Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Why do remote Voiceover Sessions go wrong?

Recently I did a remote voiceover recording session using IPDTL. I was at the desk here in BigFish Media. The VO was at home somewhere in the UK.

We connected at the agreed time, a few minutes before the session, plenty of time to grab a level test and make sure everything was good to go, but the signal was very weak.

So weak, that communication was not possible and we had to communicate via the text chat window on IPDTL.

Thinking that perhaps ipDTL was playing up, we tried communicating on Skype, but we had the same problem, a signal too weak to be of any use.

By now, both the client and their end client had called in via phone to monitor the session and were ready to start. However, I had still not managed to establish a good connection with the voiceover so I had to delay the client, which is never something we like to do here at BigFish Media.

When using internet-based communication, we always insist that our voice talent is connected to the internet via Ethernet and not Wi-Fi, as the former is a much more reliable connection.

I asked the voiceover artist if they were indeed connected via Ethernet and they confirmed they were. The voiceover said that they would reboot their computer and see if the connection would improve.

In the meantime I spoke to the clients and explained that due to technical difficulties, the session would be delayed.
The voiceover talent re-connected and explained that they had noticed, whilst their computer was indeed connected to their modem via an Ethernet cable, the internet settings had defaulted to Wifi. They had changed this and now the ipDTL and Skype connections were good and strong and communications were established.

However, the voiceover artist was, understandably, somewhat flustered by the technical issues and took some time to settle in to the session.

Thankfully the clients were pretty relaxed about it, the voice talent warmed up and all was well in the end.

However, it made me think, why did this happen and what could be done to avoid it in future?

Well, the truth is, nowadays, if you are a Voiceover artist, most of the time you will also have to be something of an engineer and an I.T. guru.

Not only will you often have to record the session at your end, making sure the computer is connected via Ethernet etc; you may also have to send the finished audio to us via Dropbox, which, while simple in principle, can be a source of confusion.

Mistakes I made early on included uploading to Dropbox whilst it wasn’t  activated, thereby adding the audio to a folder on my computer, but not sending it to 'Dropbox land' (somewhere above the clouds) to be retrieved by the other party,  and turning off the computer before the file was fully uploaded.

Of course it didn’t used to be like this (and still isn’t for the more famous among us). Yes, once upon a time, voice talent would go to a studio, step into the booth and talk, whilst the engineers on the other side of the glass would twiddle the knobs and roll the tape.

All you as the voiceover had to do was deliver a good performance, then go on a bender in Soho and spend all the filthy lucre you just earned by talking for an hour about the benefit of a caravanning holiday in Wales.

Nowadays for the working voiceover talent it’s often a different story. You may find yourself cramped in an under-stair cupboard, waiting for your mum to stop vacuuming  just long enough for you to hear what Belinda from The Video Production company and their client Stig from the Swiss kitchen appliance manufacturer,  are saying to you on Skype about how to pronounce the name of their new tumble dryer.  

It’s a far cry from the old days, but there are ways to make it run smoother. One of the main ways is to spend a bit of time familiarising yourself with your kit. Many of us don’t like doing it, but if you spend some time with it and make sure you know your internet and Dropbox settings, it will save a lot of hassle later.

And when it all goes well, you can still go on a spending spree with the money earned from your voiceover session.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Should I buy a Condenser Microphone or a Dynamic Microphone?

Have you ever been shopping for a new mic for your home voiceover studio and wondered about the difference between a 'dynamic' and a 'condenser' microphone?

In this short video, Gary Boss from Audio Technica explains...

... and when you've heard Gary tell you the differences between the two types of Microphone, you might want to learn exactly how each one works.

Dynamic Microphones

Condenser Microphones

So hopefully you now know which microphone to choose for your next voiceover.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

What are the alternatives to ISDN?

Many new voiceovers complain that they are not able to install ISDN lines. We are aware that BT has been trying to get rid of ISDN for a long time (other providers are available) but frankly it is very old and expensive technology.

Thankfully, as the internet is so fast these days, there are now several IP solutions.

