Wednesday, 14 September 2011

If it ain't broke... don't break it!

For a voice over artist, especially a beginner, the studio can be a minefield. All those wires, cords and boxes! Don't worry. You'll soon learn your way around. To help you on your way, here are some tips from the late, great voice artist Brad Lavelle on studio equipment etiquette....

“Don’t play with the studio’s costly equipment. Sound booths can be cluttered with cables. If some technical equipment is in your way, ask the engineer to move it, don’t do it yourself unless asked and never, ever touch the mic without being asked. 

Don’t spill stuff. Just about everything in the sound booth has a current running through it. Always be extra cautious of any liquids; you might be a great voice but you won’t work for the client again if you fry a couple of grand’s worth of equipment by knocking over your water glass. 

Don't blow your nose/cough/sneeze into the microphone. A good mic can cost over 2 grand and a well-aimed shot from your schnozzle can kill it. Tell the engineer first or just turn away from the mic.

Don’t wander away from the mic between takes, unless you know how to get back to exactly the same mic position. If you need to leave the sound booth, mark your space in front of the mic and when you return close all the doors tightly. Check with the engineer if they need to do another level check before you start again." – Brad Lavelle

photo by Razor512

Sunday, 11 September 2011


Like most people, I’ve been remembering this day ten years ago. My memories of that day are in no way important or significant to anyone but me, but I’m compelled to put them down...

I was home in London getting ready to go to work at a studio that afternoon, when the news flashed up on TV that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. 

The news was shocking, but I left my husband watching unfolding events while I went to work – ironically, for a company that produces in-flight content for the airlines.

I arrived at the studio to find lots of people clustered around a tiny, retro-style TV. The first tower had just fallen. I have seen that particular bit of film over and over, and am used to it now, but at the time it was shocking beyond belief. 

Maybe it’s because I’m American, but my colleagues made way for me and let me get closer to the screen. I don’t quite remember the order in which things happened, but I do remember the great kindness they showed me – when we heard that a plane had come down in Pittsburgh, my home town, they hugged and patted me and immediately provided a phone so that I could call my family and make sure everyone was okay. 

I think it was then that we saw the second tower fall. There was stunned silence after that. Eventually someone said, in a small voice, that maybe we should get on with our work.

Suddenly our light-hearted little in-flight entertainment program felt weighted with emotion. It seems a bit silly now, but at the time I thought, ‘What if my voice is the last thing someone hears?’ It seemed terribly important to inject as much warmth and life into it as I could. I’m embarrassed to admit that now - but all of us in the studio that day felt a special kind of connection with those who died on the planes.

As I walked home from the studio, thinking about things, my observations were: 1. that the kindness of others means everything, 2. that it’s important to carry on no matter what and 3. that a job isn’t just a job – it can be infused with meaning. 

As I said at the start of this post, these are just impressions of my tiny, insignificant corner of an immense tragedy. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones on that day. I can only imagine what they’ve suffered these past ten years. They are in my thoughts and prayers – especially today.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Get your teeth into it!

This week I’ve been spending a lot of time at the dentist with my husband (poor baby!), and it’s got me thinking about – teeth!

When we think of voiceover, we often think of talent, ability, characterisation and so on – but how often do we think of our gnashers? 

So a few quick teeth-related DOs and DON'Ts for voice artists!

If you’re thinking about a career in voiceover and if your teeth impact on your speech in some way, DO consider dealing with that before you get started. I had a friend who wanted to voiceovers, but bad orthodontia when she was young had left her with gaps that gave her an unfortunate ‘shushiness’ – that is, slushy Ss. This was charming in her everyday speech, but it didn’t work so well for her professionally. Vocal ‘quirks’ can limit you - a clean sound is best - and most versatile! You can always add ‘slushiness’ or other vocal effects if you need it for a character.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but DO avoid tongue and lip piercings if you want a career in voiceover – why risk it?

If you’re already working as a voiceover and need orthodontia, DO consider looking into removable devices like Invisalign – it can be difficult to compensate for a fixed brace. Talk to your orthodontist to see what’s available.

If you opt for veneers, DO give yourself time to get used to them. I know a voice director who swears she can ‘hear’ new veneers!

DON'T schedule dental work before a session – sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people do it. Don’t! It’s unprofessional. Schedule dental work for days you’re not in studio.

DO wear a mouthguard if you play rough sports or if you’re a teeth-grinder (like me!).

DO look after your instrument! Besides being good for your general health, taking care of your teeth is good for your career as a voice artist. Healthy teeth and gums mean less down time. Floss, brush and have regular checkups. 

Photo by Didby Graham.