How to direct a voice actor well

3 min read

How to direct a voice actor well often seems a lot easier than it actually is. Why? Because of presumption and assumption. Let’s consider this a bit more closely.

Maybe it’s stating the obvious but the voice actor you choose for your video content—be it a commercial film or a promotional advertisement—has a huge role to play in its success.

Let’s imagine you’ve spent days crafting a flawless, detailed script. However, all your efforts will go in vain if the voice over fails to create the right impact. This is why the right direction provided to voice actors is so vital

Directing voice actors is all about equipping them with the right interpretive tools so that they can give your script their best shot. They require guidance to do it justice. Also, directing voice actors well during the recording process proves much easier than doing all that double work editing the video’s audio and trying to combine take after take after take!

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. If you can, read them the script

For voice over actors to get into the very fabric of your content, they need to clearly understand what your script is all about. Voice overs are all about adding emotions to your written script by converting it into speech. When voice actors know the essence of your script, they will be in a better position to bring out the desired emotions through their voice. In a nutshell, that’s why you need to learn how to direct a voice actor well.

If it’s possible, a reading of the script by your good self in a voice note before the recording (even if you think you sound like an atomic chicken) will give voice actors a clear idea how you’d like the the voice and tone modulated to convey the message with the correct impact.

2. Be specific about what you want

As a producer/director, you should know that vague statements, such as “we want something that the world hasn’t heard of,” or “make us hear something different,” will only confuse voice actors.

It’s important for you to understand that all voice over artists are unique in their own way, and their performance is extremely subjective. You need to be specific about what you are looking for. Clearly specify the pitch, voice age, tone, feel, attitude, and other attributes before hiring voice actors so that you get the best-fit voice.

3. Give voice actors the required space

When we talk about “space,” a proper recording environment is of the utmost importance. But, space here is also used to imply mental avenues, meaning the opportunity to explore.

Voice actors find it extremely annoying when directors stop in mid-sentence to correct a mistake. Instead, they desire to work with somebody who makes them feel relaxed. Let your voice artist explore new ways by giving them the required space. Corrections are important, but you should wait for them to finish before interrupting their flow. 

4. Know how to communicate

How to direct a voice actor well: image of a group of people at a desk
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Just like in any other professional relationship, communication plays a crucial role in a successful director/voice actor relationship. As mentioned in the previous point, you need to know when to interrupt your voice artist during a recording session.

While giving your feedback to your voice over actors, you need to be polite and sensitive towards them. Your humility towards them will determine how happy they are to work with you on your project.

Any comment that devalues their talent will only make them feel worse. So, you should clearly and humanely communicate what you want your listeners to feel, the demographic group(s) you are targeting, and where your voice actors need to improve.

5. Avoid line reading

A “line read” is something that most voice directors are used to giving to voice actors. It involves the director saying the line how they hear it in their head and want the voice over artist to repeat that. You should stay away from such practice. Line reading makes a voice actor mimic more than act.

There may be instances when the voice actor has sharp ears and says the line as expected. But the tone and manner of speaking may be different from what the voice director hears in his or her head. This can confuse voice actors and keep them from delivering their best. You should always encourage your voice actors to deliver a natural performance, instead of robotically saying their lines.

6. Be unreserved and demonstrative!

Last but certainly not least, you need to look into yourself and gauge your attitude as a voice director. Take risks! If you’ve been in the industry for a while, step off well-trodden paths and explore new voices!

This is only possible when you don’t shy away from directing newcomers. You need to be open to working with different voice actors and giving them an opportunity to showcase their talent.

As a voice over director, you need to provide directed sessions to novice voice actors and get out of your comfort zone to teach them. It may seem like a hard thing to do initially, but it surely gives you the satisfaction that you could end up with a very fresh take!

So keep these tips in mind if you ever wonder how to direct a voice actor well for your project. If you do, you are sure to make a great success of your project. And don’t forget: you’ll find the very best voice actors in the world right here on Voice123!