How to brief a voice actor with a home studio

2 min read

While the move from working in commercial studios to working from home was an inevitable trend for voice actors before COVID-19 had it’s way with the world, the pandemic certainly sealed the deal. Just about every working professional now has a home studio. The key to obtaining the right interpretation of your script now depends on your ability to explain – via mail or videoconference – what it is that you want. In short: you need to know exactly how to brief a voice actor with a home studio.

Briefing a voice actor: image of an actor holding a script
Image: Shutterstock

Speaking the lingo

What it all boils down to is being able to speak the language voice actors understand. Usage and the passage of time have ingrained words and phrases that any voice actor worthy of the name will grasp instantly. Consequently, it’s very important for you as a client to acquaint yourself with the language of voice actors.

It won’t do you any harm to get to know the tools of the trade, either – and we’re not necessarily referring to microphones. By far the majority of voice actors use compression to add punch and presence to their delivery. They also add high-frequency equalization. Sometimes though, they may add just a bit too much. If you’re able to tell them to “back off on the compression” or “reduce the EQ because it’s making you sound a bit sibilant,” you’ll gain respect from your chosen voice actor – because you’re speaking their language.

Communication

What then is the best way to brief a voice actor with a home studio?

Don’t overcomplicate your instructions. Don’t use a sentence when a word will do. A voice actor will always ask for cues. Tell them what you want clearly and succinctly. Don’t get worked up.

Remember that if you feed the actor too much info and continually ask for repeat-reads, you’ll end up wrecking the relationship. Keep in mind that any practiced professional has been recording voice overs for a while (if not decades) and may well know what will work better than you do. If you’re asking for something very specific and the actor keeps misunderstanding, offer them a so-called ‘line read’ so you can demonstrate first-hand what you’re expecting.

Never forget that voice actors are artists. They’re creative people who are talented and trained to interpret a script. Treat them as you would like to be treated – and we’re only mentioning that because we have actors who voice their concerns to our Customer Success team more often than you might think!

How to brief a voice actor with a home studio:

Know what you want

You can’t operate in a live studio setting, so clarity is key. It’s incredibly important to be precise in your descriptions and directions. Never presume that an actor will automatically understand what you want if you don’t explain carefully.

Know how long you want it

Many misalignments occur when you are looking for 30 seconds worth of audio but you submit a 100-word script. Most actors can comfortably and articulately read 100 words a minute. More than that will start to sound rushed and inevitably degrade their performance.

Indicate pauses and emphasis

Odd-sounding names? A pronunciation guide is a must.

Give the actor a reference

Audio and video, or just audio — but some kind of reference that indicates tone, manner and inflection can often get everything recorded perfectly in one take.

Be nice

Allow us to reiterate: voice actors are emotional people; be enthusiastic and encouraging. If they get it wrong, don’t start sounding irritated or short-tempered in your feedback. Always be kind; after all, the goal is the same: all parties involved want the recording to be a success, so it’s safe to assume that no professional actor will deliberately mess up a read.

Give them time and a great script

Despite the inevitability of a pressing deadline, give your chosen voice actor time to read the script beforehand, prepare for the recording, breathe and settle in. While most professional actors can sight-read well, affording them preparation time is going to make the job easier for both of you. Oh — and as any actor will tell you: a good script is a gift they will truly appreciate. So keep all these suggestions in mind next time you book a voice actor on Voice123!