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How to decide between custom auditions and existing samples

If you’re in charge of your company’s next voice over project, you’re likely weighing the pros and cons of requesting custom auditions from voice actors or simply adjudicating existing samples. 

It’s a tough choice because it’s not one of those ‘I can always try it again’ kinds of situations. Project turnarounds are usually urgent. There’s only time for one booking, a couple of pickups, and a final recording. 

Thus, the question arises; how do you decide between custom auditions and existing samples? 

Should you close your eyes and point? Do an eeny, meeny, miny, moe

If you’re willing to leave your project in the hands of the universe, sure. Why not? But if you’re looking for guaranteed success, allow us to guide you through the ins and outs of each option and key factors to settle on the best choice for your project. Along with vital points to look out for when listening to proposals. 

The A-Z of custom auditions and existing samples 

We can liken auditions to clothes. You get the typical sizes that most stores sell, and it works well for everyday life. But there will always be something too long, short, loose, or tight. Although the latter is more often caused by too many pop tarts and snickers. The point is that it never really fits right, but it still works.   

custom auditions: image of a sound engineer and a producer in a recording studio
Image: Envato

Then you get custom-made fancy stuff that’s designed for you. It costs more and takes longer to make, but it’s usually a perfect fit on the first day at least.

Existing voice over samples is like those clothes that you can pick up at any store. Being pre-recorded, they can typically be sent in a matter of minutes. But that means they’re voice over samples of another brand, which means they’re channeling marketing goals and scripts that are oceans apart from yours. Although you can use it to make tweaks like, ‘We like this style, but we need it a little slower, friendlier, and not so announcery.’  

On the other hand, custom auditions are like designer clothes since they’re tailored to your script. So, it will take a little longer to write a terrific script, and it will also take voice actors more time to record, edit and submit their auditions. But it does give you a clearer perspective of how it will sound when channeling your brand’s tone.

Now deciding between custom auditions and existing samples can be like deciding what to wear on a first date, a job interview, or visiting your in-laws for the first time since lockdown. So here are 5 key factors to keep in mind. 

5 questions to ask before deciding  

1. Do you have a specific timeframe?

Are you on a tight turnaround with only a day or two to lock in a voice actor? If so, existing samples are your best option. For example, if your commercial script needs a soft-sell, specify that in your project description and request voice actors to send their existing samples, which will be previous soft-sell commercials they have voiced. 

2. Do you have a custom script? 

Do you need to hear what your script sounds like aloud? And is the first draft ready? If not, do you at least have a basic paragraph that you can send to voice actors to read? If you can answer with a solid yes, choose custom auditions. You’ll be able to hear different voice actors bring your script and characters to life.

3. Do you have a clear idea of the voice you’re looking for? 

Do you perhaps have a voice in your head that’s reading your promo script, but you can’t quite describe what it sounds like? Well, listening to existing samples might help you to figure out that specificity as voice over samples offers a wider variety. Then you can make suggestions such as, ‘I like the pacing and whispery start. Maybe we could adapt ours in a similar way?’

4. Do you need a specific accent? 

Sometimes you need a voice over with a slight hint of an accent. Or maybe even a recognizable one? Either way, custom auditions can give you a clear idea of what the script will sound like with the type of accent you had in mind. This also helps voice actors to tailor the way that they perform the accent. For example, if you request existing samples of a British cockney accent, but most voice actors only have RP (Queen’s English) voice over samples, you could miss out on some great performances! But if you set it to customs auditions with specific accent direction, voice actors will pull out all the stops to nail it. 

5. Do you need more than 20 auditions?

The number of auditions you need usually depends on what you’re looking for and the urgency of your timeframe. If you need to find a voice actor quickly, you’ll want to select 10-20 auditions and opt for existing samples. But, if you have time and need a variety of choices, then you can select custom auditions and wait for 50 submissions before choosing the one that ‘speaks’ to you. 

How to evaluate a voice actor’s submission 

custom auditions:image of a woman with headphones lying on a couch in front of a laptop
Image: Envato

Picking a voice actor can be challenging because even though your submissions will all sound different, it can still lead to audition fatigue. 

Our advice? Listen to half of the auditions, take a break, make some notes, grab a pop tart or two and then listen to the remainder. This can prevent different performances from blending into each other. You’ll also be able to hear those small details that will help you decide on the best voice for your project. And keep an eye out for the voice actor who did something different. Maybe s/he added something that will give your project an edge you knew it needed but couldn’t describe. 

Keep in mind also that voice actors often add more than one take to their custom auditions. This gives you an idea of their range, so a word of caution when using any fast-forward options, as it can be easy to miss a second take if you go too fast.

And lastly, keep a checklist of things you’re looking for in a performance so that as you listen to the submissions, it will be easier to create a shortlist of the ones you want to move forward with. 

In conclusion  

Deciding between custom auditions and existing samples is kinda like asking if zebras are black with white stripes or white with black stripes? At first glance, it seems like it’s white with black stripes, but scientifically, they’re actually black with white stripes. 

What does that have to do with voice acting? 

Well, at first glance, the choice between custom auditions and existing voice over samples might seem obvious. But as we’ve highlighted, each option lends itself to a specific goal. And while you don’t need someone to parade around in a zebra costume, doing your due diligence instead of randomly picking an option saves time and helps you find the best voice actor. 

Oh – and did we also mention that you can check out our FAQs for creatives on Voice123 to find the answers to your all voice over questions?

So, now that you know how to decide between custom auditions and existing samples – we wish you all the best as you factor in your timeframe, script, accent, number of submissions, and voice actor descriptions. We wish you all the best! And if you’re wondering if the pros on Voice123 are skilled with talent or talented with skill – here’s how to best use Voice123 to find and direct voice actors

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