When hiring a voiceover (VO) artist for a commercial, PSA, film or other project, you most likely will get recommendations and voice samples of trusted professionals from your production team. Once you have selected a voice that you like, you can finish the script, book the studio time and begin laying down tracks.
According to Steve Taylor, a DC-area VO artist, author and longtime reporter for national news radio networks including Fox, ABC and CBS, a professional VO artist will help you use your studio time productively and help you get the result you want and need.
“When in the studio, be as specific as you can about what you want. Do you want the voiceover to sound like a newscaster, narrator or other style? If there’s an actor or other public voice that you like, mention it,” says Taylor. “If you are not exactly sure what you want, ask the voiceover artist who can advise you. There are an infinite number of deliveries possible, more choices than you think.”
Try Different Readings
“A good voiceover artist can do many different ‘readings,’ by which I mean the ways the words are delivered. Different readings can provide useful shades of meaning,” says Taylor noting that voiceover artists are also actors. “A good voiceover artist can do many different ‘voices,’ adjusting his or her voice for accent, apparent age, vocal pitch, speed of speech and so forth. Whatever the role requires.”
Get Extra Takes
Although a professional can usually nail a script in the first few takes, it is a good practice to ask for a variety of readings of the same script. A half-day rate is typical whether the voiceover artist is in the studio for 30 minutes or a few hours, so feel free to utilize his or her talent.
When in Doubt, Experiment
Taylor enjoys working with people who sometimes are not sure what they want exactly or like to experiment with some approaches to see what they can create.
“A professional understands and enjoys collaborating. I like to try different readings of the same material. Sometimes you find something unexpected that you like and can build upon,” says Taylor, who has done voiceovers for commercials, films and more. “Keep asking for more until you get what you want, or until it’s clear you have heard all the readings and voices the artist can give.”
It’s OK If You Don’t Like Something
According to Taylor, professional voiceover artists should never be offended if you do not like a take. They understand it’s business, not personal.
“If you know a reading is wrong but don’t know how to make it right, simply ask for another reading. The artist may provide an approach better than any you’ve thought of. Also, if you want another type of voice, ask for the artist to suggest one,” explains Taylor.
Don’t Say Cut
“When doing takes, especially short ones, it is best to let the artist finish. After he or she is done, explain if you didn’t like something. Also, if you heard something you did like, say ‘do more of that.’ This will save time and money editing later on,” says Taylor noting that when doing a longer narration, it is OK to interrupt and start over.
Tweaking the Script
“When hiring a voiceover artist, you are not hiring a writing coach, but sometimes voiceover artist can give good coaching on a script, especially if the narration is still evolving during the recording session or if something just doesn’t seem to be working once you are in the studio,” says Taylor, who has been writing and delivering scripts for radio newscasts for several decades.
“Scripts need to be written for the ear, not the eye. This means writing short, active-verb sentences,” notes Taylor. “The best way to write for the human voice is to read aloud what you have written. Did you like what you heard? Read it aloud to others. Did they understand what you were trying to convey?”
After the project is finished, email the audio track to the voiceover artist, so that he or she can keep a record of the successful reading and voice. This will save time if you decide to use the same artist again.