Wednesday 8 July 2020

How does a Voiceover Artist deal with difficult scripts?

Scripts, copy, words – whatever you call the information or concepts you are essentially going to narrate or tell a story. Our voiceover artists are such pros when they read copy but even with the best voices in the world some words can be tricky to say out loud.

However, what do you do when you get a difficult script or rather a tricky script to deal with? Firstly, what is tricky? In many cases the scripts are tricky simply because someone who wrote it, wrote it for the visual element i.e. to be read internally rather than to be heard externally. 

In this case, this is tricky because they haven’t appreciated the differences of the written and spoken word and how they differ. Length and timing, grouping words together so they (words and concepts) don’t get bogged down and muddy.  

As a first port of call, ask the client to clarify. They may not have realised and they may appreciate it when you do ask. This is also helpful if you sense that some of the figures or concepts in some texts are incorrect. If in doubt, shout.

Sometimes text is tricky because of the subject. Medical, finance and specialised material can often deal with names and concepts that are involved and convoluted. Again, check with the client especially with pronunciations of words and ideas as well as appreciations and other areas.

At times texts can be filled with a whole list of names and sometimes they can be in other languages. For example, at awards ceremonies you could be the voice of God and so you need to enunciate various names. So again, ask someone and as a VOG you are quite within your rights to ask for either a written or audio guide.

Again, text can simply not make sense and the client signs it off and you read it anyway. If so then go for it, depending on the application of the audio, it may make sense at the end. And if in doubt, offer to record an alternative so they have options later on.

Next time you face a tricky script get on of our voiceovers to record. 

Tuesday 30 June 2020

Should I use a Genderless Voiceover?

With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and synthetic voices, another trend has also emerged. This is the use of the Genderless Voice. We explain how a genderless voiceover can be appealing to a target audience or those consumers that already buy your products.

What is a Genderless Voiceover?

This is a voice that could be identified by the listener as either male or female. They may be male or female sounding but be of the other gender. It may be that they have a gender-neutral voice. It has become a popular choice in the past few years as the discussion about gender comes to the fore.

At the latest NYC fashion shows in 2019, around 36 transgender or gender non-conforming models were chosen.

Many people now buy fashion from both traditional gender stores so there is an increase in swapping of gender clothes so there is a steer towards having this concept cutting through many areas including audio. The Dutch have even issued a gender-neutral passport.

Why use a Genderless Voiceover?

1.       Customer base – who is your customer base? Perhaps they are a younger and more inclusive demographic that feel the need to connect with a brand on a genderless basis given the trends.
2.       Product – what demographic is your product for? Maybe you design fashion clothing that is for any gender so very democratic usage.
3.       Attraction – maybe you have a product but want to change the audience and so need to attract new market.

Having a good clear vision about your brand and products will help you regarding your voiceover choice. We have many voiceover artists at BigFish Media and many of them will be suitable for your audio campaign.

Monday 15 June 2020

Can having a pet help or hinder a Voiceover Artist?

We love our pets here and between us all we have a veritable menagerie of cats, dogs, fish, birds and even a few microphones. We love them all but can they help or hinder us as  voiceover artists?

At times we have found that voiceovers often find themselves talking about their animals in our recording studio while we wait to work with clients who dial in.

Most voiceover talent would say that their pet is a great asset to their mental well-being. After all, studies have shown that pets can reduce heart rate and encourage physical activities such as walking in the case of having a dog. In this case, you often have to get out because your dog will want to and well, at times they won’t take no for an answer.

However, some of our voiceovers, despite loving their pets, are either allergic to them or the pet can get a little feisty at not being heard while they are in the booth. Some voiceover artists that are allergic to pets may also be allergic to pollen and even the weather. So if this is you, then there are a number of things you can do when you are about to get into a voice booth and you get an allergic reaction:

