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  1. As I slowly melt in the summer sunshine I’ve realised it has now been over five years since I started directing Voice Over artists in sessions. I long ago found that being a Voice Over actor was part acting and part interpreter when the client gives notes to a read. 

    After a while I decided to step in during VoiceOver sessions especially with voices or clients that had yet to have a lot of experience with either the type of read, the copy and context or the end want of the client. I have gone on to direct most type of VoiceOver gigs including audio dramas, corporate videos, e-learning, explainers even phone messages and my favourite video games and narrative dramas. 

    Gave heart to the story

     Each genre has its own language and needs as well as scene setting. However the most important consideration is the actor and how the actor will interpret the character. Even on the most simple of jobs, like the art of simple cake baking, they can also be the trickiest of jobs. I always make the actor my top consideration and ensure that they have been given the script in good time (if this is possible), they have read the script and if they have any questions such as pronunciations, number styles but also what their thoughts are and what they like in terms of direction. Some actors are all about the musicality of the piece and want to understand the emotional flow of the copy almost like sight reading a musical score. Others want to understand the feelings and emotional intentions behind the copy and more importantly the context of the script so they can ground themselves in that character space. Then again there are actors that revel in the more obscure of directions such as “Be more orange,” “more tall but less graceful.” Actors are as varied as scripts and so adapting to them and the copy is a true art as a director. 

     

    For game audio, again the genre is extremely varied from single emotes and one liners or barks to whole narrative set pieces or trailer copy or even fundraising videos. The first question I make sure is asked is where are we, when are we and what are we. This makes a huge difference on the performance and places the actor where they need to be go get the vocal performance both authentic and true. I’ve worked on a number of games helping the actor reach and find the character and bring a different level of quality to the role. 

     Mixing VoiceOver artists

    My top tips for directing are:

     

    1. Ask questions to fully understand the context, location, environment and character.
    2. Ask the actor how they want direction and what works for them; picture making, musicality, physicality,
    3. Listen, listen and listen. Listen to different actors, genres, people, characters and feed this back into your director toolkit so you can richly advise both client and actor on how to give a great performance.

     

    Keep voicing and keep cool - pro tip, wrap up some cool frozen veg in a hand bowl and place on the back of the neck and wrists to keep cool especially on longer sessions. 

  2. This is a little of a trick question. Not much would be the flippant and rather quick answer. However, in truth moving as a voice actor is as important if not more so than an actor specialising in film, TV or theatre. 

     

    Performance art of a sort, voice acting at times can be seen as a solitary still pursuit. In fact some roles may call for an inward and outer stillness. It may be the character you portray and the story you are telling may ask for you to be introspective and make yourself small and quiet. This would be especially true in an audio drama or a video game where in these genres there is time and space for the character to develop and breath like a fine wine. 

     

    And yet, there is movement. The human body is made for movement. We know this simply from sitting or standing too long in one position and how our muscles ache from the exertion of holding that pose. Tension is constantly necessary or we would sag like those string puppet dolls. Holding onto too much tension can cause holds and stops in our body and which in turn can have an impact on our own vocal capacity. Everything in our body is connected so if you have a tight hip flexor it may impede your vocal tract to be as open and loose as it could be. 

    Moving is a voice over art 

    But why is it so important to move? Simply put because we are human and the human condition is to move and this includes when in a vocal booth. Preventing stickiness in our joints and muscles is crucial to ensure good bodily health which includes your vocal and oral health. Not only it is key to keep your mouth exercises going to ensure your muscles are in tip top condition to perform but also your body and especially the upper thoracic region so that your shoulders and back and neck muscles remain loose and free and easy to use. 

     

    In the voiceover booth, I tend to move my head, neck and arms in movements that match the tempo of the copy. At times it may mean I am weighing myself down to ground myself for a voice or character. Then at other times I may flow with the melody of the text to create a naturalness and upbeat intention for the piece. It is important to note that all movement should be maintained silently so as not to be picked up by the mic. Foot tapping can be very tempting especially if you get a music bed to voice along to but exchange the tap with a flap of the hand or a shoulder shrug. 

