Thursday, 15 September 2016

How can I record an authentic vintage voiceover?


Recently I saw a TV documentary on the early life of the Rolling Stone guitarist and professional death-dodger Keith Richards. It was an enjoyable watch, but at first I was quite confused. 

The reason for my befuddlement wasn’t the half bottle of red wine I’d already quaffed, but the fact that I appeared to be watching images of Keith Richards as a baby with a voiceover talking about young Keith. 

Why would a camera crew be filming the baby, as yet not famous, Keith? Was this some amazing co-incidence that the newly-born boy had been chosen as the subject of a film about society in wartime Britain and the makers of this documentary had somehow unearthed this?

No, of course they weren’t images of Keith at all, it was stock footage of an anonymous baby with newly-recorded and very convincing voiceovers. 

I was very impressed with the authenticity of the voiceover, both in the acting and the recording and I would love to know who did it and how.

Perhaps someday I’ll meet the people involved at some Soho Soiree and I can ask them, but in the meantime, if I were tasked with recording something similar here at BigFish Media, here’s how I might go about it...

AUDIO 

Of course, the simplest way of creating a vintage-sounding voice recording would be to use a plug in effect within Pro Tools (or whatever platform you use)

Years ago I created some video spoofs of the old British C.O.I. Public Information Films. For ‘Silly Billy’, I recorded my voice on a modern microphone and used the free plug in ‘Vinyl’ by IZOTOPE to affect the whole audio file.

This isn’t just good for affecting audio, to make it sound as though it were on old vinyl; in this case I think it made it sound as though it was a convincing old tape recording. 

There are plenty of other plug-ins you can use to create a vintage effect, an excellent example being Speakerphone by 'audio ease'.

Another approach, and the one I think would produce more authentic results and be more fun, would be to use the type of equipment that would have been used in the old days.

You could record on to tape using an old cassette recorder.




I used this approach for a project recently. The small dynamic built-in microphone and the ferrous oxide tape in the cassette, produced some good results when I attempted impersonations of John Peel & John Lennon.

Using a vintage microphone, perhaps a ribbon mic, recording to your D.A.W. of choice, would also be worth a try.

VOICE

Then of course you’d need to get a convincing voice. People, especially on the radio or TV, don’t speak or sound like they once did. 

I’ve heard a lot of old style voiceovers where they have over-done the ‘plumminess’ of the voice and have used words or phrases that would not have been in existence or used in that way at the time. 

I would research existing material from the time period I was trying to emulate, then cast a voice actor who could get close to that sound. 

The amount of voice actors who can recreate that kind of voice perfectly are few and far between, which made the voiceovers on the Keith Richards documentary all the more impressive.




Wednesday, 17 August 2016

How do I deal with ISDN latency and echo?


The end of ISDN has been predicted for years - especially with the rise and rise of ipDTL, Source Connect, Session Link Pro etc.

However ISDN is still very much alive.

But there are often two technical issues that need addressing before you do any voiceover session. 

They are:

1: Echo, Feedback, Slapback or Howlround
2: Latency or Delay  



 1. Feedback

If you have a feedback loop it is almost impossible for the voiceover talent to talk while listening to it. This is because they will hear themselves repeatedly echo-ing. 

This problem is caused because both ISDN studios need to monitor and send audio using the same line. So how do we stop this problem?

If you use an audio mixer, you need to create two separate and independent "mixes": one for yourself and one for the other ISDN studio. 

Set up your audio mixer to send a "Clean Feed" (or "Mix Minus".) In other words you need to send all your audio to the other ISDN codec but don't send the audio of the other ISDN studio back to themselves. This will eliminate the feedback loop.


2. Delay

The only time that ISDN delay would be an issue is if you have an audio or video file being played from the remote ISDN studio. 

The delay is normally in milliseconds and so would not be an issue for most voiceover sessions. 

If it does become an issue, then ask the producer at the other studio to send the audio or video file to the studio where the voiceover talent is located. 






Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Bye Bye Mrs Barnes - Voiceover Lady

We are very sad to say that our long-standing Marketing Manager Zoe Barnes has left our voiceover agency.

