Confused male child touching his earEver get a casting call that provides contradictory information or is asking for you to sound like a particular celebrity?

This happens everyday and as a voice over talent, you need to be able to decipher what the director really means when they put something out there and hope for the best.
Learn how you can crack the artistic direction code in 3 different ways in today’s VOX Daily.

Decoding Direction

Artistic voice over direction can be communicated in ways by directors that are not readily understood by actors on the receiving end. I’ve identified three means by which artistic direction is most usually misunderstood, including the following:
1. Conflicting or Contradictory Direction
2. Sounds Like…
3. Ambiguous Direction

1. Conflicting or Contradictory Direction

We’ve all heard and seen direction that pulls you in two or more directions. When someone says to you, “We want the read to be happy yet sad,” or “You need to sound strong yet vulnerable,” how do you take it?
Finding a happy medium between those two or using subtle vocal nuance can help.
Or what about the guys who tell you to read in a relaxed manner but need you to jam 45 seconds worth of copy into a :30 spot?

Don’t you just love trying to cram copy into the time allotted? When you think of it, it’s kind of like running a verbal gauntlet.
When it comes to the copy, be careful what you say and to whom you say it. A lot of work went in to writing the spot and many of the people in the room could have been personally involved in that effort. Tread lightly but don’t be a doormat either. Gently making a suggestion in a friendly way, especially if you know the client well, could help but don’t expect them to give in if the copy is to stay as it is.

2. Sounds Like…

This particular message is heard most often when someone says “I need someone who sounds like James Earl Jones,” “Sounds like Morgan Freeman,” or “We need an actress to sound like Judi Dench.”
Do they really want someone who sounds like the reference in the casting call? No, they don’t. What they are looking for are people who have similar voice types, qualities and are able to replicate said actor’s speech patterns.

That’s a relief, isn’t it? Even the best sound a likes can’t replicate someone’s voice and way of speaking identically in a consistent fashion. Everyone has a unique voiceprint but you can certainly learn how to deliver your lines in the style of someone else.

3. Ambiguous Direction

“Be a tree,” “Sound more purple,” or “Do it like you just did but different!”
This kind of direction often results in numerous takes. Usually it is a process of trial and error that gets you to the money take. When given ambiguous direction, you are also given the opportunity to explore and play with your voice and creativity.
This is your opportunity to let loose. People who don’t know how to express what they want often give you the opportunity to do so. Hopefully they are patient and good humoured but that’s another story.

If you’ve just delivered a line according to what you think the director wanted, say something like, “Just like that?” or “That felt good. Do you want to go with this take?” and the director may realize at that very moment that yes, it is what they wanted, in fact you nailed it! Again, this is what might happen in the ideal scenario.

Hang In There, it’s Not So Bad… Really!

When you feel tired and run harder than a workhorse, remember that you could be doing something else to earn this money that might be much harder or riskier like working on a construction site, doing brain surgery or fighting for freedom in a war-torn country.
I think you’d agree voice acting is a far safer, less threatening line of work when compared to other professions.

That isn’t to say that you won’t face differences of opinion and even physical challenges where your voice is concerned. You’ll also need to monitor how you feel. Remember that it’s just business and the session needs to end sometime. The longer you’re there, the more they’ll have to pay you for your time… you are blessed indeed.

Any Comments?

I hope what I’ve shared has given you some encouragement and a helping hand. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, you’re welcome to comment and join the conversation.
Best wishes,
© Dyck


  1. In a setting like you describe, at a studio with director and client, giving multiple takes is a blessing by comparison to being your own director/sound engineer.
    When auditiong for a gig, you get one take based on the direction that was written when the job was posted. Although you can make as many recordings as you want, your take on the direction in yours alone and you have one shot to satisfy the client.
    Once you push the send button, you can only hope you gave what they wanted. Unless you are awarded the job, you never get feedback and you don’t know if you were ‘oh so close’ or ‘didn’t have a clue.’


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