We now mostly use ipDTL. It costs us £200 per year but we can send links to our remote voiceover talent and they can use it for free. All parties must have Google Chrome and ethernet (not wifi)

Source Connect works in a similar way but was much more expensive. They are now testing Source Connect Now (SCN) which is much cheaper. We had issues connecting initially so we gave up - but recently we had a much better time of it with one of our voice talents. It seemed to work fine - there is also a natty recording device within the software. And then a quick download button. The restriction of this is that we cannot check that recording levels are correct.

We have not checked out SoundStreak. This claims it will work on wifi (although ethernet is better) and you don't need Google Chrome. Their business model is interesting though: instead of paying a fixed fee, you only pay when the producer has a session. (For voiceover talent it is free.) That may encourage take up but may cost more in the long run if it is your full-time business.

And don't forget you could always ask your client to your voiceover session via the phone, Skype or GoToMeeting (or other conference call software.)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Why do I need a Pop Shield to do Voiceovers?

Pop shields are an essential piece of kit in the world of voiceovers. You can buy a pop shield from about £20, but if you are worried about money, you can make you own using a wire coat hanger and a pair of tights.  



Without a pop shield, plosives (hard consonant sounds at the beginning of words, e.g. P's in Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers) are exaggerated and are likely to ruin the recording.  The pop shield softens the harshness of the sound.   

A professional pop shield will come with a clamp to attach to the mic stand or booth.  It is important that you do not connect it directly to the microphone, as any vibrations will be transferred to the mic and that will ruin your voiceover.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Should I put client logos on my Voiceover website?

Many voiceover artists like to add the logos of their high-profile clients on their websites. And who can blame them?

It looks better than just a list of clients. And it's much more visual too. We can take in the information much quicker. But is it worth the grief?

We are sure that many logos are used without obtaining permission. And that's a risk you can take and you can just remove them if the relevant company complains. Unless they want to sue you for breach of copyright of course. But anyway you now have a contact at that company to ask permission for future use.

Some companies will refuse permission for any other website to use their logo. At all. For others you will need their permission. Often getting hold of the right department let alone the right person can be a trial.

And you will need to have worked directly for that end client rather than an agent or production company. If you haven't the "middle-man" can also refuse to let you use the logos as it was their client not yours!

Oh and if you do get permission to use their logo because you recorded voiceovers for them, you will need to renew it every year.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

What is RP?

All industries have their own acronyms - and the voiceover industry is no exception. For phrases you use a lot, it's unavoidable among people in that industry but of course it excludes non-industry people.

I used the word "cans" the other day in front of a client and got such a bemused look. And that's fair enough.... (it's industry speak for headphones.)  I know it's not an acronym but he principle is the same.

RP or Received Pronunciation is what all old-style BBC TV and Radio Announcers were required to speak to be allowed to broadcast - until the 1970s. Many took elocution lessons to lose their regional accents.

                           Simon (pictured) does a great Heightened RP

Today RP can be perceived as just that - old-fashioned BBC style - but for voiceovers it just means a neutral voice (from the south of England) with no discernible accent.

If a client wants a 1930's-style voice we refer to that as "Heightened RP".

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Why do Voiceover Artists need to use Social Media?

The explosion of social media in recent years means that you can't afford to not be online.

Promoting yourself and your talents in a multi-platform world is now vitally important.

Twitter, You Tube, Vimeo and LinkedIn are just a few areas to consider, along with a website to host your CV and audio for past work. Ads on Twitter and Facebook and Podcasts are also possibilities.

Remember with Twitter, write in lively, engaging and concise language - the quirkier the better - and include links and a picture!
BigFish Media's "Aquarium" of some of our voiceovers and staff.

Try "Googling" yourself to see who you are and, if you have the courage, what others may think of you! You might be surprised. If good, maybe use their statements as testimonials!

Marketing is key to getting your voice heard ... literally. So a good strategy of choosing the right agency (like ours at BigFish Media) is important to maybe securing future work.

Check out the competition to see what other voiceovers are doing. Up your game by upgrading your website with relevant content, better-written and regular tweets or have a snappier voiceover showreel.

Remember, most clients will sum up your voiceover talents in just five seconds! If you have to fake showreel content, don't mention real names or use commercial music.

Social media is a public platform and you run the risk of being charged for using them.

Branding yourself is crucial for your voice to stand out from the crowd. Have a unique selling point and be flexible and adapt to change in this ever-moving media world.

