Directed voiceover sessions: tips for success

Directed voiceover sessions… Can you manage them?

I used to get nervous about directed voiceover sessions… mostly because in “phone-patch” sessions (the client simply listens in on the phone), I was never sure if we would be able to hear each other clearly. Further, if I’m being directed AND recording the session… I worried about technical glitchs on my end. What if I had to record it all again, after-the-fact?! That would not be cool. I’d look extremely unprofessional.

When in the booth alone, the isolation is freeing! You have the ablity to do as many takes as necessary. Directed sessions, on the other hand, mean not only reading as cleanly and mistake-free as possible, but also to being both open to direction and being directable. Two major necessities for working voice talent.

However, as the bar continues to be raised in the voiceover industry, being a “connected” studio is a huge asset. Being connected provides the technical capacity for someone to both direct you and record on the other end. This frees up the voice actor considerably. And, there are a handful of ways to be connected – ISDN, ipDTL, Source-Connect (and a few more). Skype is also common now, but doesn’t make you a “connected” studio, because it doesn’t allow the producers to record you on the other end.

What happened after purchasing Source-Connect for my studio…

I’ve had Source-Connect for six months and haven’t used it once. Ironically, I’ve had more directed sessions in the past six months than I’ve had in 13 years. (Generally using client’s ipDTL links or utilizing Skype.) And thankfully, I LOVE feedback, and I suppose that’s one of the reasons I am therefore, directable. I listen well and make changes easily. Plus, I’m able to leave my ego aside and hear feedback without worrying that I’m “doing it wrong” knowing it simply needs additional direction.

Perhaps it was a message to the universe that I’m open to directed sessions, once I purchased Source-Connect…or perhaps it’s a result of working on projects with more and more people needing to provide input…I don’t know. What I do know, however, is how to manage a directed session.

The number one tip I can give to a voice actor in their booth on a direction session?

Stop talking.

A voice actor? Stop talking? Yes.

And here are five reasons why:

1 – The director, engineer, copywriter, producer, and/or client (and sometimes more than that) need to hear you clearly. They need to contemplate your takes and possibly discuss them amongst themselves. Sometimes they change the script. Sometimes they are debating your delivery. But, most importantly, the conversation rarely, if ever, needs your input.

2 – You need to be able to hear everyone else and their feedback. You need to listen AND hear what they are saying. Whether there is one person or several listening in on the line, you can’t REALLY hear their feedback and input if you are commenting. 

3 – The takes aren’t necessarily clear, if you are chatting in between. They just want… Take one. Two. Three. And quiet.

4 – The session needs to be distraction free. With needing to listen so clearly, any distractions will make the whole session more difficult.

5 – Time is an issue. The shorter the session, the better for everyone. And, the more likely the client will be happier with how it all went.

Professionalism is paramount in directed sessions. If there is ever a moment to be on your best behavior it is on a directed session, either in your own booth or at someone else’s studio.  While there are a lot of clowns in our business, there is a time to know when to be entertaining (within the copy!) and when to play the straight guy (in every interaction).

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