, and it helps to be generous. They also need to conduct themselves as if they were a business. Because they are.

Stage, screen and voice acting. How do they differ? Part 1 of 2.


NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 2!

Every actor should understand that there are significant differences between acting on stage and acting to camera. And probably every trained actor does. Similarly, there are differences between either of those forms and voice acting – where it’s just you and the microphone.

Those differences are not so widely known, among even experienced actors. Generally speaking, acting for the screen (whether it be silver, TV or computer) is more like voice acting than stage acting is. But among the three, the differences and similarities extend in three directions. Let’s take a look.

Use of voice. A stage actor, whether the theater is large or small, must project to be heard by everyone in the audience. Distance and theater acoustics also require extremely clear enunciation. Suspending disbelief, the audience quickly perceives it as “normal” speech, but it’s anything but, even when speaking in “hushed” tones or using a mic. On-camera, the actor, truly does use a normal speaking voice. In fact, some very accomplished film actors are known for scenes in which they speak more softly than a person normally would. It increases dramatic tension, but if, for example, you were really speaking to someone across the table from you in a noisy diner, you might normally speak a bit louder. In voice acting, generally, you speak exactly as you would in real life, talking to one person standing near you in a quiet room. A "full voice" is sometimes used, but generally, it's limited to animation, or commercial characters and other situations that call for a “cartoony” or stereotyped voice, or a historical representation.

Stage, screen and voice acting. How do they differ? Part 1 of 2.


NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 2!

Every actor should understand that there are significant differences between acting on stage and acting to camera. And probably every trained actor does. Similarly, there are differences between either of those forms and voice acting – where it’s just you and the microphone.

Those differences are not so widely known, among even experienced actors. Generally speaking, acting for the screen (whether it be silver, TV or computer) is more like voice acting than stage acting is. But among the three, the differences and similarities extend in three directions. Let’s take a look.

Use of voice. A stage actor, whether the theater is large or small, must project to be heard by everyone in the audience. Distance and theater acoustics also require extremely clear enunciation. Suspending disbelief, the audience quickly perceives it as “normal” speech, but it’s anything but, even when speaking in “hushed” tones or using a mic. On-camera, the actor, truly does use a normal speaking voice. In fact, some very accomplished film actors are known for scenes in which they speak more softly than a person normally would. It increases dramatic tension, but if, for example, you were really speaking to someone across the table from you in a noisy diner, you might normally speak a bit louder. In voice acting, generally, you speak exactly as you would in real life, talking to one person standing near you in a quiet room. A "full voice" is sometimes used, but generally, it's limited to animation, or commercial characters and other situations that call for a “cartoony” or stereotyped voice, or a historical representation.

Talent agents, casting directors, etc. Who does what?


What’s the difference between a talent agent and a casting director? Once you know the difference, it becomes very clear. But many people new to the acting business, and even more of those outside of it don’t know the difference. So, in a few words: Essentially, a talent agent is hired by the actor to represent the actor. The actor’s agent looks out for talent’s interests, working on their behalf (the very definition of “agent”). A casting director is the agent of a producer (or an ad agency, etc.). They are hired by the producer or the end-client, and their allegiance is to that side of the production chain. But is the distinction really so simple?

No. We’ll need a few more words ...

First, let’s clarify the word “agent.” In the business of product marketing and marketing communications, there are all kinds of agents. There are casting agencies, advertising agencies, media agencies, marketing agencies, sales agents, and so on. Some agents have virtually nothing to do with voice-over. For example, although a sales agent (also known as a sales representative) might state the need for a commercial to help their selling efforts, they are unlikely to be involved in casting.

So who does decide what voice talent to hire? The answer to that is “it depends.”

Talent Agent: As noted above, the talent agent’s client is the talent, and they generally handle more than casting. They also negotiate for you, oversee contracts, handle invoicing and payments, etc. And yet, although the talent agent is paid by talent (generally via commission), they must also satisfy the producer to do their job successfully.

Expand your voice-over world – to a Workout Group!


With the voice-over business so heavily focused on home studios these days, and with you probably self-directing most of your projects, how do you stay fresh? How do you acquire new ideas and learn techniques? For that matter, how do you stay sane and get some “fresh air,” literally and figuratively?

One way, as in any profession from plumbing to surgery, is continuing education. A voice-over pro should know, more than anyone, the value of taking advanced courses and continuing to work with a coach from time-to-time. But there are other ways, too. Do you know about “workout groups”? Whether you’re a beginner or an established working pro, a workout group is a great way to get feedback and firm up or expand your capabilities.

The concept is simple. Various VO talent meet and take turns performing, with the others providing feedback. This has long been a practice among stage and on-camera actors. They get together and do scenes. Same with voice actors, but it’s easier for voice artists to get together and perform.

Workout groups vary in nature. Many meet weekly, some less often, for maybe a couple of hours. Some are large, some small. Some are an informal collection of peers; others are led by a coach and might be more like a class. You might find a group that’s free, or (more likely) there is a charge (typically by the week or month), but usually, any charge is nominal. For the benefits you receive, it will probably be a bargain.

There might even be various frills. Some groups record the performances, not only so that the artists can hear themselves, but so that after receiving suggestions or direction, the talent might wind up with a better audition to send off to their agent, or a track to update their demo.

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