Above all, be authentic. Being yourself is the best business card in the business!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Meet the BigFish Media Voiceover Team - Ricky

Meet Ricky:

Ricky is Managing Director of BigFish Media Ltd.  He set up the business in 2004.  Ricky is known, or maybe we should say his voice is known having been a newsreader and continuity announcer on Radio 2.  

Ricky spent 25 years as a radio presenter, producer and journalist, 15 of those at BBC Radio 2.  Ricky is also a voiceover artist and experienced 'Voice of God'.  What is one of those? I hear you ask... 

Have you ever been to a big awards ceremony? Or corporate event? And there has been an unseen announcer for the evening.  Well, that is a 'Voice of God'. 

When not at BigFish Media, Ricky enjoys gardening, reading and cycling.

That completes the BigFish crew!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Meet the BigFish Media Voiceover Team - Daniel

Meet Daniel:

Daniel is our Sales and Marketing Executive.  Daniel gained his marketing experience in South Africa, where he worked for eight years.  In 2001 he was runner up for Sales Rep of the Year for Caxton Community Newspapers, before moving to the UK in 2006. 

When not at BigFish Daniel loves keeping fit, cooking and watching a good drama series on the TV.

Next time:  'Meet Ricky'

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Meet the BigFish Media Voiceover Team - John

Meet John:

John is our studio engineer and audio producer.  He joined BigFish Media in 2012.  He has 15 years experience in the industry and has worked on many video games.  

He loves creating and recording his own sound effects, and can be found in the studio with many unusual gizmos to add to his sound effect library.

He has sometimes been the other side of the mic and voiced projects.  He regularly produces videos.

When not at BigFish Media, John is an avid record collector as you can see from this video.

Next time:  'Meet Daniel'

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Meet the BigFish Media Voiceover Team - Andrew

Meet Andrew:

Andrew has worked at BigFish Media for four years.  He started his career at the Surrey Advertiser in 1984, before going to work for BBC Information and Archives.  He moved to BBC Radio 4 Extra in 2012 and still works there part-time.

Until last year Andrew volunteered at Hospital Radio Lion for 30 years.  

Andrew brings a huge wealth of knowledge and experience to BigFish Media and enjoys creating showreels.  As well as being a studio engineer, Andrew is responsible for our accounts. 

When not at BigFish, Andrew loves baking cakes and visiting stately homes.

Next time:  'Meet John'

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Meet the BigFish Media Voiceover Team - Bex

Meet the BigFish Media team .  We collectively have 70 years experience in the media industry and 45 of those were spent working for the BBC.  Our newest member of staff, Bex joined the team last year.  

Before working at BigFish Media, Bex volunteered at Hospital Radio Lion and for the RAF Story Book Wings Project. 

As well as being a marketing assistant, Bex is a trainee audio engineer and now takes some of our voiceover recording sessions.

Bex loves recording and editing the huge range of voices that we have on our books. 

When not at BigFish, Bex loves making cards and other handicrafts and running.  Last year she ran the Great South Run for the first time.

Next time:  'Meet Andrew'

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Should a Voiceover Artist have a Home Studio?

With so many voiceover artists working from home, it's little wonder that each studio set-up is as unique as their voice itself.

While the days of egg boxes stuck to walls for sound-proofing may well be over, improvising with a duvet hunched over a laptop is far from being frowned upon! 

It's not ideal, of course, but getting the right equipment and software is essential, but it doesn't have to cost the earth ... just make sure you get it right before getting started.

Mics are the stock-in-trade of a voiceover artist, of course, though be certain to get one which suits your voice - and it may not be that expensive.

If you live somewhere with low frequency noise, a good tip is to get a "High Pass Filter" on your recording system. This will massively reduce background noise and banish the rumble of underground trains and such like!

Flexibility, reliability and versatility are the three key attributes a voiceover artist must have to stand out from the crowd - and with a decent studio set up, too, you're guaranteed success!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Should a Voiceover Artist go to VOX?

"Take ownership of your voiceover job and don't put yourself down" was the wise advise of renowned US voice trainer Nancy Wolfson at last weekend's Vox near Derby.

This was just one of several nuggets of useful information during this event for professional voiceovers and the industry.

