716-572-1800

Hiring Voiceover Talent

And other frequently asked questions about voice-over

Doing anything for the first time can be intimidating...such as hiring a voiceover talent. Or trying to enter the voiceover business as a talent.

You may not have even realized that voiceover was a job until now!

So this voiceover talent FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) will give you some foundational answers to make you feel more comfortable about what to look for when hiring (or becoming) a voice talent, Oh, yes, ‘voice talent’ is the same as ‘voiceover talent’ as is ‘voice actor’ and ‘V.O.’.

Full disclosure: Yes, I am a professional male voiceover talent (for almost four decades) so I have either that experience or that bias in writing these V.O. FAQs. Also yes, these are my personal opinions....based on that whole 'almost four decades of professional experience' thing.  ;-)

Producers, I hope some or all of this info helps you in your voiceover talent search. Remember, I’m here to help media producers of every experience level.

A voiceover talent is a person whose performance abilities and vocal qualities allows them to audibly communicate a script's basic message clearly to a listener. Further, a voice talent's interpretive voice acting skills enhance a script's efficacy by creating - upon request - a persona, character or feeling within the mind of a listener. Maybe an easier way to think about voice talent is thusly....an actor who can only tell a story through his or her voice.

 

Anytime you hear an off-camera human voice in a broadcast (radio/TV/ cable), a business setting (sales videos, podcasts) or even in your home (‘Hey Siri!’), you are hearing the work of a Voice-Over Talent (and yes, voiceover talent is also spelled a couple of ways too, as you might have noticed by now...similar to what I mentioned earlier about proper V.O. job title thingy; we creative types like to give you folks options).

Television and radio commercials are the most frequent places where you would hear a voice talent but you could also hear a narrator's voice on an e-learning presentation or a documentary; you can hear a voice talent when you are placed on-hold when you call a business and even when you're watching a video at a trade show.

If you've ever listened to an audiobook, heard a game show announcer on TV or heard a voice in the airport say "There is no parking in the Red Zone," you've heard the work of a voiceover talent a/k/a voice talent.

  

Remember the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”?

The same is true with voiceover, although the saying may be just a little less sophisticated: “The true talent of a voice actor is based solely on the subjective ear of the producer...you.”

Ok, that’s not really a saying as much as...it's something I just wrote.

Admittedly, the words aren’t elegant but they ARE true.

You, as the hiring producer, determine if the voice you're auditioning or listening to fits with the direction/feel/attitude/pace/focus of the media you are producing.

Determining the quality of a Voiceover Talent is more subjective than objective.

Certainly even the most disinterested party can hear a recorded voice on, say, a message on hold recording and know by the vocal qualities that it's a well-meaning staff member barely plodding through a poorly written script as opposed to a professional voice talent. That's the objective part.

But within the realm of professional voice over talents, it becomes more subjective because it's primarily within the ears of the producer or business owner as to which professional voiceover talent possesses the perfect skill set or sound to communicate the media production’s intended message. If the business owner is happy with the voice talent and her customers seem happy with the voice...then the owner picked the right voice!

 

Most often, voice talent get hired after someone has listened to their professional voiceover demo, which is a montage of audio clips of anywhere from :60- :120 seconds featuring short samples of the voice-over talent's work. Often, a voiceover talent will customize their demos based on media production categories. For example: a commercial demo is offered when hiring for radio or TV commercials; an audiobook demo is offered when hiring for audiobooks, etc. When you compare the two demos - there are significant differences in the kind of performance and production you hear. It's usually most effective if you receive demos from voice talents customized to the type of production you are creating.

When auditioning and hiring a voice talent, certainly a performer's vocal sound will be an important factor in your decision...does a voice talent's voice type match the branding or communication message you are trying to create? You'll be able gauge that pretty quickly as you listen. The voice will either click with you in a positive way or it won't.

Then you will want to listen to the variety of reads a voice talent offers in their demo. Does their demo presentation offer any variety or flexibility in their sound or performing styles? Or do the demo voice samples featured in an individual's demo all sound pretty much the same?

The ultimate value of this is solely dependent on your production's specifics needs - some producers need one basic voice and some producers need a very flexible and creative voice talent to do more than one voice type.

Someone who is versatile becomes especially handy if a producer hasn’t really determined the sound in their head for the media project and wants to create as she goes. On the other hand, if the voice the producer hears in his head is James Earl Jones...then he should book Mr. Jones. Good luck on that talent fee.

