Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

August 25, 2009

School’s Back in Session – Let the Learning Commence

Filed under: Teaching — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:16 am

I teach a voice acting class at San Diego City College – just the one class, but carving out the 5 hours per week to get there gets difficult at times – especially since it usually meets mid-morning to around noon. This semester though, for the first time, it is being offered in the evenings from 6PM to 8:30PM. This pleased my local agent who has had to work around my “teaching” time since 1999.

The first day of classes was last night and the first thing I noticed is that it is a heck of a lot easier to park! And it is another huge class – with the budget cuts reducing the total number of classes offered and more people wanting to take classes, most classes are full with wait lists. I think I managed to accomodate everyone, but will be crossing my fingers for some drops in the next few weeks.

There are several reasons I continue to work this class into my schedule. Of course I get paid to teach, but there are two reasons that are actually more important.

I get to entertain a live audience. When you spend so much time working by yourself in a small padded room, it is fun to be in a room full to people hanging on your every word. But, probably the most important reason (a reason that I wasn’t really aware of until a couple of semesters into the job), is that I learn from my students and my acting skills grow with each class I teach.

So, let the learning commence!

August 19, 2009

When is it just plain irritating…

Filed under: Marketing — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 10:51 am

Something came up on a VO forum the other day and it has been on my mind ever since. With everyone trying to find something interesting to post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, MySpace, their blogs – when does it cross over from pertinent, interesting, amusing to just blatant self-promotion? Actually, you find a lot of people hawking their wares who will never be interesting or amusing.

Think about your experiences in real-life face-to-face situations where you walk into a room and instantly move away from the really irritating person who you know is going to talk your ear off about themselves and how you should hire them for something. You don’t like it there, why should it be any different online.

I’m going to grab another cup of coffee – I need to put on my thinking cap before going online to update my status. Want to contribute something pertinent, valuable, insightful or at the very least funny.

August 11, 2009

Phone Patch vs ISDN vs Self-Directed vs Outside Studio

Filed under: Musings, Recording — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 4:30 pm

Had two back to back phone patch sessions today that started me thinking again about the various methods of doing a session. Live in-person at an outside studio. ISDN. Phone Patch. Self-directed. There are pros and cons for each depending on various factors such as the type of script and how far away the outside studio is.

The first session today was with a studio that I have had to drive to in the past for sessions. It is up in Orange County. I’m practically in downtown San Diego. The last time I made the drive – about 1.5 to 2 hours or so depending on traffic – was the day Sarah Palin was announced as a Vice Presidential Candidate. The drive up and back that day was anything but boring.

But it does take a chunk of time out of your day – a minimum of about 4 to get there, do the session and get back home. So, I was pleasantly suprised when I got the call to do the session and didn’t have to make the drive. This particular studio has ISDN as well, so I tried to plant that seed with the producer for the future.

The second session was a conference call phone patch session with a director in Texas and 5 clients scattered around the country. The session started with technical difficulties – which is one of the drawbacks of trying to be the engineer AND the talent. I had some stray pixels that wouldn’t clear from my recording software, so I rebooted while they discussed the approach that they wanted me to take.

After the computer came back to life, Audition wouldn’t load, so I switched over to Word2Wav to capture the audio. To save time, I just used the last script that was in that program and made a note as to where the files would be stored. After recording the first two paragraphs, Audition finally decided to load and I finished the session on that software.

With the outside studio option, none of the engineer issues fall to the talent. With the ISDN option, some of the engineering issues rest with the talent – making sure you know how to set the codec to talk to the other codec and probably more important, making sure that someone at the AT&T hub hasn’t switched off your long-distance connection. That means having a phone number at the ready to the right department. Not very many people there even know what ISDN is and immediately try to sell you DSL or U-Verse instead of listening to the words coming out of your mouth.

With Phone Patch, ALL of the engineering issues fall to the talent. We need to make sure the client can hear us clearly. We need to make sure that what they hear is actually recorded. We need to save in the right format. We need to clean the files. We need to have a dedicated ftp option. But at least we get to interact with people and make them happy with our great work and our amusing comments (as appropriate).

Self-directing is the last option. Some scripts do not need a director and self-directing is the only way to go. With self-directing we still have to do all the engineering, but we can take as much time as we want. We can screw up and no one will be the wiser. We can run to the potty if necessary. But we are operating in a vacuum, so we must be able to know that the read we submit will be what the client is expecting – not hard for some kinds of scripts, but VERY hard for other kinds of scripts/clients. 

It’s good to have options.

August 7, 2009

Friday is trash day

Filed under: Recording — Tags: , — connieterwilliger @ 12:27 pm

Friday is REALLY noisy around here. And even noisier every other Friday when the Black “trash” AND the Blue “recycle” bins are picked up. Prior to the trash trucks grinding down the alley – are the alley elves who push their shopping carts along looking for bottles and cans to recycle.

Then there is the Volkswagon that comes home at noon everyday down the back alley and idles while the garage door goes up – then revs up and goes into the garage. Add that to the random and scheduled selection of police and news helicopters and my frustration level definitely goes up on Fridays.

