Not all audio engineers have the vocal gifts to be voice over talent and not all voice over talent have the technical knowledge and experience to be audio engineers.
But, when you do get the desired combination of technical skill and artistic competence, something special happens…
Just how important is it to possess a mixture of the qualifications described above as a professional voice over talent working online?
What’s the difference between audio engineers and voice over talents?
Remember: People who advertise for voice talent often do not realize the recording studio requirements of a project. If inexperienced, the person hiring the talent thinks solely of œa person to voice this job. That’s why talents and prospective clients need to be better informed on this subject!
Learn more from one of the industry’s most highly regarded voice over instructors, the award-winning International voiceover performer and renowned voiceover coach, professional audio producer engineer and recording studio owner, Bettye Zoller!
Bettye sent me an email recently (I’ve asked her permission to publish excerpts from the original here) and she brings up a crucial topic that needs more attention in voice over circles.
The question Bettye asks is:
“HOw do you know you’re really an audio engineer? How do you know you’re capable of producing a job you audition for on our site? After all, you should strive for client satisfaction! It will be a disaster for everyone concerned if you accept a voice job you’re incapable of producing and recording correctly!”
I can appreciate where Bettye is coming from for a couple of reasons:
1. I have a Bachelors Degree in Musical Arts from UWO (instrument is voice).
2. David is an Honours Graduate from OIART (Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology), a school he lectures at annually.
I know from recording the VOX Talk Podcast that there is a big difference between being able to speak eloquently and purposefully into a microphone and actually being the person responsible for the recording, editing, mixing and mastering of a finished product, performing all of the technical tasks associated with audio production.
We’re fortunate that we have an excellent pairing of abilities and skills that allow us to serve and entertain you through our company podcast. Our talents are best put to use as a team. Don’t leave me to figure out Garageband or ProTools!
I’m grateful that David fully governs that aspect of VOX Talk and I can simply manage the creative with regard to writing and hosting the show.
Now, let’s delve more into the story at hand.
Here’s a sampling of Bettye’s Soapbox:
It is obvious to me that too many newcomers and beginners to the Voiceover Business are uninformed, or not adequately informed or trained or skilled about the intricacies and the expertise levels required to put equipment on one’s laptop or cranky old home PC who suddenly become a “recording studio and a professional audio engineer.” They’re not! They may have rudimentary equipment to record voice, but that’s not being a professional audio engineer… far from it!
We engineers are experts at what we do with many, many years of experience. There is a big difference! Often, one must record with various types of audio files.
Do you know what those are and why one would use them for particular projects?
Often, a particular medium such as website work or telephone messaging or corporate training projects or audio book recording takes very, very intricate audio engineering; it can’t be done by a novice on a laptop!
I have students in my workshops and friends in the biz who tell me problems with recording, the simple things, such as “how do I buy a microphone” or “why can’t I get my volume level up when I record on my laptop?” Ask them to use MULAW files or convert tapes to CDs, edit intricate materials, do the audio engineering on an e-learning corporate project of two or more hours’ duration, or an audio book of 3000 pages and they’re lost. They have a recording program installed and not the foggiest idea of how to really be a professional audio engineer.
In fact, there are many beginners in voiceover who really shouldn’t be tackling intricate voice jobs. Not yet at any rate, however, they bid on the jobs and bring down the price. Oh, oh that’s another subject… A co-problem with this situation of everybody in the world being an “audio engineer” all of a sudden is the online VO sites, who do not distinguish between a “voiceover talent… a person who, good or bad, experienced or not, is capable of reading copy with various degrees of proficiency” and a proficient audio engineer who knows how to perform complex engineering tasks.
Just because a person can read a sheet of copy does not mean that person is an audio engineer with experience for certain types of projects, yet no distinction is made on these types of web sites.
I have been doing a great deal of thinking about this current situation. The industry needs to distinguish levels.
Here’s how (well at least, it’s a start):
1. Who is an audio engineer with major experience, a professional audio studio owner?
2. Who is a voiceover talent but a person relatively unskilled as an audio engineer?
3. Who Is a novice¦ a BEGINNING voice talent¦and who is a seasoned pro?
Many of the jobs listed on these sites require quite advanced audio engineering, yet, the job posts go to people who are not possibly capable of engineering them.
A disaster looms, as I see it… and it should be rectified. And I’m tired of us audio engineers with long careers now being “lumped in with” the newbies who don’t have our knowledge, our expertise, and who have not poured into their studios the vast amounts of money over time that we pros have invested in our recording studios!
Let’s fix this!
There should be levels, for example (open to feedback and alteration):
1. A voice talent with no personal studio at all but who has access to a studio and someone to help who is an experienced engineer (they’ll expect to be paid for services!).
2. A voice talent who is a beginner at both voiceovers and at audio engineering with limited experience. These people should not be bidding on VO jobs that require advanced audio engineer skills.
3. An audio engineer with limited experience as a voice talent but who can obtain voiceover talents for clients.
4. A voiceover talent who also is a professional audio engineer with a professional audio studio and clients who rely on him or her to engineer complex projects. Someone who has many years of experience in both areas and is capable of voicing and engineering complex and difficult jobs for major clients.
Wow, that’s a lot to think about.
Something that may be of comfort to many of you is that Voices.com does have a section where you can detail your recording studio equipment and note your level of proficiency. While there are many pros out there who are probably dancing in the streets that this issue has been publicly addressed by Bettye Zoller and Voices.com, there are many of you out there who need to reevaluate your studio setup and abilities behind the scenes when producing voice over recordings and finished works for clients.
There is support out there and it isn’t difficult to find. Take the Master VO Blog, for instance. Dan Lenard, also known to many grasshoppers by the persona Master VO, provides comical and useful solutions to a variety of technical ailments from how to build a proper home recording studio to the actual execution and techniques used to create topnotch audio productions. Another resource available to you is the VOX Talk Podcast (subscribe for free!), the Tech Talk segment, specifically. At present, two very savvy and inspired gentlemen, Adam Fox and Colin Campbell, contribute to the segment with tips, advice, and suggestions on how to make the most out of your studio and get the best sound possible out of your recordings.
Something I love (and many others appreciate too) about these two men is that they have extremely different perspectives and a diverse means of expressing their content. Colin Campbell of AffordableAnnouncer.com gives candid advice that you are not going to find anywhere else about equipment and software, also responding to fan mail with a wry, down-to-earth, straightforward delivery.
Adam Fox provides a unique interactive component, answering your PodMail (emails sent to Adam regarding the podcast) while focusing more on elements of production, including music and personal experiences in the field such as his œHumble Beginnings segment, asking you to send in pictures of your first home recording studio setups to host online at DefiantDigital.com. At the end of the day, it really comes down to how you can use your gifts and that you know and respect your limitations.
If you have amazing vocal talent but need some TLC in the technical area of your business, don’t hesitate to seek help from a colleague or recording engineer. Take a course if you can. If you are a super star recording engineer, but are not as vocally blessed, you can take lessons too and find out what you can improve upon and identify where you shine.
We all need to remember that this is a business, not a hobby. Everything you do as a voice over professional demands 150% of your dedication, skill, and talent. Not only do your clients expect this of you, so does the industry as a whole.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Stephanie and Bettye