     

    Some copy even speaks to having that shrug inbuilt into it and it couldn’t possibly be read without including the shrug. When text ends in questions or a throwaway comment often the shrug is implied and if it is then add it in. So yes, it may look like I am flicking at a fly in my booth but in fact I am moving in time with the content.

  3. I am a self confessed marketing nerd. I have been slightly OCD obsessed since a child, picking apart what makes people pick up a trend or product and buy it. After all, why did I really want Ariel the toy from McDonalds when the film came out back in 1989? So obsessed was I that I wrote commercials and worked for several huge companies marketing their products. The trick is always finding a way to connect you with your audience in a unique way.  

    So how can a voiceover artist market themselves as an independent creative? Especially during these isolating times. A few things need to be considered first: 

    1. What sort of voice are you? Know your range, your abilities, your strengths and weaknesses.
    2. What voice genre do you work in? Are you a VO specialist working in audiobooks or are you a generalist that works across the different disciplines in VO?
    3. Who are you? Do you have other hobbies or disciplines that make you different from others?

    Take time and be truthful as you consider this list, working through each point. It becomes relevant as you build your marketing profile. After working through your list, what have you got? What is your USP? Your unique selling point? Are you a big voice and know something or two about cars/cooking etc? Or can you sing professionally and like longs walks with dogs? Perhaps you are an impressionist that enjoys running? 

    Lorraine Ansell FVO at workWhoever you are it is crucial to knowing before you market yourself. By definition we are all different so you will by your own life experiences, personality and ambitions attract and be attracted by different groups and so different clients. Understanding this is crucial to knowing how to market yourself and cast yourself. 

     

    Ways to market yourself include getting on social media - there are many channels from Instagram to twitter and you have to decide which you prefer and what you will use it for and how. They ae all different with different rules and flow in a variety of ways. If you already are on these channels, have a look at your content and what you want to be saying. Do you want to be an expert? Show your personality? Some of both? How much time will you dedicate to these channels? Can you find the clients that you are looking for there? Or do you just want to play around on them? Be honest with your answers, avoid copying others strategies because they may not necessarily work for you. 

     

    Perhaps you want to do a mail shot to clients. But what to send? Have a look at marketing material online and see what might appeal to you. What reflects your brand and personality?

     

    Or maybe you can do this online with newsletters and reaching out to clients. Note that during this lock down the simply truth is that there will be limited work in the pipeline overall and it is tempting to spam agents, clients, friends, colleagues to ask for work. However while it is good to keep in touch, do so on connected level and appreciate that many are also in the same boat as you and trying to figure out what to do.  

    If you like to create videos, make some that are true to you and what you do. There have been some great examples of sports commentators narrating competitions between their pets while other actors have been working from home on improv or others that have decided to concentrate on themselves and self care. All are valid and how ever you choose to work is what feels right to you. It creates an authentic structure to your strategy. So take a moment and think about marketing the real you.

    Recording Studio

  4. Importance of performance : Performance is crucial to many an audio production. It can bring copy to life than simply reading it in your head. And performances in videogames are amongst some of the most nuanced. Copy is more than a collection of words scattered on a page or excel sheet. As a performer the aim is to take the copy and elevate it to deliver the lines that evoke a reaction of some sort. Questions I ask myself about copy include:

    1. What is the aim? 
    2. What is the emotional intention?
    3. What is the call to action?
    4. What is the truth?
    5. What is believable?

    Lorraine Ansell BAFTA Juror Games 2020

    These questions form a start of an interrogation of the copy that is essential to deliver a connected performance. What is connected? I see this as the voice actor connecting with the copy and then being able to communicate the intentions to the audience so that they connect with the character or the copy and the underlying messages that underpin it.  

    I was lucky enough to see this played out at the BAFTA Games awards in 2020. I was asked to be  a juror on the new category of Performer in a Supporting Role. This was a great opportunity to research each performance of the submitted video games and understand the nuance behind each piece. The nominated performances were a very good example of the voiceover work over this year and I thoroughly enjoyed playing all of the games. The games were great in themselves but the artists were able to convey much with their voice. And there lies the talent, performances that were rich in undercurrents, layered and full of quirks and thoughts. 