But for some reason, during a session, things seem pretty quiet and when something does rumble past in the alley or overhead it is only the smallest of interuptions.

So why do these interuptions bother me so while I am trying to get auditions done on Friday!

August 6, 2009

Sometimes it’s good not to have real work to do

Filed under: Musings — connieterwilliger @ 7:05 pm

I didn’t have any paying gigs today. I did get a couple of bookings for next week. I deleted a bunch of auditions from Voice123 and Voices.com that just weren’t right for me. I spent some time at my mom’s trouble shooting an Internet purchase and doing some gardening. But that left lots of time for webinars!

The morning webinar was being put on by Peachtree – somewhat “selly,” but I think I got some inspiration and motivation for ways to maximize the effectiveness of social media/networking for professional associations. In this case MCA-I – Media Communications Association-International.

We have a LinkedIn page, several pages on Facebook (the international office and a couple of chapter pages), Plaxo, a Twitter account and we also had something on MediaPost, but that venue is under review at the moment I guess.

The afternoon’s webinar was a two-hour board of directors meeting for MCA-I. While I am not on the board right now, I am the webmaster and do most of the communications, so my presence is required for most meetings. We are using GoToMeeting/Webinar now and it is working out pretty well after a few rocky attempts.

In between webinars, the emails were flying. The finishing touches are being applied to the annual MCA-I Media Festival – which is moving online this year. A few minor updates are still to be made, but if you want to start figuring out what to enter this year – the 41st Annual Media Festival bestowing the coveted Golden Reel, then pop over and take a look at the Categories.

August 5, 2009

Getting the Right Results from a Voiceover Session

Filed under: Communication, Techniques — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:21 pm

(Updated June 24, 2015)

Professional video and multimedia producers know there is a lot more involved in a successful voiceover than simply recording the voice and slapping it into a time line. You need to connect and communicate with the audience.

Picking the right “talent”
The process starts with the initial selection of the voice talent for a particular project.

Start early and try not to scrimp on the budget for the talent. You want a voice that will be able to get the “right” read in the shortest amount of time. If you have questions about what to budget for talent for a particular project, make a few phone calls (to another producer, to talent you respect or best yet, a talent agent) and see what the going rate should be. You can usually find someone to do the job for practically nothing, but very often what you end up paying in extra studio time to get mediocre results will more than offset the cost of hiring a professional at a fair rate.

Before you actually start listening to talent demos, reflect on your audience and your concept. In some cases you may already have an idea that you want a very young sounding hip male voice with an edgy attitude. Or a warm and friendly, yet knowledgeable mature female voice. On the other hand you may not have any idea – “you’ll know it when you hear it.”

  • Listen to demos – either from an agency house CD or their website, or demos from individual talent. It gets easier and easier to find demos, but it can be hard to determine if the person you like can deliver the goods. Not everyone’s demos reflect their actual capabilities these days. Visit their websites. Listen to additional actual projects other than their generic demos. Ask for an audition if needed. If using an online automated casting site (commonly called Pay-2-Play by the voice talent because of the fee required to receive auditions), be prepared for a flood of auditions ranging from great to horrible.
  • Another approach is to talk to an agent and describe the voice in your head. If you are casting for several voices, consider a casting director. These people know their talent and will be able to assemble a more focused set of auditions rather than the avalanche of right and often very wrong demos you will get with the automated systems mentioned in the previous bullet. There are also more personalized online casting services/audio production companies who will listen to your requirements and send notices out to a short list of professional talent who have been invited to be on the website.
  • Make sure you are listening to the right kind of demo. If you are seeking someone to narrate a 20 page script, listen to narration demos. If the talent only has a commercial demo, chances are they may not be used to reading long form material and may not be able to wrap their brain around your 20 page script without a lot of direction. Some talent agency compilation demos only feature commercial demos, so be sure to keep this in mind.
  • If you are listening to a custom demo using a portion of your script, do yourself a favor and narrow down the field to the top 5 or 6 and then hold another casting session with some specific direction. If you are using one of the online services to get your initial demos, you can do this step remotely as the talent responding will have their own/or access to studios. This will help you discern whether the talent can be directed or not…always a good thing to know even if the talent is going to “self-direct” and send you clean tracks. It will also help you determine if the talent’s studio is up to your professional standards.

How do you get the “right” read?
Remember the caution above about hiring talent for long form work who have a knack for long form work? Talent used to doing commercials may be able to understand the scenario that takes place in a 60 second spot, but may not be able to understand both the forest and the trees in a 20 page (or 100 page) script. Not only that, for scripts that will take over an hour in the studio, you need to know that your voiceover person can keep the same level of energy and approach from the first sentence to the last.

The right voice will be able to quickly read through the script (or part of the script), understand the overall approach and come up with a delivery style and pace that is pretty close.

