As a voice over artist in South Africa, the overwhelming majority of my recordings are still done at external studios, with a sound engineer, producer, director and often also the client present in the session. Having one’s own vocal booth or home studio is only now beginning to be an option for most SA voiceovers, probably due the past unavailability of easily obtained, quality equipment and fast, reliable internet relative to countries such as the US and UK.
I’ve spent the majority of the last fifteen years frequenting numerous studios, and have learned early on how, from my side, I can boost the flow, enjoyment and ultimate success of the job for all involved. In fact, I believe that maintaining a positive and friendly demeanor combined with some simple etiquette, is one of the major contributors to being a VO Of Choice for the Powers that Be in this industry, and certainly influences future job prosperity.
Here are a few simple tips on studio etiquette. These are total no-brainers, but you’ll be surprised at how many people overlook the simple things in the heat of the moment.
1. Don’t be late. EVER.
Remember that Client is not only paying for your time but is also hiring the studio space and recording expertise at a considerable price – often by the hour. So, if you’re five minutes late and that causes studio to go even one minute over time, you’re costing them an additional hour’s fees, as well as possibly impacting on whoever is next booked to use the studio. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure you allow extra travel time in case of traffic jams etc. And if you ever find yourself in the situation where you think you might be even one minute late, call ahead to inform the studio. That’s the respectful thing to do.
2. Remove noisy jewelry or clothing. Better yet, save it for the weekend.
I know. DUH! But even a soft leather jacket moving in a booth can be picked up by mics, which are super sensitive to ALL sounds, not just those from your mouth. (Side note and apologies for TMI: if you have a noisy stomach, as I unfortunately do, it pays to experiment with what foods may cause your inner dinosaur to roar, and to cut those out up to twelve hours before a session. Hint: Coffee is definitely one of those. I also find that placing a pillow over my abdomen helps dampen the “commentary from the inside”.)
3. Mobile/ Cellphone OFF!
It’s not enough to simply switch the thing to silent. Sometimes an incoming message or a background data download creates interference with the mic’s diaphragm.
I have a small child for whom I want to be available 24/7, should there be any emergency. I get the angst of being “disconnected” in our modern world of always-on-call. However, my daughter’s day mother has the number of my agent, who always knows which studio I’m at should my phone be off.
4. Hold Still.
One of the simple but not-so-easy skills a good voice actor possesses is the ability to be animated only in voice. Don’t rustle the script, as even a light movement will ruin that one perfect take. Most studios have a small table (if you’re sitting) or a music stand handy, so make use of those. Try to keep your body movements to a minimum, concentrating all of your beautiful energy into your vocal delivery. Even in-between takes don’t be a noisy guy. The people on the other side can still hear your every move. Especially when they are discussing important script changes or delivery options, stay quiet and tuned in. This will also give you greater insight into what they want from your read.
5. Respect the Sound Engineer.
These guys and gals are not just record-button-pushing monkeys. They are incredibly talented and have spent about a hundred hours in studio to each one of yours. Their passion is to make you sound like a million bucks, and their intuition and knowledge when it comes to voice over is mind-blowing. Some of my greatest teachers and mentors in this business are sound engineers. So, take direction from them with humility and appreciation. They are your greatest allies.
6. Listen to the Director
Do your very best to work with the session director, producer and client. Ask questions if any direction from them is not clear. It’s okay to make a humble suggestion or ask for a shot at what you think would be a great delivery but respect their wishes and authority. After all, you’re only a small part of the overall vision, and it is THEIR product. Also, I’m not asking you to be the Minister of Entertainment, but it sure helps to keep the mood light and fun on your side. Sometimes jobs are hard. Sometimes the script sucks. Sometimes people miscommunicate. That’s okay. Don’t let these things trip you up. Seek to be a part of the solution.
7. Finally, leave the booth pristine.
There’s going to be another VO in there after you. Don’t just leave your script for someone else to clear up. Don’t wear insane amounts of cologne for others to choke on. Don’t garlic up the space, if you know what I mean… Take empty water bottles out with you and DON’T STEAL THE PEN!
I hope these tips help you become an even better well-oiled badass VO machine in the studio!
Oh, and above all else, have fun! If you can’t have fun, you might as well have a “real job”.
Over and out!