    The same questions I ask myself I asked of the each performance. To take each moment and connect with what the actor is trying to convey during each scene. Two nominated performances really stood out for me simply because I connected with them and believed them to be truthful in a myriad of ways. Ayisha Issa who played Fliss in Man of Medan, held my attention throughout her time in the game. The nuances of staying in character during decisions choices as well as game play were excellent and I enjoyed her performance. I also enjoyed watching Lea Seydoux in Death Stranding as Fragile. The character warmed up throughout the game and had many layers that I became excited to watch out for. 

     The winning actor was Martii Suosalo who while his character Ahti in Control has a limited amount of game time, gave a thoroughly detailed confident and thought provoking performance. As the caretaker the role and copy could have simply been a few lines read out loud. But Martii elevated this performance to something both sinister and sublime. What I found particularly interesting that all these actors were bilingual and to chomp and change between languages is one of the hardest skills to have. The cadence, word sounds an mouth shapes that have to be achieved are extremely difficult. Martti made it look very easy. A well deserved win. All of the actors I mentioned really gave performances that are worth of study and reflection for any actor. Have a god and play the games, see what I mean. 

     

  5. Working from Home has been my way of life for over five years and even before that I was already shifting to work more remotely. As a voice actor with my own studio I have managed to keep myself efficiently busy with a good work/life balance routine. 

    Working from home is a mindset and when I first starting to work remotely my biggest worry was how I would deal without interacting physically with people. As a person who identifies with physicality as a main language this was a real concern. However I overcame the challenge by identifying how I could work with that language barrier and thrive. 

    If you are starting to work from home then here are a few tips that have helped me. 

    1. Primary Concerns - ask yourself what those concerns are and spell them out for you
    2. Work mode - do you prefer to get up early and work until lunch or lunch until dinner or late into the night. Figuring out what your work mode is will help.
    3. Self care time - what type of self care do you prefer? A cup of tea, a crossword break, a walk around the block, chatting to a friend. Have a few things in mind for variety.
    4. Structure - now you have a rough list of what work and self needs you have, plot them so you can go through them and figure out a working and life day that works for you.
    5. Change - remember it doesn’t have to work from day 1 so change as you need to. Maybe your work ends up being with clients in a different time zone so you can structure your day differently than when you started out. Be prepared to be flexible at first and try different things out.

     Working from Home as a Voiceover Artist

    Avoid thinking that if you work all the hours in one day you will be more productive. It rarely if ever works like that. A simple coffee break or magazine break allows you to breathe and gather your thoughts. The brain quite likes to mull over challenges but a distraction usually enables it to reach an answer. 

     

    In my week, I map out work tasks that I want to complete as well as life tasks that need to be included. I also slot in self care activities and I take care to do these because every time I think about skipping them in fact I feel worse and less creative than when I end up doing them. My dance family are really important to me and as a voice actor where you internalise all the physicality of the roles, it means I can release all that vitalness safely and into something also very creative and rewarding on many levels. I enjoy chatting with friends over a coffee even if its online. A read of a chapter of a book or a set time playing a video game also allows for some down time. Always get up, prepare for “going to work” and that mindset helps structure the day. 

    Whatever system you find that works for you when you work from home, go for it. Just remember, when the conference calls happen, remember to wear clothes!

  6. Voiceover is about talking to people isn’t it? Yes but also its it so much more than that. Have you wondered about how a voice sounds and I mean more than just the actual sound you hear but the feelings and intentions behind it. To be a great voiceover how do you convey more than the feeling, impart more than a connection, leave the audience with an experience?

