Screens versus paper debate for voice actors reading scriptsWhen you audition or record a voice-over project, do you print your scripts off or do you choose to read them off a screen such as your computer, smartphone or tablet?
There are many different ways that voice talent choose to read their scripts depending on the situation.
Find out more in today’s VOX Daily!

Screen Salute

With innovations such as the iPad and Android tablets, there are now fewer and fewer reasons for voice talent to print out scripts. You can make the font bigger and even mark up the script where you want to breathe, which words to emphasize and more.

Jamie Muffett, a British voice talent based in New York, favours screens and considers it horribly wasteful to print. He recommends that if reading off a screen hurts your eyes, one way you can help fix that is to turn down the brightness. Although Jamie prefers using screens when working at home, the commercial studios he works in nearly always print scripts for talent to use during a session. More on that later.

Kendra Hoffman, like many people, has chosen to use screens when auditioning to help cut down on paper and printing. She writes, “For auditions, I usually work off my tablet. I also prefer my tablet for long-form jobs – no paper rustling, and I like seeing the countdown of how many pages are left, so I know when to take a break.”

Voice artist Norbert Thomas exclusively uses screens when recording at home and only uses paper when at a commercial recording studio. At home, Norbert’s computer tower is not located in his recording booth and is completely outside via cables. This arrangement eliminates any noise issues including pesky noise made by a computer’s fan. Norbert is able to make marks on the displayed document with slashes, spaces, paragraphs, highlights, underlines, bold, and so on.

Some talent have gone all out and only read from screens. One such person is Dan Lenard, co-host of the East West Audio Body Shop (EWABS), who hails from Buffalo, NY. Dan says, “Go paperless if you can. I have for over two years. You can mark copy on a screen using various methods.”

Paper Praise

Screens aren’t the answer for everyone, especially if you are used to reading off of paper or have developed a unique notation system (marking up your script) that helps you voice. One voice talent, Wolfgang Messer, prefers paper for a number of reasons, one being that paper doesn’t crash 1 minute before the TV news starts!

Others prefer to use paper because they like how it feels in their hands. I can relate to them this way because I have a personal preference for reading books the old fashioned way. There’s nothing quite like sitting down with a good book and a piping hot cup of tea.
Voice talent Paul Hernandez prefers paper but has forced himself to get accustomed to the screen. Paul writes, “It actually saves a little time and obviously on paper and ink.”

Jim Conlan says that he uses paper for short scripts and a screen for long reads. Jim notes, “It’s harder to mark up a screen, but it can be done to an extent. Just don’t use white-out!”
If you’re used to paper, making the transition to screens may be a tad difficult but if you’re willing to learn the ins and outs of how to work with scripts on screens, it can be done.

Working in Commercial Studios

Commercial audio recording studios tend to stick to paper for a host of reasons.
Jamie Muffett relates that he has been in sessions with up to 10 people chipping in from the control room. He cites that in these situations, a pencil and paper is the only way to go as it would be too time consuming to make edits for the back and forth of script changes when in the booth.

Some audio engineers believe that noise bounces off of screens which is why they prefer that paper and paper alone is used in the booth. Keeping screens outside of the recording booth also helps with the fan noise that can result from some electronic devices.
This being the case, just think about how much paper a studio must use. Taking a step toward screens might be scary for them given the concerns mentioned above…that being said, using less paper and using more screens might help them develop and maintain a greener workspace.
I wonder what it would take for studios to go paperless?

What Do You Do?

I’d love to hear how you choose to record your voice-overs. Do you use screens for some things and paper for others? Why or why not?
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Best wishes,
© Cole

Previous articleHow “Green” Is Your Home Recording Studio
Next articleTrusting Your Instincts in Online Voice Casting
Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. I’ve developed a quick system of copying text into Textedit (which is size-able) and putting it next to my recording program on my laptop. I have little computer noise (laptops are quiet) and I can do a lot of auditions quickly, without having to print, etc. In an outside studio, it depends on the job. Most use paper for commercials and narration, but dubbing anime or recording for games has moved primarily to screens that scroll down to your lines.

  2. Been reading off of screens since the late 80s. I Got along with green screens better than today’s monitors. The eye doc said it has to do with the refresh rate.
    For young people with healthy eyes,, NP. For old guys,, Ymmv

  3. I find that the Kindle Fire is absolutely perfect to use when auditioning. It’s already lit, and fits right in my home studio box. Saves me time, paper, and I don’t need an extra stand! Over 500 sheets of paper saved so far! 🙂

  4. I do it both ways! If the sample script is only a few lines and time is of the essence, I’ll simply read it from the web page.
    If it’s a longer script that needs makring-up, I’ll print it, place it in a holder and read from it on the desk…

  5. I personally prefer reading them off the screen. I also greatly appreciate what you have been doing lately, namely providing a portion of the script on the audition listing. It makes it much simpler and faster to do an audition. Please keep it up!