After 4 years of setting up our admin systems, the hard slog of data entry, managing our database and chatting to our clients,  Zoe leaves BigFish Media in great shape and growing nicely.

                               A new career blooms

In the last year Zoe was also engineering voiceover sessions as well as recording a few of her own voiceovers.

We wish you all the best for your future as a Counsellor - we know you will be great!


                           Amy (far left) is the new Zoe

In the meantime, Zoe had trained our latest recruit and Voiceover Artist Amy brilliantly.

And we know you'll be back soon to cover for Amy's holidays....

Thursday, 9 June 2016


While we were taking photos of our new office where we produce and record voiceover sessions, we decided to take some more up to date pictures of the BigFish Media team:

                                    Daniel: going grey...

                                 Ricky: older than he looks....

                                    Zoe: looking foxy...

....And new recruit Amy

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Photos of our new Office

It's been a few years since we last took photos of our office, so we thought it was time to change that. There have been many changes - not least the people who work here making the magic of voiceovers happen.

                                     Pretending to work....

                                 All pretence has gone..

                                     Strike a pose...

                                 At last some actual work...

                                     ...before cracking up

As you can see we had a lot of fun taking these photos, especially our Audio Engineer John who took these pictures.


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Should I book a Cheap Voiceover Artist?

When looking for a Voiceover Artist, you will need to decide on a budget - what can you afford? 

What is reasonable to pay for the voice talent themselves, a studio, editing and maybe agents fees too.

You can pay a few quid or you can pay thousands, especially if the audio is to be used online on a large corporation's website.


                             Amanda - a great voice


There are thousands of voices to choose from and the choice (like anything these days) can be mind-blowing and actually make a decision harder. 

But there is just one very important thing to bear in mind. 

This voice - your chosen voice - will be the voice of your product. 

They will be the voice of your telephone system. 

They will be the voice of your product on TV in front of millions of people.

So what does that voice say to you? What qualities does that Voiceover Artist have? And do you want those qualities associated with your product?   
     
                                       Craig - so easy to work with

Using the wrong voice could cost you customers and your reputation.

The most suitable voice for your project may seem a little more expensive at first, having great samples, sounding natural, and obviously appearing to have more experience.  

Even if hiring this Voiceover Artist may take you over budget to begin with, you may find they are worth it and all the extra business they will help to bring your way.  


Thursday, 12 May 2016

Should I hire a cheap Voiceover?


When it comes to hiring a Voiceover Artist, how much should you spend?

Well, how long is a piece of string?

It comes down to your budget. You can find many Voiceover Artists on Fiverr for five dollars. But ask yourself: "Are they any good"? How many jobs would they have to do to scratch a living?


                                              Call a professional

We recently had a phone call from an exasperated producer who had just spent two hours trying to get a good read from a Voiceover Artist that she had hired...and could we help find someone else?

Of course. After taking all the details I asked her budget. £90: £60 for the studio and £15 per hour for the voice talent.

Well of course we couldn't help her on that budget!

Its a false economy. Any decent Voiceover Artist that you hire through an agency would have done the job in 10 minutes. But then they would have charged a lot more. 

Buy cheap. Pay Twice.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Our Voiceover Photo Shoot

It has been a few years since we last updated the pictures of the BigFish Media Voiceover team. So we thought we'd take some more:


We managed to catch photographer (and our Audio Engineer) John in action for the photoshoot of Marketing Exectutive Daniel and Ricky the actual Big Fish.

Full new (doctored) photos to follow in due course on our voiceover website, Facebook and Twitter pages...

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Should I hire an inexperienced Voiceover Artist?

Being a voiceover artist is a very specialised skill, and we find that most clients prefer to use professional voices with a proven track record.

They are very unlikely to risk their time and money on a new voice, who may take 2 or 3 times longer to read the same script.  

                                    Time is Money

Time is money and often clients are incredibly busy and can't take 3 hours of their day to just listen to a voiceover recording.      

That's not to mention the cost of the studio and engineer.