It is always in your best interest to let the talent in on who the audience is and what you want them to do, feel, or think after watching the presentation. Let the talent know his or her role…fellow employee, a helpful teacher, or perhaps a trusted superior. And don’t forget to let the talent in on the level of audience understanding or interest in the subject matter.

ScriptA good narrator is digging into what really happened. They are reading under the words – around the words – between the lines. They look for the nuances of meaning that lurk beneath the ink on the page. They think about what might have happened just before they open their mouth to read a particular sentence. Was it funny? Is this a transition point in the video? You need to have all of this running around in your head too – so that you will know when the narrator’s interpretation wasn’t quite right.

As a director of voice talent, you need to be able to effectively communicate your desires so that the talent can make the right adjustments to their delivery. In general, the more professional the talent, the less they need to work with – a grunt, a look, one word – may be all it takes and the next take is starred. The best talent needs little if any direction, particularly if you have selected the right voice for the project, or if you have worked with that talent before.

Some talent may require a bit more finesse to understand what you are hearing. This is where your understanding of the script and having a large vocabulary of adjectives will come in handy. Oh, and the fewer people directing the talent the better…but you know that.

However, as a professional voice talent and scriptwriter, I have found that there are a few technical things you can do with the narrator’s script that will make the session go even more smoothly.

Technical SPECS for scripts
You may have the entire presentation in your head, but unless there is something on the script that helps the narrator see it the way you do, you will be working a lot harder than you need to. Be sure to let the talent have as much information as possible about what is happening. This may mean taking a few minutes ahead of the session to discuss it. Believe me, it is well worth the time.

It also helps if the script is easy to read. I’m not getting into the actual script writing here – that’s another topic for another time – these tips are for formatting your script to help the talent move through it quickly.

  • If your script includes sound bites, be sure to include a transcription of the words that the narrator will be leading into and coming out of. This will help overall continuity and flow.
  • Double space the script so that the talent has room to mark the copy.
  • Use at least 12 point font – Times Roman is good.
  • Use upper and lower case – ALL CAPS ARE MORE DIFFICULT TO READ. Think about it, the talent has no way of knowing if something should be capitalized if everything is capitalized. This could affect interpretation.
  • Try to avoid breaking a sentence in the middle from one page to the next. This will reduce the number of times you have to stop down for page turns, as well as possible page rustle.
  • If you are using a dual column editing script as a narration script, some sentences may be broken in the middle of a thought to show the editor where a new image is supposed to appear. While most professional talent can mentally take up the space and tie the sentence together, try to avoid this on the script you hand the talent.

The audio track is a critical element in your media project. By selecting the right talent in the first place, formatting the scripts for readability and then working with the talent to get the “right” read, your media projects will connect and communicate.

Terwilliger_Connie

Written by Connie Terwilliger for Studio/monthly. Copyright Access Intelligence, Dynamic Media Group, publisher of Studio/monthly magazine. To subscribe, go to www.studiomonthly.com

August 4, 2009

voiceacting.com will be back up shortly

Filed under: Announcements — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:34 am

Jim and Penny just sent out a notice explaining that the VoiceActing.com is temporarily down because they’re moving to new servers. They should be back to normal by the end of this week. The move has affected their member area, their blog, and some links on various pages.

This has also affected the VOICE 2010 site.

August 3, 2009

Gah! August Already!?

Filed under: Business, Musings — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:20 pm

Yikes! Where did the year go? Most of us are probably wondering the same thing as we move into back-to-school time.

And what did we accomplish so far in 2009 so far? Is everyone on track? Do we know what track we are on? Do we know which track we want to be/should be on?

I use Outlook and have set up Categories so that I can make notes in my Calendar about how I am spending my time. Recording is Green, Marketing is Gold, Training is Yellow, Business is Blue, Volunteer work is a lighter Green and Personal stuff is Orange…that sort of thing. The Orange is winning by leaps and bounds since April when my mom moved out here from New York State.

But it’s not all mom time. Some of it is morning coffee time with my friends. Some of it is exercise time. Some of it is theater time – and lately a lot of it has suddenly been blog time. But the good thing is that despite this increase in time spent on personal things, my income is holding steady.

After being in the voiceover business – on and off full-time since the early 80’s – I am only recently realizing the problem with trying to be all things to all people. I am versatile – no doubt about that – but I am finding that because I have been doing so many different kinds of things for so many different people, the sheer number of clients I have is daunting.

It is hard to keep up with everybody and remember what kinds of projects I’ve done for them – especially those who I haven’t work for in several years who suddenly pop back in. Especially if it was a very small $$ job. One where I had to quote, record, edit and invoice. There is research involved – looking up past invoices – checking email threads – to be sure who the person is on the other end of the phone or email – so that I can then quote, record, edit and invoice. (Not that there is anything wrong with invoicing! Or recording! Or even editing.)

But it really is time to start capitalizing on my talent and experience, so the Gold (Marketing) and the Yellow (Training) categories have been more visible in my Calendar as I hone in on the areas that will help me keep the Green ($$) coming into my bank account as the level of Orange in my Calendar increases.

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