The first thing people inevitably notice about professional voice-over talent is that they have nice voices. Their voices are very easy on the ears and a pleasure to listen to. Professional voice-over talent are also well spoken and have good abilities to modify their speech, whether it is to sound more or less formal, more or less intimate, more or less forceful, speaking faster or more slowly, etc. Many actors are also very adept at producing different types of voices, enabling them to read more than one part in a script convincingly. Others are good character actors and adept at voicing cartoons and animations.
What is perhaps less obvious is that good voice actors must also be good readers. Professional voice-over talent must be able to read sentences, paragraphs or even pages in a single flawless take. Any voice-over artist who has to read a sentence many times to get it right will quickly exhaust their client’s patience and pocketbook.
To this end, it is customary for professional voice-over talent to request the script and the video (if there is one) for review prior to the recording session. This is, in fact, their homework. Professional voice-over talent will diligently read through the script several times, not silently, but aloud, and make notes as to where to pause, which words to emphasize, where to raise or lower their voice, etc. This practice familiarizes them with the script, which will most decidedly result in a shorter, smoother and less expensive recording session.
But sometimes that is not possible, and the script is only available at the time of the recording. This poses a special challenge for the talent known as the “cold read.” This is requires more than a nice voice and good reading skills—it requires outstanding reading skills and superior concentration.
The secret behind good cold reading is that the voice-over talent has to read far in advance of what they are actually speaking. It is a considerable mental feat wherein the eyes parse and scan the text ahead, the brain figures out how to read it, and the mouth dutifully provides flawless output. We’ve even seen the best cold readers correct faulty grammar and sentence structure on-the-fly.
When facing a cold read situation, there are some very common sense and practical things you can do to help your voice-over talent:
- Be sure to print out the script with double line spacing
- Use a large font: 14 pt or 16 pt
- Use mixed upper and lower case script. It may seem counter intuitive, but scripts are much harder to read when letters are all the same size and they don’t have ascenders and descenders.
- Do not run sentences from one page to the next
- Keep line lengths short so the eye does not have to travel from one end of the page to the other
- Keep some warm or luke warm water handy. Cold water is not good for the voice—or a cold read!
To listen to InterNation’s guaranteed native, professional voice-over talent, please visit our voice-over talent library.