It would work out cheaper to pay an experienced professional to do a job in one hour than to pay a newbie for three hours with the cost of three hours studio time. Let alone 6 hours in the edit! 

Very few voiceover artists work full time. They may also act, direct, produce or broadcast. You don't have to work full time as a voiceover artist to be a professional - you just be experienced. 




Thursday, 21 April 2016

How long does it take to record a 10 minute Voiceover?

How long does it take to record a ten minute voiceover

Clients who are after a bargain will say "oh it will only take you ten minutes to record". Not so.

Based on the standard of recording three words per second, ten minutes of finished audio (ie edited audio) is about two thousand words. For this we allow an hour's studio time. 

                                  It's later than you think

This allows us time to get the voice talent into the right tone and pace and style before starting the read properly. If our client - and our client's client is also listening, this can easily take the entire hour. 

It also depends upon how well the script is written. Often, a script will read well on paper but when it is read out loud by the voiceover artist, the client realises that it either doesn't make sense or is repetitive. 

Then that section of the script has to be hastily re-written or we need to record an alternative take.
      
                               How many alts do you want?

Sometimes we have time to do a second read in a slightly different tone or pace. Or "one for Lloyds" (ie an insurance read) in case their is a click or pop or mis-read word that no-one noticed during the first take.

Then the audio has to be edited (removing mistakes) and de-breathed (the breathing removed.) 

When pricing a job you will also need to bear in mind the time that you have taken to market or promote your services. And the money it costs. 

You will also need time to put quotes together, negotiate payment, the cost of receiving that payment (via credit card or PayPal etc), prepare the script by reading it in advance and send the audio to the client. 

You will need to bear that time in mind the next time you quote for your next voiceover

Thursday, 14 April 2016

What skills do I need to be a Voicever Artist?

Being a Voiceover Artist is a lot more than just reading out your script  out loud into any old microphone.
Almost all successful voiceover artists are current or former actors or broadcasters, building on the skills that they have acquired over previous years.
                                 Get your lips round that
 You will need to know the proper way to speak into a microphone, be able to speak well, pronounce clearly with out irritating mouth noises, be able to take direction and enunciate properly. You may even be required to act. All these take years to perfect.
You will need to know how to interpret and pace a script properly, as well as "lift" the words off the page and project your voice without sounding like you are shouting.

You can practise all you like but you will probably need some training and certainly a dash of innate ability to make money as a voiceover artist.





Thursday, 7 April 2016

Is doing Voiceovers easy money?

A lot of people these days are looking for a way to earn a bit of cash on top of their day job or freelance/part-time work - whether it's AirBnB for a room for the night, Etsy for selling crafts or People Per Hour for translations and the selling of many other skills.  

So does this apply to voiceovers?

Here is the easy answer: Yes and No.

                                    Fishing for voice work

If you have a full-time job, and unless you work shifts, I wouldn't recommend it, as you won't be available to record during office hours when your clients are available to listen in.

If you have your own home studio, recording the occasional small job (with no client call in) will get you a few quid but nothing major.

If you don't have a full-time job and are working freelance and you have experience as an actor or broadcaster, then yes.

But is it easy money?

Again yes and no.

It's more tiring and time-consuming than you think - and you will need to add the time of travelling to a studio and back.


                               Dog-proof studio not required

Unless you have a home studio in which case it's not so easy as you have the cost of building and maintaining the studio. Oh and you will need a very quiet space for it.

Not to mention you will need to factor in the time taken to market yourself to get the chance to quote for the voiceover work in the first place.

And then you have to be lucky enough - or skilled enough - to land the voiceover job.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Why does my Voiceover Recording fade out?

Have you ever recorded a Voiceover Artist and found that the audio has kept fading out on the recording?

It is odd I know but this happened to us a couple of times.

Our Senior Engineer Chris traced the fault to a tarnished jack in amongst our spaghetti wiring.

                                    Very Senior Chris

Luckily we always run a back-up for our voiceover recordings.

But now we are replacing these jacks with XLRs.

And a little less spaghetti.
 


Thursday, 24 March 2016

I can do funny voices - should I become a Voiceover Artist?

