Auditioning From Home

Before the dawn of the new millennium, voice talent trudged off to studio auditions only when their agents had landed them one, or, when promoting their demos to local businesses on their own. Voice talent would have to live in major city centres such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Toronto in order to find opportunities to audition for roles. That's all changed.

THE AGE OF DOING VOICE OVER AUDITIONS online

Voices.com was one of the pioneering marketplaces specifically for the voice-over industry. Founded in 2004, Voices.com has grown the marketplace to serve over 250,000 customers worldwide and continues to expand its reach within the US, Latin America, Canada, Europe, and beyond.

The big differences between auditions garnered through an agent and those obtained in a marketplace is convenience, control, and the sheer number of jobs needing to be filled. Offering more than 5000 job postings each month there is no other source that provides this amount or range of opportunities.

Now, not all of those jobs will be suited to your specific skills, gender, or age range. For example, if the client is casting a gravelly, senior male voice, don't audition for it if you are a younger man with a higher vocal range. Know your voice, its true capabilities, and what's appropriate for you to audition for.

Even outside the marketplace realm, professional voice talent usually audition from home for major productions and only travel to studios regularly to record their parts once they've landed the role. Ultimately, auditioning from home is a way of life for the working voice talent. Auditioning is the real job. Getting the gig is gravy.

Recognizing the Differences between In-Person and Online Voice Over Auditions

In recent years, more and more clients are searching the Internet for voice-over professionals. New methods of conducting casting calls have emerged, simplifying the process of searching for, auditioning, and hiring a voice actor. As a result, auditioning has broken many barriers including time, geography, and agency representation.

The traditional method of doing voice-over auditions meant that you had to physically show up at an agent’s office or studio location to give a read. Aside from having to show up, you drove around a lot and spent incalculable time, commuting from place to place simply to audition. Although actors did get some time to socialize with other voice actors and staff at the casting as well as opportunities to be directed on site, most of this activity could only happen in big centers like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Downloading The Script

Today, you can do voice acting from literally anywhere there’s a connection to the Internet, a computer, audio recording technology, and a voice actor for hire. 

When you first receive a script, one of the most important things is to read the script in its entirety before committing to a read or submitting an audition. You may have a gut reaction as to how you ought to read it. Having an idea of where you want to take the script when auditioning is a great feeling, and when there’s direction to interpret and guide your read, all the better!

When you read through a script, you’re told information about who you are as a voice actor, what you’re communicating, the value proposition, and also a call for action. The script may even include details about the audience or help you to determine other important clues, such as how you should sound when delivering your lines.

In a good script, the author’s intent should be crystal clear. When auditioning, you may not always be given creative direction, but what you’ll nearly always have is the script to aid you in how you plan your read. When you audition, receiving some kind of artistic direction about what type of voice and delivery style the client wants, but what happens when that information isn’t as specific as it could be?

Although having that kind of information can be useful, it isn’t always provided, so you need to use the script as your primary guide and look for clues. When you gain more experience, you may find that just like established voice actors, you’ll be able to rely on your instincts, experience, and ability to self-direct, given the script provided and the demographic it’s reaching.

Rehearsing the Script

After you’ve done a very quick analysis of what you see in the script, you’re ready to start practicing. Yes, you should rehearse your script several times to make sure you’re comfortable with how it reads and the notes that you’ve made before you audition. Rehearsing a script means that you take the time to practice how you plan to deliver the voice-over when auditioning.

The best times to rehearse are when you’re most awake and have the most energy. Many voice actors also rehearse a script just prior to recording their voice. Make sure that you’re well-hydrated and your voice is warmed up. Be sure to observe any markings you have made on your script and keep rehearsal to a minimum before getting in front of the microphone. You don’t want to tire your voice before you’ve even begun the audition!
Before you audition, remind yourself about the following:

  • Who’s meant to hear this message?
  • What does it mean?
  • Why is it relevant to the people hearing the message?
  • Who would the person on the receiving end want to hear from?
  • How can I best communicate the message?

 

How To Do a Voice-Over Audition Online

After you've done your vocal warm ups, go over the client's directions and practice your read as you did before recording your demos. If the spot needs to fulfill a specific time frame, time your read to ensure it meets the mark (don't time your slate - more on that later). If it doesn't; read it faster or slower whichever will get you there. Practice the script a couple times until you're comfortable with the flow and timing.

As a general rule, your voice is at its best first thing in the morning (about an hour after waking) when you haven't been talking already for hours on end. Depending on what your signature voice is, you may find that your voice sounds better at a different time of day. For most people, the worst time to record is late in the evening when you and your voice are tired from the day's events. To keep your voice in tip-top shape throughout the day, stay hydrated. Drink lots of room temperature water or weak tea. Avoid alcohol, caffeinated, and carbonated drinks prior to recording as these will dehydrate you quickly and affect the quality of your voice.

OrganizationSlating

We mentioned your 'slate' earlier. If you haven't auditioned before for acting or voice-over roles then you're probably not familiar with the term. Slating means simply saying your name and the part you're reading for at the beginning of your audition, i.e.; Jane Smith... Goldilocks ...short pause... Begin reading the script.

Slating just your name is often enough. It is customary to slate your auditions online and off but keep it simple. Don't waste time with a long introduction, otherwise the client will move on before they've heard your interpretation of their script. With online auditions, some clients will request that you do not slate your audition. Always read and follow their instructions carefully.