     

    Voiceover Microphone Live

    Simply put learn to listen. Listen to conversations and communications because then you will learn the language hidden within the words. It is easy to do as you can do this on the bus listening to people chatting. From the school children having a chat about what games they played the night before to the early morning shoppers having a gossip, the words are a base level but it is the silence, the pauses, the feelings that underlay each word and phrase that can tell you much more. So how do you listen:

     

    1. Be present: thought this was a mindfulness technique? It is but can be applied here. Breathe, open your ears and mind and listen to the words, the audio patterns, the musicality, the emotions behind the conversations.
    2. Relax: By taking a moment and relaxing, you will feel the intentions carried by words. How many times have you seen from afar a chat that looks loving and interesting only to come up close and hear a full scale argument taking place? Well what did you hear both visually and verbally. Relaxing will enable you to hear and see much more. The language behind the language. 
    3. Listen: Without judgement. You are there to listen to the tones, pitches and musicality and not about who didn’t send an email to what boss on time or not. What are they really saying behind the words? As a voiceover listening will enable you to unpick what makes things stick in peoples heads and what intentions they need to feel connected to in your words so that you can actually speak to them, reaching them. 

     

    And what can you listen to? Everything. The news, adverts, chats waiting in line for your Christmas Black Forest Coffee, the quick noisy chats on the tube or train or anywhere. How we as humans talk to each other is the language that voiceovers need to figure out so that when they voice they can appreciate where to do with the feelings and intentions that layer the words in your next copy. From the simplest collection of words to a full book to voice, the words will have been chosen with an action in mind and as the voice, your role is to deliver your interpretation of those ideas and concepts vocally. Keep listening to keep voicing.

  7. This is a topic that I can talk endlessly about which is just as well my clients provide me with a script as otherwise there would be a lot more to edit. Though the good thing is that I always ensure I take big breathes so the engineer has an easier time editing. Why is knowing what to eat important for a voice actor? I could launch into many nutritional benefits of eating a well balanced diet and eating appropriate portion sizes for your activity levels and lifestyle but that would be a script for another day so instead I will focus on the sound issues surrounding various foods. 

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    In general life is a buffet and go ahead and snack on what you like and what you feel you need. However in a run up to a voice session then be aware of how certain foods and drinks can take a toll on your voice. Here is a list of foods and drinks that have an effect on your vocalisation abilities.

    1. Tea/Coffee - any thing made form caffeine has a drying and diuretic effect which means that you will either need to rush to the toilet or just dry up vocally. Award yourself one of these beauties after a session.
    2. Milk/cream/cheese - Refrain from any dairy consumption the night before a session and on the day itself. Dairy and lactose tends to lead to an increase in phlegm and this build up can clog up those cords leading to more coughing, catching of your voice in those cords and even building it up in your nasal passages where you get that delightful nose trumpet on certain words. Trust me the engineer will remember the voice who took milk in their tea before the session and will be recording a fair few takes more than necessary to avoid that particular issue. Oh and that engineer will usually be me so just saying. 
    3. Crisps - this one is an odd one. Eating them and their yummy greasiness (gosh salt and vinegar McCoys right?!? Bliss) can in many cases cause a whole bunch of mouth noises. What are those? These noises are those icky sounds that are sticky and if in a middle of a word really stand out and are very annyoing. However I have heard in some cases that it can help against those as it gives a covering to the cords and mouth allowing them to carry on. I have heard that opera singers eat crisps for their oilyness. Maybe then it could be the salt having a dehydrating effect in the mouth. Trail and error in this case and knowing your mouth well. 
    4. Apples/Pineapple/kiwis - or anything that causes your mouth to water or simulate those glands. Again to voice mouth noises so apples often help clear that by it seems by making the mouth overflow with saliva which may be. good thing in many cases. Not with all people though so again, try this out and see what works for you. Some say bananas, others apples, others pears. Go on and choose your own fruit salad combo. 
    5. Chocolate - now goodness, chocolate is one of lifes little pleasures. I personally prefer dark chocolate and mostly with some fruit filling but hey, I still mentally live in the 80's advertising world at times and I still see sandy landscapes with random chocolate dotted about. Ahhh very much a different time indeed. So back to chocolate. Again as at times it can have a lot of diary/sugar it can be a little cloying and give you a little too much dry throat or phlegm. Again like that tea, save it for afterwards. 