 

Socrates said it best when he opined: "It depends!"

Some professional studios offer acoustical treatments and audio technology that are so far superior to many home studios that it would be a good choice to record in that environment. On the other hand, some professional studios haven't upgraded their technology and acoustics in sooo long time that their audio quality suffers...even though they are in a "professional" setting, their audio work is not high quality.

To infer somehow that a home studio is not a professional studio would be wildly incorrect. Many professional home voiceover studios  have high quality microphones, the latest audio technology, super efficient computers and superior acoustical treatments that will ensure the voiceover audio you get from the voice talent's recording will be perfect broadcast quality.

And some homes studios have lousy audio quality...they are not voiceover professionals, simple as that.

Remember, in many cases, you'll never meet the voice actor you work with...technology means you can hire a voice talent from anywhere around the world.

You need to understand and be able to hear the difference between professional and unprofessional voice recording and performance (regardless of location) so your voiceover production experience is successful, efficient and creatively satisfying (this IS supposed to be fun, right?)

You need to listen to the degree of audio quality offered on a voice talent's demo while also closely managing your audio project at every stage to ensure the best audio quality. Don't be afraid to ask for a V.O.'s referrals of past clients before starting a job to get a sense of professionalism and work quality.

 

These are each technical audio recording tools (some equipment based, some software based). Some or all of these tools are used by professional voice talents and voiceover recording studios. These tools allow professional, high quality audio recording to take place - in real time - between two different studios anywhere in the world. These services are beneficial for voiceover because it allows studios to professionally record a voice talent on the studio’s own equipment even though the talent is in a different studio half a world away.

Because hiring voice talent may be new to you, the unknowns of this technology may be off-putting to you – intimidating even.

For a fair share of voiceover recording sessions, most folks do not need any of these tools. If you’ve hired the right professional voice talent, they will record in their studio and it will be great. If you would like to listen in on the session, or direct the talent (and the talent will have no problem with this, if they are a pro) you can simply call in by phone and direct the session.

However, there are definitely specific deadlines, geographic obstacles and other production reasons where these remote audio recording tools are useful, practical and down right handy. So I will try and explain each service in as much plain-speak as I can.

Each of these remote recording tools require both the voice talent’s studio and the remote recording studio to have either the same software, equipment, wiring and/or some combination of all that for the studio to connect and record.

Confused? Good, let’s begin!

ISDN: Integrated Services Digital Network is a technology that offers a set of communications standards for simultaneous digital transmission of voice, video, data, and other network services over the traditional circuits of the public switched telephone network. It's application in the voiceover industry applies to its ability to allow two studios located anywhere in the world to transmit, receive and record a voice actor's work with high digital quality in real time.

ISDN was the standard, the expensive standard, for many years. It seems that for voiceover and audio recording use, it’s popularity is waning. The reason is, briefly stated, ISDN requires dedicated cooper phone wires at any ISDN user’s location for the connections to work; those wires are hard for the phone company to maintain. The phone company does NOT want to maintain them and they are shutting down access to the wires OR jacking up rates so sky high it’s not economically feasible to keep ISDN for most studios today.

SOURCE-CONNECT: Rather than relying on the phone company’s cooper wiring, Source-Connect uses your internet connection and your internet browser (Chrome, for example) to transmit and record audio. When you buy the service (for a monthly fee or one-time payment), you will download the software, follow the on-screen directions and be able to dial up any other Source-Connect studio anywhere in the world. Their customer service are very helpful with set up if you run into any questions. But likely you’ll be using a studio and your engineer will do all that for you so you won’t have to do a thing.

Another benefit of Source-Connect is that it can be connected with an ISDN studio over something called a “bridge” (don’t panic, your studio engineers will handle it or you can call customer service and they will help).

ipDTL: This is also a browser based, internet connected, software integrated remote audio recording tool that also works very well for remote recording. While very popular with voice talents worldwide (especially but not exclusively in the UK and Europe), ipDTL is very popular with radio broadcaster when they do remotes. Again, there is a payment plan or a one time fee and very helpful customer service. You can also bridge to ISDN with ipDTL.

While I have used all of these remote recording tools, I currently only use Source-Connect for my studio. That is neither an endorsement of one tool nor an indictment of the others. It is, rather, the tool that makes sense for me.

If you have other voice over related questions, please feel free to contact me here.

Back to top