What does it mean to slate your name? Simply put, slating means to read your name aloud prior to performing the audition copy so the casting director, or decision maker, knows who he’s listening to. A slate can also foreshadow what the listener will hear as well as potentially surprise the listener depending on how the slate is executed.

Slating your name, whether in person or online, is part of the auditioning process and is as industry standard as anything. Given the frequency that you may be using it, something you may wish to do is record your slate as a separate file and store it in your session template/settings in your digital audio recording program.

These sections explain the importance of slating, what you can gain from good slating, and how you can slate for auditions.

The basic slate is simply stating your name at the beginning of the file. A slate doesn’t serve the same purpose as a watermark. A slate doesn’t compromise the trust between actors and their prospective clients. Slating serves many these purposes:

  • Readily identifies you, the speaker
  • Sets the tone for the audition
  • Gets your name in the client’s head
  • Sets an industry-standard auditioning technique
  • Serves as another way to document whose voice is on the file, should it get downloaded

One of the greatest things about auditioning online instead of in-person is that you can do as many takes as you want before the client ever hears it. Don't feel as though you need to read the entire script, in fact, you should never submit the full script unless otherwise directed.

Performance

Offering Variations

Most talent use a voice-over audition opportunity to submit a couple different interpretations, or takes, of a client's script. As mentioned before, it's in your best interest, and in the interest of time, to only read part of the script. If you like, you can read it a couple different ways to present the client with options. If it's an animation audition, make a firm decision on the character's voice before recording and commit to it. If the script is longer than 60 seconds, read only a portion of the script, unless it is for an audiobook. Clients will only listen to the first 15-30 seconds so a paragraph is all that is needed. If you're giving them different takes always have the best take at the beginning. When you've finished recording, put your headphones on and listen to the playback.

Editing Your Audio

Once you're satisfied with your performance, you'll need to do some basic clean up on the audio. Before you do though, the file format you've likely created the recording in is a .wav file. These are often referred to as "first generation" format and are of the highest quality. Although .wav is the best quality, they are completely uncompressed which means they're huge, 2-3 times the size of MP3 files. Because of this, most audition demos will need to be converted to an MP3 (MPEG Audio File) before firing them off online. When you convert your file you may notice some changes to the audio quality so you will want to wait until you've converted the file before touching up the recording.

Most types of recording and editing software come with features that allow you to convert one file type into another. Since the process varies from product to product, we recommend that you follow the manual that came with your software.

A quick and easy way to do this with external software is with iTunes. You don't need to own any Apple products to use it and, best of all, it's free! If you don't have it already, you can download it here:

http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/

Converting Your File in iTunes

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Windows: Choose Edit > Preferences. Mac: Choose iTunes > Preferences.
  3. From the General button, click the Importing Settings button in the lower section of the window.
  4. From the Import Using pop-up menu, select 'Import Using: MP3 Encoder.' Stay with the default Good Quality (128kbps) setting. Then click OK to save the settings.
  5. iTunes will create the converted MP3 file beneath the original audio file. The second file is your MP3. Save a copy to your desktop.
  6. Rename the file following the labelling instructions the client provided. If there were no labelling instructions, use a generic labelling format such as FirstLastName-Product.MP3.
  7. Now that you've got your file converted, listen to the playback again. If it's tinny or you sound far away, increase the boom or gain. If it plays too fast or too slow adjust the Sample Rate. The ideal Sample Rate is 44.1 kHz. Auditions should be ‘dry.' That means no music, processing or sound effects should be added to auditions so they can clearly hear your voice and delivery.

When you audition from home, whether using a marketplace or direct email, you should send a cover letter (proposal, in marketplace lingo) that addresses the client personally and tells them a little about yourself, why you're right for the part and what your services offer for the price.

Writing a Proposal

Hello (Client Name),

Thank you for opportunity to audition for your job. I'm sending a custom read, using a portion of the script you provided. I can confidently say that I'm the ideal candidate for your project as I have a personal interest in (or experience with) and can relate to the character.

If you'd like to hear additional (Radio, Television, Animation, etc) samples please visit my profile at: https://www.voices.com/people/yourname.

My quote for your project is $$$. This includes up to three takes, if necessary. If you'd like to provide live direction you can patch into my studio via Skype. In most cases, I can have the recording delivered to you within 24 hours or less, depending on your needs.

I look forward to working with you.

Warm regards,

(Your Name)

Auditioning Quick Tips:

  • Warm up your voice before you record.
  • Go over the directions, rehearse, and time your read before you record.
  • Rehearse your copy standing up, speaking at the same volume you'll be speaking when recording.
  • If the spot requires a lot of energy, read standing up. Use your hands and arms to enhance your performance.
  • If the spot is relaxed and laid back, sit comfortably on a stool or chair.
  • Audition early and often but if you don't match the casting specs, move on to another audition.
  • Keep your slate short and sweet.
  • For longer projects, read only a portion of the script.
  • Keep your voice fresh, by staying hydrated. Have water in the booth at all times.
  • Convert your audio file to MP3, and label it correctly.
  • Send a cover letter (proposal) with your audition.
  • Be honest with yourself. Only audition for roles that you and your voice are truly suited for.

When auditioning you have one chance to make a good impression. Don't rush things. Don't settle for good enough. Audition with confidence. Don't tell the client that you're inexperienced. Present yourself in the best light possible by following these guidelines and your audition will shine.

 

Next up, we'll talk about the advantages of obtaining an agent in addition to finding voice-over opportunities online.

 
THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO VOICE ACTING