    There we go, a few things to think about when you eat for a session. Enjoy things obviously but think about it when you have a session. Now, where is that Nutella filled croissant and milky coffee waiting for me? Yum. 

    After session voiceover food

  8. Like most things in life, each voiceover booth or  recording studio is very different. Some are big and plush with several fans, tables, lights and room to manoeuvre in. Others are squashed dark, cramped and hard to even place the script in a good eye line of the microphone and you. Like scripts, booths come in all shapes and sizes but there is always one constant. They all share one need. The avoidance of all extraneous noise. I will write about a more studio specification aspect from a visiting voice point of view but for now this post is covering how you can avoid being the cause of that noise.

    Reducing any other noise other than your own voice can be hard. The technicians and mass reduce a lot of noise though I have been in some super plush fancy studios with walls thicker than most game back story bibles and we still have to stop and wait for the tube to shuffle past under our feet. Many many meters under our feet. But what else can cause noise? Clothes! 

    IMG_7649

    What you wear is highly important in the voice over booth

    The recording studio is a workplace and like all workplace cultures there are unwritten rules. So I have written them so you can see what you need to consider when in the booth. 

    1. Clothes - yes please wear some unless you are either in a naturist booth (never encountered that) or it is your own time and studio and you are happy to enjoy recording au natural. In extreme hot weather many voice over artists are apt to employ this clothing custom. 
    2. What type of clothes - please avoid any clothes that cause squeaks or general noise. That leather jacket you imagine yourself as Tom Cruise in…leave it off or outside. That amazing jumper that ripples with static electricity whenever you reach out for your glass of water? Take that off. That off the shoulder top that has its own grating fabric sound whenever you air your armpits? Take it off. Wait but it might get cold. See point number 4. 
    3. Shoes - Well the more the merrier. Or rather, think about your shoes and if they squeak when you walk or move in them. Are you more comfortable in trainers/boots/flip flops etc? Maybe going barefoot is easier for you. Maybe having warm feet helps you to be grounded. Whatever your shoe choice, ensure that you feel good wearing them. 
    4. Scarves - I am a big fan of a wrap, shawl or scarf. Many studios can be quite cool to start with and keeping warm especially during long form narration. Then as with layers, scaves can be added or subtracted as and when you need them. I love a silk scarf as it keeps me warm and clever tight wrapping ensures it doesn’t brush agains the cans or come loose and drape over me or the micripphone. 
    5. Jewllery - Who doesn’t love a bit of Pat Butcher bling? But in the booth any dangling accessories are a no no. Even rings can jangle together as you waft your hand conducting your own voice so take note and keep jewellery to a minium. You can always take it off and pop it back on after the session and head into Soho for a well deserved drink. 
    6. Hair - hair up or down? I really depends on how you feel and like to work but there is also an important consideration. Where will you put your cans? A high top knot bun is all very well but it could mean you moving your cans head band to work around it. Same with a high or low ponytail. I personally favour a mid pony tail held in place with a scrunch (yes yes the 80s part of me will never die away). 

    Whatever your look, ensure that you are able to loosen your body and feel the words. As your physicality informs your voice and vice versa then wear what you prefer but take note of how that will work in the recording studio. Wear, work, witter on. 

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  9. “I like it. Kinda. Usually!” This is the phrase that captures the essence of attracting the millennial ear. It is one that I am hearing more and more these days. This new trend is appearing in all sorts of audio productions but mainly in commercials and corporate voiceover productions. Voiceovers by their very nature are no stranger to trends and over the decades we have seen the move from big bold advertising announcements proclaiming the benefits of a brand, product and service to the witty/sassy mood of the nineties to the sharpness of the naughties and finally now to a distracted, yeah whatever type trend. This new trend is what the most amazing Nancy Wolfson has dubbed the “Millennial Float” 

    Lorraine Ansell Voice over Artist

    Over the past year and certainly in the past month I have been in many sessions where the end client has sought something less “sales-y” – it is hard at times to decipher what clients want but suffice to say that by sales-y they are usually not wanting to impress the sales patter tone onto the audience. It also means they don’t want an announcer style voice. Now we have long been used to offering an authentic voice and the melodies and volumes that go along with that.

