Monday, May 12, 2008

What to expect behind the mike..

To some, facing the microphone raises hell. To us voice actors its all in a day's work.

For quite sometime now, I've been thinking of what to feature in this blog and where to start. Having been doing voice overs for many years, I guess I should focus on the career elements as I'm taking it full time.. And being the Marketing Director of CreatiVoices Productions, I'm constantly bombarded with questions from producers and talents alike. Those seeking Voice talents ask me how and where to get them, and those who want to be voice talents, ask me tips and where to find VO jobs.. So I've decided to come up with topics suited for voice actors at least 3 times a week.. and this based on my personal experience.

So, let me begin by a topic aptly entitled: What to expect behind the mike..

Performing behind the microphone baffles many of course.. it's not something that is taught in college, or picked-up during your childhood days. To some degree its very much like taking up medicine or engineering - the more you practice, the better you get at it. It's not as easy as it looks, because I had an experience with my student once who is so afraid of the microphone, she suffered severe LBM and had a fever before recording (extreme maybe but yes, it's true). Although there are some who are "gifted" to perform, not everyone can face the music or in this case voice it. But one thing is for sure, everything in this craft can be learned and mastered.

So that brings us to the 10 things you should consider when going on cue:

1. When behind the microphone, make sure you remember your correct distance from the receiver. Don't sway or move when performing (unless told to do so) because this greatly affects the level of your voice.

Some voice actors use what is called the "proximity effect", by getting closer to the microphone it produces a more warm and personal voice. I used this in one of my commercials for Magic Sing and a character I played for Ursula's Kiss - Akio Mike Ohtori.

The proximity effect should never be abused of course, and the use of which depends entirely on the material. If you're doing a boxing event or a concert for example, you can't perform that close to the mike.

2. Make sure you pack away all noisy materials, or jewelries you may have. Unwanted sounds can damage a good performance. Make sure your clothing does not produce noise. Stick to cotton fabrics as they say, and avoid nylon or wool when performing.

Whenever I'm behind the mic, I remove my watch and my ring.. I take this as a cue for me to take on the session seriously (sometimes I don't, and I just want to have fun). It makes me focus on what matters and be careless about the time (although time is of great importance in recording sessions).

3. Never hold the script unless you are can perform without making any paper noise. Voice actors tend to move a lot, so when you have a script in hand you might generate that annoying crumple and ruin your take. When faced with continuation lines, lie the script side by side on the stand, or let it fall gently to the floor.

Sometimes scripts are stapled for filing, but a properly prepared material should be stapled at the lower left hand corner of the paper. If this is the case, just let the paper fall naturally to the side when continuing in a live recording.

4. Allow the Technician to place the microphone as he pleases. A common mistake for many amateur Voice talents is touching the microphone, or its accessories. Never, ever touch any equipment inside the studio, unless told to do so.

Studio mikes are expensive, and if improperly handled - will break easily. You don't want your salary to go to replacing the microphone if you break it.

5. Adjust your headset accordingly for a snug fit. Studio headsets should cover both of your entire ear lobes. Never leave one hanging to the side or to your neck. The sound coming out from their tiny speakers, can cause unwanted feedback. Feedback happens when a signal is looped from its source, creating that high-pitched annoying sound. Should you need to adjust the headset, tell the technician and veer away from the microphone first.

In real recording sessions, it does not make you look cool with one piece of the headset on. It makes you look stupid and unprofessional. Nobody cares if your hairdo gets messy for 30 minutes. I know some may be thinking, "Hey what about talking DJ's?" I myself am one, and on air I do that for one good reason.. To rely on my natural hearing and minimize the damage of "DJ's EAR" (A topic which I will touch sometime later on)

6. When asked for a level, read the script as you would perform it. This would give the technician a chance to adjust the volume for your performance and give you practice time without the worry of being judged by the client.

If it is a short script the tech may ask you to read a few more times. Indulge.

7. When asked for a SLATE or ID, this informs you to read out the title of the material, the length and your name. Remember the formula, and it doesn't really matter which comes first. This is followed by the standard take numbers: TAKE 1.. This is a guide for the technician when editing the material. (e.g. "Brian Pogi.. Nachos Bonitos... 15 seconder RC.. take 1")

In many of my recordings, the technician often relies on his setup to ID the material. He may or may not ask you to do this, but as a standard practice you should say it before delivering your first line. Even if not asked to do so, it will still make you sound more of a professional when inside a recording studio. However, you don't need to do this every time you commit an error in the script, or if you need to give it another treatment. Just promptly say TAKE 2 for the next cues..

8. Remember to wait for the signal before starting to talk. Technicians and Directors have a wide variety of giving you the "cue". Here are just some of my favorite lines, followed by my quirky explanations:

"...And anytime." (today)
"...Whenever your ready." (what if I'm not)
"...ok" (ok. ok? ok. ok?)
"...and (points to you. Me?)
"...go" (to the bathroom?)
"...shoot" (them all?)
"...go ahead" (where?)
"...action" (..I don't know why)
"...roll" (and rock.)

and my all time favorite:
"..rolling po kami" ("We're rolling," in English)

When you make a mistake, promptly say to the client and the tech, that you want to try it differently. Never say sorry (I will discuss this in another topic). Perform at your peak as you did your first line, even though it is take 72, the energy should still be at take 1. (I also have another interesting topic about this soon).

9. After doing your part, and before going out of the studio, thank the producer or the client/s and the technician. You may politely ask them, if there is anything else they want you to record before taking off your headset. Do not go out with your headset on. If you forget your headset on, you might trip or pull with you the microphone, stand and everything. Oh, I've seen this a lot of times and believe me its always funny every time..

Make sure you place your headset at the holder, on the chair or on the floor. Never hang the headset on the microphone. Check that it is away from any danger of being accidentally broken, or damaged.

10. If you're doing commercials (or any projects for that matter), make sure you sign your contract or settle out your talent fees professionally. Sometimes, the casting director is assigned to this. But any staff from the studio or the client may ask for your signature. (I think I should come up with another topic about how to settle talent fees)

In some cases, contracts may come directly from the client and not from the studio. Make sure you remember you TIN# when signing. Bring out your pen for a speedier transaction. And remember to thank the staff or client afterwards. Some recording studios provide you with a copy of the contract, while other's don't. In any case, it helps to bring out a small ledger or notebook and jot down the details of the project and the date of the recording.

Now all you need to do is follow-up and wait for your checks to come. If you do good, expect to get more calls soon (which is a voice actor's dream). I will bring up a topic next time on how to properly follow-up payments, and how to avoid scrupulous producers (yes, they are out there).

For now goodluck and May the voice be with you.

- DJ Big Brian

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