Why Cold Reading Skills Are a Must For Voice Actors
Have you ever thought of why cold reading skills are necessary?
The ability to think and speak on your feet is essential to a number of voice over jobs including animation, video game voice acting, live announcing and more.
Find out why this skill is a must from real voice over pros in today’s VOX Daily.
Don’t Get Cold Feet About Cold Reads
This morning I received a good question in response to the article from yesterday to do with my recommendation that you hone cold reading skills. The talent wondered why I was encouraging honing this skill on a daily basis when a voice over is meant to communicate ideas and feelings, delving into the script before it is read in order to communicate in a convincing way.
In response, certainly there should be some thinking behind the read, but when a cold read is expected, talent need to have the skills to make choices faster with less prep time.
While many of us would agree that a rehearsed voice over is wonderful and preferred in most cases, however, not every opportunity or job comes that way.
When Might Cold Reading Skills Come in Handy?
There are instances where you are handed copy that you haven’t seen before and need to run with it.
This happens at radio stations, in studios when recording VO for video games, some animated projects and impromptu audition opportunities. For instance, maybe you get called in to audition and someone hands you copy that you’ve never seen before with only a minute or two to review it.
Perhaps you are called to fill in for someone else at a moment’s notice who has already booked the gig. The client needs to VO as soon as possible and you’ve been given the job that needed to be done yesterday! This happens and on occasion big breaks can come from it. Don LaFontaine’s voice over career began that way (filling in for someone who didn’t show up for their session), granted he was familiar with the copy beforehand.
VO Pros Share Why Cold Reading is Integral
“For me, it has come in handy when a client spontaneously asks me to give him a read over the phone as we’re discussing the copy.”
— Heather Hogan
“Cold-reading skills are a necessity for voice actors. Often times you are handed a piece of commercial copy or animation sides, and have less than five minutes before you go in to your agent’s booth to record. In that short period of time you need to be able to fully and accurately analyze the copy for genre, timing production notes and directorial beats. Then you need to be able to find quick characterizations and the ability to sound naturally conversational (not as if you are reading) and delight in these strategies for success.
Another instance of cold-reading being a necessity is when you’ve already booked a job and the copy is changed at the last minute, or you are given another character to voice that needs to sound completely different from the last!”
— Chris M. Allport
“Cold reading skills get used daily. One of the fundamentals for doing the work. Having ability and therefore confidence in a read from the first time you see it only helps the performance. Being at one with words is where it starts. Then you can concentrate on the rest of the acting detail you need to see and be. This is especially useful in short notice situations and certain kinds of copy, but I think it holds true for every type of read.”
— Hélène Janover
How Can You Hone Your Cold Reading Skills?
Doing a few cold reads a day will do wonders for toning your cold reading muscles.
You could spice your reads up a bit and do 3 completely different reads representative of commercial, narration, and character voice over. Challenge yourself each day with something new… cold reading could fit nicely into your vocal warm up regiment.
Pick up copy to tackle wherever you are with reckless abandon! Continuous diversity and versatility in scripts are required to be prepared for whatever read may come your way.
Suggestions for Cold Commercial Reads
If you have access to labels on food packaging, those are great sources of copy as are magazines, liner notes and television program descriptions in your TV Guide.
Suggestions for Cold Narration Reads
You may find that opening a random page in a book you haven’t read aloud before is a good way to read in character. A trip to your local library every few weeks (or weekly depending on how quickly you get through the books!).
To keep your reads varied, seek out works from different authors, genres and time periods.
Can’t get to the library or have a limited library at home? Check out sites like Amazon.com or Indigo that sell a wide variety of books. Oftentimes they will have a preview or some such on their site for each book where you can read an excerpt from the text or “look inside” the book. For more material still, check out Project Gutenberg which is a site that features works from the public domain (royalty-free).
Suggestions for Cold Character Reads
Improvisation, improvisation, improvisation! Let’s say you want to create character voices and you need to start from somewhere.
Decide upon an object, whether animate or inanimate, make a quick character sketch and analysis of what you think they’d sound like and then see what happens. You can start with objects around the house such as a coffeemaker, a doll or a toothbrush or you can search for a wider array of images online.
The goal is to create something new. When you see a character for the first time, connect with it, think a little and then give it a voice. Do this once a day and be sure to pick different objects or images as your muse.
Looking forward to hearing from you!