We regularly get sent emails from people who see themselves as potential voiceover artists because they say they can do funny voices or are good at copying the voices of famous people or characters. 

The other thing people say is that they feel that they can do dozens of accents. But can they actually sustain that for a complete session without veering from Welsh to Indian? Or from one part of Scotland to another?   


I can "do" the odd line in Welsh or Bristolian or impersonate Frank Spencer, but it doesn't mean that I can sustain that for an hour's session.  

The days of Voiceover Artists being asked to do mimicry and accents are pretty much over. Due to the lower costs these days of using voice artists all around the world (via IP alternatives to expensive ISDN, such as Source Connect or ipDTL, clients tend to want the real thing.

Unless budgets really are extremely tight, if they want an Australian, Argentinian or American voiceover artist, they will choose native talent.  


The only place for all these character voices these days are in games and animations.And that is even harder to get into than voiceovers for corporate/web videos. 



Thursday, 17 March 2016

What Voiceover Artists need to know about TVRs

So what is a TVR? It is a TeleVision Rating.

I have often described TVRs to clients who have never heard of them - and can't get their head round the idea of usage on a voiceover recording - as being like a "repeat fee."

It's more accurately a reflection of how many people will see the TV commercial. And the higher the audience, the higher the TVR or the fee that the voiceover artist should get.
 
One TVR is one percent of the available TV viewing audience. If you assume there are 60 million people in the UK, then if there are 600, 000 people watching the programme in which your TV commercial airs, you will be credited with one TVR.

And that's assuming the entire population of the UK is watching. Which of course will never be the case.

Often, for the minor channels, their entire audience for the month is a fraction of that. In that case 100 per cent of your Basic Studio Fee (BSF) is a good place to start. This would be a Buyout Fee.

Generally TVR's are slowly disappearing - and have done since the early 1990's, but when you get a chance to talk TVRs for your next voiceover job, now at least you know.. 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha

After 4 years of loyal service recording voiceovers at BigFish Media our first ever employee Andrew has left us to run a BnB in Torquay.

Here are some of his lowlights:

Posh Frocks at Vox 

                                Bowling Champion

The Push-Me Pull You 

                     
                         Always Game for a Laugh


Another Posh Frock

Always getting a pizza the action

Andrew's last session with David W

Leaving Presents

While we say goodbye to Andrew, we say hello to the very talented Amy who joins us from a child acting agency and now makes the move to voiceovers:



Thursday, 3 March 2016

How do I start as a Voiceover Artist

We are always being asked about how go get started as a Voiceover Artist...

Please bear in mind that there is so much more to being a Voiceover Artist than having a good voice. Also there is no such thing as a staff job with a company as a Voiceover Artist; they are all self employed and also work either as broadcasters or actors or in some other way in the media field. You don't need your own home studio but it helps (but only if it is a good one.) 

                                Egg-actly the right advice 

I once saw an interesting post on a forum that a newbie had complained that the company who made his/her voicereel, gave them the audio file then just felt abandoned. Yes that is what you do - you have to make your own way in this extremely competitive field.  You need to think of yourself as a (very) small business. And start marketing yourself. 

And this is where most wannabe voice artists fall down. They don't have the time energy and drive to do this. Or real life gets in the way - and they find they can't support a family or pay the rent on what they are earning. With no guarantee that their income will increase in time. It will almost certainly be erratic. 

With the continuing downward pressure on costs, the barriers to entry for new talent being lower than ever and more actors and broadcasters trying to get in on the act, as well as new voiceover agencies and voice directories (or Pay to Play websites - commonly known as P2P sites) opening all the time I don't see this improving any time soon.   

Plenty of people approach us with good voices, but they don’t know how to use it. This blog contains lots of useful voiceover advice.
      

                                   Not such good advice

I am afraid that we are unable to offer auditions. Your first step towards becoming a voiceover artist is to get a professional showreel made. This would be your calling card – which you can use on your website, send to production companies and agencies.