1.       Keep the booth pet-free – if you or a visiting voice talent is allergic then ensure that you keep the recording booth pet free. Our recording booth once had a visit from a cute little pup and we needed a good fur clean up afterwards. You never know when you might be allergic.
2.       Consider medications BUT – it may be that you need to take medications but please discuss with your GP or even an ENT specialist about your work and how certain medications can dry your mouth or over salivate it causing many mouth clicks.
3.       Re-home the pet – actually no. Pets are for life, not just for Christmas as the saying goes so Fishy, come on here and let’s have a cuddle.
Some voiceover artists face issues with their pet interrupting a session or two such as purring or barking etc. Again there are some strategies that you can put in place that can help:
1.       Recording booth – ensure the pet is not in the voiceover booth when recording – we do have a few cats that wonder in and snooze and then get a little surprise when their owner records causing a few surprises of their own.
2.       Double doors – if you can, get a double door system so you have a door to the booth and a door to the room with a booth. This will help to reduce any extraneous noises such a barks, whines and scratching that can interfere with a performance.
3.       Food and water – ensure that before a voiceover session your pet is watered and fed and is happy that you will be out of sight for a bit.
4.       Sitters – some voiceover artist use a sitter such as a family member or friend to take a dog out for a walk or entertain the pet while they are in the booth.
5.       Editing – if the dog barks then as long as we all have enough takes around your audio we will be able to silence or cut out the bark and the final take will be fab.

So pets can both be a wonderful recording assistant and our voiceovers have a few tales (tails surely?) to tell about them all. Give the dog a bone or rather a fish a call and we can help you with your next audio project. 

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Which is better: A human voice or an AI voice?

Each time you call out to that Alexa or Google Nest then you are likely to be met with a voice that tells you whether to take your umbrella, what time your train is or to play your selection of chillout music. (We all know it is that flow of Sail away by Enya)

However, a recent study found that human voices, that is a voice recorded from a human is still the most popular choice. Rather than hear the AI or synthetic voice, we, humans it seems prefer to hear another person. 

This is fantastic news and a choice that will make a good advertising agency a great advertising agency because we are people that still want to hear and connect with other people.

Here at BigFish Media we enjoy talking to and with our voices as well as recording, listening, hearing and editing them. We are all a little nerdy when it does come to sound but our voiceover artists are consummate professionals and hearing them talk really allows consumers connect with the words they are saying. How can they achieve this? It’s actually really easy.

1.    They are human – we vet each voice and we check that they can sight read and read in general.
2.    They are good listeners – we expect that you thought we would say they can speak properly but actually we need our voiceover actors to listen so they can take direction and understand what the concept is for the audio production they are working on.  
3.    They are good talkers – ah yes, here we go, yes, they need to talk however the client wants them to deliver the line.
4.    They are friendly – we spend a lot of intense time with our voices, going over words, repeating them over and over again and they all do that without complaint because they are professional.

So, when you need to hear a human, connecting with your consumers and the copy, then choose one of our voiceovers.

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Should a Voiceover Artist sign a Work for Hire agreement?

We’ve written a lot about rights that voiceovers should be aware of. As a voiceover agency and recording studio we work hard to keep on top of all this for our voices. We are always aiming to get all the information from clients as well as educating them to ensure they know about intellectual property and copyright. 

Now Fishy will take us through the final rights (wait what? Oh right not that last rites, rights rights). Yes, let’s talk about Work for Hire agreements (WFH). Many voiceover artists have been asking about this and so here is the latest about it all. We’ve discussed creative work previously. Overall, in the UK and in many places such as the USA, copyright sits with the author of the work of art. So, Fishy voices the words in some copy. Let’s say Fishy is an employee of BigFish Media. So far so good. In this case the work that they create during their day job is subject to copyright. Note that because Fishy is an employee of BigFish Media and thus with rights such as holidays, sick leave etc then work would come under BigFish Media in terms of copyright.

However, in the situation that Fishy is not an employee and simply swims up and blows bubbles at the mic for an hour then we could suggest that we get Fishy to sign a WFH. It would make us, BigFish Media the copyright owner of those Fishy bubble sounds. So Fishy would relinquish their right to being that owner.

However there are certain categories that can make the work exempt such as (1) a contribution to a collective work, (2) a part of a motion picture or other audio-visual work, (3) a translation, (4) a supplementary work, (5) a compilation, (6) an instructional text, (7) a test, (8) answer material for a test, (9) an atlas. Another point is that the work must be specially ordered or commissioned and have a written agreement where the parties use the “WFH” phrase.
So Fishy must have more than a verbal agreement on this. The WFH must be negotiated and though not necessarily signed before work on the project begins. Retroactive WFH is not permitted. 

It is not legally possible for a UK voice talent to sign away their copyright but many websites (based in USA or Canada) which insist on their voice talents signing WFH agreements have this term buried deep in their terms and conditions. 