Sessions on social media, negotiating rates and character voices were well attended, as was James Cridland's entertaining lecture on The Future of Radio. 

Yes, it does have one ... he reassured us! Pop-Up radio stations is the current craze.

Langley Gerrard told voiceovers not to spend too much on equipment, make sure your home studio is properly sound-proofed and is properly set up.

Agree rates before starting a job was a further tip and many vos now have an availability/booking facility on their websites.

We glammed up for the evening meal and presentation for the Vox Awards. Check us out!

BigFish Media's Andrew and Ricky with Voiceover Talents Jill K and Clare at Vox 2015

The event saw us meet up with many of the agency's voice talent, so it was good to network and catch up on wider world of the humble voiceover artist.

Monday, 18 May 2015

What is a Voiceover Buyout?

Our voiceover team often hears the term "buyout". 

You may think you know what it means  - but does your understanding correspond with that of what your agent or client means? 

It can be confusing.

The most common reason we are presented with the term buyout is when a client doesn't know the TV Ratings (or TVRs) of a TV commercial. 

Instead of getting into TVRs and re-licencing the commercial if it is to be re-broadcast they want a buyout: a deal, a discount, a one-off payment for airing the TV commercial over a certain period.  

The other time we hear buyout is when a client wants the voiceover to be licenced for use on "all media worldwide." 

In perpetuity. Forever. Even for media that hasn't been invented yet. 

The most expensive aspect of "all media" is of course as a TV commercial. 

Do they really want to broadcast the, say, English voiceover in Japan or France? That's extremely unlikely and would lead to a substantial bill. 

It's worth clarification and discussion.   

Thursday, 16 April 2015

What is a Voice of God?

From time to time we get asked to provide a "Voice of God" voiceover for events or award ceremonies. In fact we had an enquiry for a live VOG just this week for a new BBC1 TV show with Michael MacIntyre.

We have now created a page especially for our experienced Voice of God artists - including International Voices.

So what is a Voice of God? Well for a start I am afraid that it's normally a male voice. He normally has an RP or neutral accent to ensure clarity in a noisy environment. And, to ensure the event has gravitas, he's a male voice over 30.

Sometimes - to keep costs down - the VOG will be recorded - much like the voiceovers on "Strictly Come Dancing".

But mostly these are live corporate award ceremonies where large companies reward their staff with a night out, a stand up comedian and then lots of awards.

The Voice of God will try to keep control of the audience - ensuring the other speakers can hear what is going on. But most importantly he will introduce the finalists and tell the audience a bit about each winner.

Much like that bloke off the National Lottery (Alan Dedicoat) who is always heard clearly. But never seen!

Oh and - despite the name - there is nothing religious about the experience or demands on the voiceover.

Unless the winners scream "Oh My God, I've won an award...."

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Do I need experience to be a Voiceover Artist?

We had a call recently from a lady asking about voice training - so we talked her through the process.

Me: "So do you have any voiceover experience?"

Her: "I am a regular caller to XXX radio station"

Me: "Hmm. I don't think that counts"

Her: "But the station's heard all over London - in fact all over the UK on DAB"

Thursday, 12 February 2015

When should I try to get a Voiceover Agent?

We were called a while ago by a lady who sounded like she had a nice voice and wanted representation by BigFish Media as a voiceover.

Us: "So do you have a showreel?"

Her: "Er..no."

You really must have a professionally made showreel before you approach a voiceover agency.

It is like asking to be a model without a portfolio of photographs.

We also recommend that you have at least two years experience of getting yourself paid voiceover work.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

What does Voice to Picture mean?

We are often asked what the phrase "voice to picture" means.

So here goes..

We would have to record a voiceover artist “Voice to Picture” when the video is made before the voiceover has been recorded. We’d then need to record the voiceover so that the audio fits the video/pictures. This takes much longer than a wild recording without any time constraints.

So for a 3 minute wild voiceover read at a natural pace, we can record this within a standard one hour session. However if this is to fit a video, we would need to allow 2 hours, depending upon how complicated the session becomes.

Sometimes with frame changes every 5 or 10 seconds, and the voiceover needing to fit each frame, it can take a surprisingly long amount of time. And that's assuming of course that the script has not been over-written (ie it is not too long for each section!) 

But that's another story...