Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

July 11, 2013

What did I say?

Filed under: Business, Recording — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:10 am

I just saw a blog post from my virtual voiceover friend and prolific blogger,Derek Chappell that made me laugh out loud. Just what kinds of situations do REAL working voiceover talent face as they go about the business of recording a script?

He posted three videos produced by voice actor, Paul J. Kinney, a San Francisco based talent. These are not only extremely well produced pieces, but each is a true reflection of what actually happens in directed voiceover sessions. These clips happen to be in a studio environment where the producer is just on the other side of the glass, but the same thing happens during phone patch sessions and ISDN sessions.

OK, they may be slightly exaggerated. But, I too am “guilty” as charged.



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.

July 17, 2009

Sight Readers Give Good Voice(overs)

Filed under: Musings — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 2:50 pm

Let’s get this out in the open. All good stage, film and TV actors do not make good voice talent – and vice versa. If you are used to having your script days ahead of time, with hours or even days of rehearsal with a director, you may not be able to get into the VO vibe.

Using a studio session as an example…let’s say a session is scheduled for 9 AM. You get to the studio at 8:55 (or earlier). Someone asks if you want coffee. You’re thinking “A script would be nice.” Someone hands you the copy around 9:15. (Traffic was bad?) If you are lucky, they may spend a minute filling you in on what they feel you should do with the copy before hustling you into the booth.

At 9:17 you enter your padded room, adjust your headsets. Look for a pencil with a sharp point (or pull out the one you always bring to a session) and read through the copy once by yourself – in relative peace – until the engineer turns on your mic and the sound of your own voice brings tears to your eyes. Not from sheer pride in your magnificent read, but from the blaring volume in the headsets.

By this time, the engineer has a level on your voice and if the microphone is pointed basically at your mouth, they are ready to “try one for time.” Ensconced on the copy stand in front of you is 40 seconds or more worth of words that the clients needs to have you read in 25 (or so) seconds – without having it sound rushed. Obviously picking it up that much is not going to benefit anyone – even if you could do it. So copy will have to be cut. Now where did that pencil go?

The producer has a finger on the talk back button – rattling off copy changes. “Cut the 3rd word in the 2nd line and the 5th word in the 6th line and the first three words of the next line. No, on second thought, leave in that first thing we cut and cut the last sentence before the announcer comes back. Oh, and can you start the whole spot with the the second to last line? Great, that should take care of about 10 seconds, you just have to pick it up by 5 seconds. Got that?”

The true voiceover professional “got it” and in the next take will usually get it right for “time.” A few takes later, after a minor nudge here and there by the producer/director, and the talent is out the door. (Your mileage may vary and yes, there are times when it takes a few more than a few takes.)

“Hey,” I hear people say, “voiceover sounds easy! You don’t have to memorize!” True, but you have to be able to read the copy as if you have had a director coaching you and working through your “motivation.” You have to instantly understand what is going on and deliver the meaning of the word – not just reading the words. In the theater, hours, days or weeks may pass before an actor stops giving line reads and a character emerges. In the recording studio this needs to happen within a few minutes. Not every actor can pull off this kind of sight reading – especially if there is 10 pounds of copy to cram into a 5 pound bag.

In many ways, this ability to wrap your head around the copy instantly is like being able to sight read music – and more specifically Jazz. You must understand basic sentence structure…the way the language works. You need to be able to read the “notes” (so to speak), find the rhythm, pace and flow, as well as know how to improvize. And you must know the sound of your voice and how to get it to do what you want it to do in very short order – without rehearsal.

The best talent is creative, agreeable, flexible and willing to stretch. The voice talent must have those same qualities, but with an added element of quickness.

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