If you sign a WFH agreement, then you are signing away your copyright. They own your audio and can re-sell your voiceover recording to someone else, or to another platform or application. They will get paid for the additional usage. But you won’t.

Here at BigFish Media we do not allow our clients to use the audio recordings of our voiceover talents for any platform and duration other than that which has been agreed by all parties. Voiceover recordings are not the work of the client or a third party, it is the work of the voiceover artist.

Wednesday 27 May 2020

What microphone is best for voiceover?

Ah mic drop! Well not quite and actually never ever, ever never drop the microphone. Well unless you have another £500 (or more) or so to drop easily as well. Here at BigFish Media we take our microphones very seriously and we care for them as carefully as we do Fishy. Simply put our microphones are our BFFs, our pets, our loves and we really couldn’t do our job as a voiceover recording studio without them. So a few tips for you when you are in the booth:

1.       Do not touch the microphone – ok it might be tempting to twizzle and wiggle it so that it is closer to you and your mouth but please step away from the microphone. The only person that should touch that mic is the sound engineer. Never ever touch the microphone. Ever. The engineer has usually set it up and because they know the mic and its settings probably knows its “Just so” position so please don’t feel tempted to touch the microphone. Even if you are an experienced sound engineer – if it isn’t your mic, don’t touch it.

2.       Talk directly towards the microphone – well easier said than done especially if you have a lengthy script and you have a pop shield in the way and can’t quite get the last word in the sentence and….crane your eyes and head and keep your mouth natural stretched out towards the microphone. Depending on how you read your copy (paper/large screen device) ensure that you can see the words and sentences changing font size and spacing to ensure you can get a smooth read on any tricky to “can’t quite see areas” If you start to crane your head then you are likely to come “off mic” and the audio won’t sound great anymore, no matter how wonderful your voice is.

If you have your own studio then please take into account what microphone you should use for what piece of voiceover work. Here are BigFish Media we mostly work on advertisements, corporate videos, radio ads, IVR and much more. However the microphone we use is a work horse of microphones and is fantastic and is a generous living friend to many voices and their different pitches and timbres.

However please ensure you know your shotgun microphone from your condenser microphone and what works for what. We require voices to use a condenser microphone and really urge you to not use a shotgun or directional mic when working with us. This is because in our experience these mics are less forgiving and even if you move even slightly off mic you will lose a lot more vocal volume and you will more easily sound “off mic” than any other microphones. Our blog on a condenser or dynamic microphone is very useful if you are a voiceover artist who has their own studio please be aware about the use of microphone for what project.

Monday 18 May 2020

Do Voiceover Directories Work?

In short: Mostly Not. Well not for well-paying voiceover jobs anyway

Many of the voiceover directories are over-subscribed and any producer who is trying to find a voice is not very likely to pick you. You are just one of hundreds or thousands of voiceover artists who are listed.

Then have a look at how many of these directories are on the first couple of pages when carrying out a search for voiceover. Apart from the widely-respected there were none. In fact, just searching today I got to page 5 before one voiceover directory was listed.

When I tentatively started pitching for voiceover work in 2002, I got listed on as many free voiceover sites as I could. Then plucked up the courage to spend some actual real money on; my first voiceover gig followed shortly afterwards.

There are dozens and dozens of directories: Voice123 (voiceover artists bid for the work - how low will you go?);; Opuzz; BigTalent;; the voiceworks; and Bodalgo. As far as I know I only secured one client (who spent thousand of pounds) from all of these websites combined. They are free for a reason.

And then there is another site which I discovered recently called with a 50 per cent commission rate and terms and conditions from the dark ages.You do wonder how many of these voiceover websites have your interests at heart. Or do they just treat you like a number as fodder for their own potential clients?

From my own experience, it's much better to spend your money on your own decent website and pay for Google Adwords. In the short term, this is the only way to get onto page 1 or 2 of Google.

However, the BigFish Media website is now near the top of page one of Google in the organic (free) listings - thanks to regular blogging, a good reputation (gained through hard work, repeat business and client satisfaction), using social media, (Twitter, Facebook, Linked In etc) and six months of dedicated work by the team behind our Search Engine Optimisation process.

And we don't have to pay for adwords for our voiceover business anymore.