    Millenial Voice Trends

    However the trend seems to be a call for a voice that is quite flat, with little or no colour and rather “meh”. It also calls for a slight vocal fry to add to the laid back nature of this voice. I am unsure as to where it first started to trend but I am finding more and more clients asking for this laid back approach to voicing. Voiceover follows the trends and I am inferring that this is what clients feel that their target audiences (usually the young that have access to disposable income) are speaking and so identify with. i.e. the millennials – the terms refers to people born between 1981 – 1996.

     A great voice actor is one that can appreciate a change in trend and voice what the client is after. Changing the intention is certainly a challenge and I have found it hard work. Why is this? After decades of studying and working, voicing with a bright pleasant and welcoming intention it becomes somehow ingrained and the norm. Now all this has to be unlearnt and the performance must reflect what is happening in the real world. The trend is to be up, but pensive and then well if you want style to it and so I am sure we will find this approach in many audio productions and voiceover recordings as we head towards 2020 and beyond.

    Voice recording in progress

  10. I love this question. Lots of people ask me this question and I ask them “What do you mean?” Other than answering a question with a question (which amuses me), I do so to ensure I have got the right end of the stick. In the majority of cases what the question setter is actually asking is what more skills or techniques should they learn, develop, try their hand at. And as a rather chatty voice actor (well you know that already about me) I usually launch into a long and varied often tangential discussion about how as an actor it is your life, duty and responsibility to in fact do everything. However this is hardly what the person expects to hear but rather I have realised that I can simply break this right down to the nuts and bolts of what turns a voice into a VOICE. I stand by the whole “everything” concept though but perhaps it is too vague so a longer answer follows. Keep up!

     Recording in studio

    The simpler answer is that an actor is a watcher and a channeller. This is one of my favourite games to play. I watch people and I always have done. I love watching how they dress, walk and talk and then playing a mini mastermind challenge with myself about who they are. What do they like to watch? Do they drink tea or coffee? Black/white/lemon/sugar or a smoothie in the morning? Do they have a pet? Are they a dog/cat/nothing person? Where do they buy their groceries from? And from those simple questions I enjoy delving into harder questions such as do they enjoy their job? If they could be anything what would that be? How has their heart been broken? What has been their greatest joy? I imagine how their voice would sound like from all of my deductions. Call me Shirley Holmes as it really is observation at the highest order. Then I file this person away into my mental character palace (I have palaces in various locations much like the filing system in Jurassic Park only mentally and with much fluffier dinosaurs). There they sit, awaiting their turn like much loved and cared for old toys. They come out as and when I decide and then I channel. I put them on as you would a coat and I become them right down to the way they breathe, blink and bark (metaphorically obviously). They they come alive and take flight, lifting the copy off the sheet or screen when they/me speak and talk for them, with them. The guiding question for this is how - how would this character read this and for whom? 

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    Another simplest answer is to experience life. “Do what makes you happy” is a great phrase for this. I feel that to deliver the best lines that are authentic to the role and character and the content experiencing many things will develop you as a person. What do you enjoy most? Apart from working on audio projects and speaking on panels as well as voicing, I love dance, music, photography, art, food, travel and pets. Sound a tad like a dating profile list but in essence this is more a life profile list. I adore all forms of dance and have tried my hand at many of them. I get to them watch and explore other characters in areas I would never have considered. I love slinking off to a museum or two such as the Tate Modern and losing myself in colour and finding myself in different worlds. Taking such flights of fancy enable me to reach new places that always help my roles when I record in the booth. Food is such a gift as well and having lived in several countries I always wonder how food can be such a cultural thing and can be such a character influencer. I ask all of these questions as I wonder around this world simply to become better, to learn and grow and be. Being a voice is a wonderful thing and whether its a character in an audio drama or video game or talking to patients for medical videos, each and every experience enriches my performance. What does a voiceover artist become? They become everything!