Saturday, 16 October 2010

Is there a VOctor in the house?

I’ve got a stinking cold. 

It’s the first one I’ve had in a long time – and a cold isn’t really a big deal... unless you’re a voiceover!

Many years ago, when I worked in an office, a cold wasn’t a problem. I either stayed home with chicken soup and daytime TV, or I went in and snuffled my way through the day.

It’s not even that big a problem when I’m voice directing. I might feel lousy, but I can still do my job (although voice artists are rarely thrilled to be sharing studio air with someone horking up a lung).

But for a voiceover – a cold is a disaster. Unless jobs can be rescheduled, it often means losing work. 

So it’s no wonder that mythical ‘voice restoring’ remedies abound! I thought I’d list a few of them here:

Floradix: This tonic was recommended to me by chocolate-and-honey-voiced Colin McFarlane – and as a preventative, I think it works. I started taking it daily two years ago, and this is the first cold I’ve had since then (whereas I normally get about three a year – hazard of the profession!).

Pineapple: Great for cutting through gunk (sorry!), particularly bronchial stuff. I live on the stuff, fresh and juiced, if I have a cold.

Raw garlic: Great. Just hope you’re not sharing the booth with anyone!

Onions: Baked with olive oil and salt, or a little honey, this is said to be a great for the voice. Delicious, but I have my doubts as to the therapeutic effects...

Tabasco: The late, great Bill Hootkins swore by this. He’d keep a little bottle with him whenever he was recording, and every so often would have a couple of drops in a glass of water. I’ve not tried this one yet – but next week could be the time!

What about you – any remedies to share?

Photo by Cavin

Friday, 8 October 2010

Accent-uate the positive....

You may as well know that I am so lazy that I am recycling this blog that I wrote for our Creative Content blog, CCTheLowdown....

I was recently lucky enough to record Alex y Robert (by Wena Poon) as a Book at Bedtime for the BBC. It’s a wonderful book – but it threw up a problem that comes up from time to time for narrators.

The heroine is an American girl, fluent in Spanish, who wants to be a bullfighter, like her grandfather. She goes to Spain and fulfils her dream.

So far so good! The story is written in third person narrative and the character of Alex was no problem – but once she got to Spain and met Roberto and lots of other Spanish characters, I had a bit of a stumble. When Alex is in Spain, she is speaking Spanish, as are the other characters. But it is written in English. And occasionally the Spanish characters break into English. What to do? Accent? No accent? No accent for the Spanish characters when they’re speaking Spanish, but give them an accent when they’re speaking English? Give nobody accents? Give everybody accents? It’s a minefield!

Ultimately I think it’s about making things as clear as possible for the listener. So although it might be very clever to switch back and forth from accented to unaccented, depending on what language the character was supposed to be speaking, it would be incredibly confusing for the listener.

Therefore my policy is to give a character one voice and one accent – an accent that is the same, no matter what language they’re speaking. 

In the case of Alex y Robert, that could’ve meant giving the Spanish characters no accent – or perhaps more accurately, to give them an American accent like mine.  But that didn’t seem right either.

Part of the charm of the story is this very American girl finding herself in a very different world with an ancient tradition very different from anything in her world. In order to convey that sense of ‘otherness,’ I chose to give the Spanish characters Spanish accents – even when they were supposed to be speaking their own language.

What do you think? I’d love to know how other narrators handle this problem! - LK