Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What it’s like to be a voiceover talent (for a day)

First things first: I don’t have a voice for radio*. No one hears me speak and says, “I would like to hear more of THAT”. I have a normal voice with a normal vocal range** and a rather lazy commitment to annunciation.

So it was rather surprising that I was asked by a colleague to come down to a recording studio to narrate a video. It was so surprising, actually, that I didn’t realize what I had signed on for—I thought I was just there to say a few lines, like “I sure like that thing you’re selling” or “I’d buy that for my cousin!” But there it was: five pages of robust narration. FIVE!

The most noticeable thing about a recording booth is the distinct lack of noise. You don’t realize just how much ambient noise fills your day until it’s so quiet that you can hear your blood moving through your veins. Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh!

Also, writing copy and reading copy are two distinctly different experiences. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to read my words out loud. When you do that, you learn what does and doesn’t work***. For instance, “an immersive environment” or “PR ROI” became on-the-fly tongue twisters for me.

And when you’re in the recording booth, where every little pop, slurp and breath is magnified, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the possible ways you can say a line.

Thankfully, sound engineers are used to acting like guardian angels. The great ones are like movie directors—they see the big picture and know how to give direction that will draw out the right reads and nuances. Or at least usable takes in my case.

All in all, I enjoyed my experience in the booth and relished the chance to read each line with a different emphasis or inflection. And while I didn’t do any intentional accents**** or get to say the words “In a world …”, I do feel like I was sufficiently ready for my close up.

*Nor a face for it.
**Unless it’s karaoke night, then I’m a vocal genius.
***Yes, yes, I should do that more often, I agree.
****I sometimes slip into a Canadian and/or Midwestern accent, for some reason.