If you do not have a voiceover showreel, we can make you one for just £299+VAT. This production service is highly unlikely to lead to representation as we are only seeking experienced voiceover artists. You can hear examples of our work here; please get in touch if you would like to discuss showreel production. 

We also offer Voice Training carried out by either our experienced actor or one of two experienced national broadcasters. We suggest you undertake voiceover training before making a showreel. Ok, so now you have a voiceover showreel but what should you do with it?

Call or email potential clients/producers/production companies and send them your MP3 or CD.

Or use the internet.

You need to get potential producers to hear your reel. You can get your own basic website built fairly cheaply. The hard part is getting search engines to find it and list it within the first two or three pages. This is extremely hard to do for the competitive keywords of voiceover and its variants. So consider using Google Adwords. Facebook also sell ad space.  Use Social Media - Facebook, Twitter, Linked in etc

1) Voice Directories. There are lots. Some will work for you; some won't. Some are free - some charge an annual fee. 
Here are a few:

Fiver.com Voicerealm Voice Bnny Gumtree VoiceXpress Voice Registry Entsweb Freelancer.com Media uk.com Radio Today Elance.com Vivastreet Star Now Voices.com Voice Bank Voice123 Voiceovers.co.uk Bodalgo Piehole Radio Talent Ukvoices.co.uk Voicetalents.co.uk Peopleperhour.com Voices Pro Casting Call Pro Freeindex Voice Emporium Hotfrog ODesk                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
2) Voice Agencies. If you can get one to take you on, they will take a cut of your earnings. There is no guarantee of any work even if you do get one. And getting one is harder than you think. Without a few years experience of voicing under your belt this is extremely unlikely. 

However you can still make a living without an agent. Many voice artists work from their own home studio. And you don’t have to have ISDN these days. Many producers will monitor you on the phone or skype; you email the completed voiceover audio files after the session.   



Thursday, 25 February 2016

Why do Voiceover Artists need to be healthy?

Surely as a Voiceover Artist, all you have to do is stand there (or sit) and read out loud. Why do you need to take care of your health when the job is so easy?

If you are ill or not well or not on top form you will sound like it. Legendary DJ Tony Blackburn was much criticised during the height of his fame for his cheesy happy sound. He sounded happy because he was actually smiling!


                                  Practise, Practise, Practise 

If you have a cough or a cold you sound different- your nose is blocked and you find it hard to breathe and may wheeze too. So therefore you cannot work.

Once very highly respected Voiceover Artist who we met at Vox 2015 says he doesn't drink alcohol. At all. Because it affects how he sounds when voicing at 6am. Other voice talent won't voice before 10am as they don't sound awake enough.

Getting regular exercise is also a good idea - if you are unfit your breaths will be much heavier. So, get fit and learn how to breathe from your abdomen.

Make sure you can hear properly - and can tell when a take is bad and why.

        
Before glasses were needed


Make sure your eyes are good - and get them checked regularly. When I was reading the news on BBC Radio 2 I slowly found it increasingly hard to focus on the scripts - which initially I put down to tiredness due endlessly-changing shifts. But no, I was just the wrong side of 40. 

I now wear glasses to read all my voiceover scripts. And I insist on 14 point font for the scripts. 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

A new vocal booth

If you are looking for a new vocal booth in which to record your voiceovers, we recently saw this on social media and thought it worthy of discussion.

This is a link to a YouTube video about the new IsoVox 

     


David W takes a selfie in our vocal booth

My first reaction was "Is this an April Fools joke?" It looks ridiculous: far too small and cramped. And claustraphobic.

From the video I was wondering how you would ever be able to read a script in there? It looks as big as your head and no bigger. But from the Isovox website, it is clear you could read from a tablet and there is a light source. Whether it's a good enough light source I cant tell. I hate reading from a tablet - I still prefer paper (not least so you can mark up the script with amends.)

What I dont understand is their claim (at 0.40 on the YouTube clip) why a conventional method is good for recording but not practising.
 
   

What no voice talent?

Its only available in Sweden. For the moment.

Even if it does reach the UK, I really don't fancy sticking my head in a box to record my next voiceover. I just don't see how it would lead to a good performance.