  6. I’m paperless, copied straight off the webpage/document and pasted into Logic whenever possible.
    Which is most of the time – unless that page/document has some sort of funky formatting code….then, I might spend more time having to find some app or site to convert the copy to make it readable, which is a serious pain.
    The worst is getting a script on PDF that looks completely plain, then copy/pasting and discovering a carriage return after every single word or letter.
    Almost as bad: being forced to copy/paste lines individually from a complexly laid-out, arty storyboard PDF.
    Or, a PDF with text that’s impossible to copy because it’s a simply a scan of printed pages (how early 90s!).
    At least with the latter two, you can open them in another app, but that’s something else robbing CPU/memory on your computer and overlapping onto your audio editor, which can be very bad if you’re recording a long session, and are the type that forgets to press the record/pause button, or accidentally mashes the keyboard button that does the same.
    Clients really should be sensitive to the talent’s needs in this respect. We’re helping them, and often trying to service them as quickly as possible, and it would be great if they helped us and gave us a doc with text we can actually read from, or easily grab from so we can tweak as we like elsewhere.
    The most golden of clients realize this, and pull the text into a separate doc or e-mail without our even having to ask…otherwise, we’re wasting time everyone’s time doing clerical stuff, instead of really cool voice stuff.
    Stephanie – wanna know how to make REALLY cool?
    Add some buttons to every job page that help facilitate this:
    For voice seekers:
    1) One that allows them to upload a doc, and automatically extracts the text out into a viewer in the job page.
    For talent:
    2) One that copies the script to the user’s clipboard in the common document format of their choice – plain text, RTF, or HTML – and strips out unneeded junk like tables (I know, that part’s harder).
    3) For the formatted text options in the above, let the user select the font style and size for easier insertion into their DAW or text viewer of choice (in my case, Logic preserves formatting, fonts, spacing, etc. but it’s not always handled well – I always have to tweak these after pasting, which also can be iffy due to its wonky text editor).
    3) Have a button that pops makes your browser run full-screen with only the text visible, something like the Reader function in Safari, or the more advanced Teleprompt+ iPad app.
    Pretty please with sugar on top?

  7. For years I would print off everything, but January, 2012, marked the purchase of a tablet, and now I email my scripts from my desktop to my tablet. For the most part, it saves time, money, ink and paper. However, sometimes, it can pose a problem, for example if the script attachment is something my tablet isn’t programmed to use (like a power point, which I recently had, and eventually found an app to help with that), or if I need to change text during a session. Sometimes it’s difficult to edit copy, depending on what I’m looking at. Different attachments open differently. It could slow me down a bit, and the old standard of pencil to paper sometimes feels much easier, but I hardly ever considering printing a script anymore. Funny, how quickly we can adapt to new technology!

  8. Big advocate here of reading from screen vs. printing scripts. Not only saves paper, but also time and recording passes.
    Think of those times when producer changes a script so much that even your careful pencil notes make it really hard to connect it all to produce a nice flowing read, and then a few more recording passes are necessary… or finally it becomes really impossible to keep up with the plaster of notes and arrows pointing to where a new sentence should be inserted in the original copy that you’re forced to print a new revised script anyway.
    This works great for when I work from my own studio because I’ve developed a quick way to re-format a script for better font size, or add a darker background to reduce eye strain, and I do this prior to the session. But for larger studios this might not be very appealing because of the prep time or customization required. Still I can assure that having the ability to revise copy on the go on the screen makes a much more pleasant session than adding/erasing pencil notes.
    A tech note on this… make sure you get a screen that can operate quietly at any brightness level. The LCD I got produces a high pitched noise when lowering brightness. I had to get third party software that controls brightness for that screen via a control panel. For it to work quietly, I had to set the brightness all the way up on the screen, and then reduce it only from the app, which is called “Shades” by the way.

  9. In my studio – I always read off the screen. I like the option to work with the script on screen without having rather than scribble on paper. I also try to be as e-friendly as possible. I have solar lights in my studio, my website is wind powered and I prefer screen over paper any day. I occasionally have to read off paper when at a different studio.

  10. I use my iPad for auditions figuring the savings from not having to buy ink and paper will eventually pay for the it even though I use it for much more than voice over.
    As far as booked sessions, I still print the script for two reasons:
    – on-the-fly woodshedding for myself or from the director
    – a hardcopy to keep on file stapled to the invoice, Letter of Agreement, client’s audio preferences, etc.

  11. Personally, I go both ways. I have to at this time. I’d prefer to keep it all on the iPad, but I have the “original” iPad…that doesn’t have the “Retinal Display,” therefore, my eyes tend to get tired and hurt, then I tend to miss or misread words. This is due to a slightly slower refresh rate AND not as many “pixels” per inch that the new iPad with “Retinal Display.” Since I mostly do audiobooks, eye strain makes the work difficult to produce.
    Therefore, I use the iAnnotate on the iPad, to highlight and mark my scripts. Then, print off the script, and record from the paper. However that is expected to change when I get the newer iPad. *crossing fingers* I would LOVE to be paperless. (This coming from a former owner of a quick print company too!)
    Some authors have a plethora of typos, iAnnotate makes it easy to mark them for the author or publisher and send off a .pdf to them when I’m done with recording. No effort on my part. :o)

  12. I had always printed out my scripts at the local Cyber Cafe, except for the short ones like Commercials, promos and the odd one page corporate AVs. These I read off my smart phone.
    But ever since I started doing Audio Books, I found that the cost of printing the script was anywhere between INR Rs 2,500/- (USD $46/-) to over INR Rs 3,000/- (USD $58/-). It was then that I decided to switch to using my lap top. I have now got myself an IPad which I find much more convenient to both carry to the studio and also to place on the stand. I have to admit that initially the incentive was saving some money, but now I realize i am also saving some trees and a whole lot of chemicals, especially harmful ones to the soil like bleach.

  13. Anyone have suggestions as to stands to use in the voice booth to hold up screens? Have people attached them to heavy mic booms, separate stands that hold the monitor or mounted them off the walls?
    Any comments would be appreciated.

  14. Great question, Ken. There are countless stand/clip solutions for iPads, and the choice thins out as you move into less popular tablet makes and models. Whichever approach is “best” often depends on the layout of the studio you’re working in. I rather like wall-mount units for a home studio, as they leave more room to maneuver, and can often adjust more freely. If you’re taking your tablet on the road, portable solutions that have onto mic booms are easiest to quickly connect and work with.
    Hope that helps. Keep us posted on how you make out.

    Carmi Levy
    Senior Writer


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here