Have you spent more time in front of the camera than behind the mic? Becky Shrimpton shares her tips, both on an intellectual and practical level, for how you can make the shift from on-camera work to voice-over work. Even if you see voice acting as just a way to supplement your on-camera work, you’ll be surprised by just how much experience in this area can inform and improve your performance on set.
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Becky Shrimpton has been acting in film and television and onstage for ten years and performing voice over for the last four.
After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The University of British Columbia in acting, Becky was admitted to the British American Drama Academy’s summer intensive program in Oxford, England.
In 2010, Becky moved to Toronto and began working professionally in voice over and in film and television. Along with her film, television and theatre accomplishments, her voice over work is heard internationally on radio, television and on-line. She’s performed spots for Pepsi, Honey Bunches of Oats, Office Depot, Publix Markets and more. In animation, she is currently a member of the American dub cast of the hit kid’s show Fireman Sam.
Becky offers coaching services for actors desiring to make the transition from on-camera to on-mic. She helps actors brand their voices and Voices.com profiles.
Welcome to Voice Over Experts, brought to you by Voices.com the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else. Now for our special guest.
Becky Shrimpton: Hi there, I’m Becky Shrimpton; I’m a voice over and on-camera actor working in Toronto. I also coach people on how to brand their voices and how to transition from on-camera to the voice over market. This podcast will be a small primer on the basics of making a leap from on-camera to on-mic.
First things first, find out where you fit in the industry and brand yourself. When I’m on camera, I go out for a lot of really young mums and college kids on a date, but my voice translates slightly older on mic. Your brand might change too, so here’s what you need to do.
For animation, can you do cartoon voices and hold them for a long period of time, or can you do a funny voice but only for a short period. If you can only do voices in short spurts, you’ll need to learn how to do sustainable voices that you can recall and act in.
Find a voice over coach that will work for you. [Karen DeBoer] has a fantastic podcast in this expert series about how to do just that. Unless your on-camera coach coaches voice as well, and they are two very different things, you’re going to need a new coach. I actually have two; one who coaches my animation and one who coaches my commercials.
I started out using them a lot when I first began and was finding my feet, but now I call them for when I have a really big audition that’s really complicated or I just need an extra set of ears on something.
For commercials, figure out if you have a good announcer voice, or a conversational voice, or if you’re one of the lucky people that can do both. A good announcer voice is something that you’ll hear at the end of the commercial “Check out this product online now” – that kind of thing.
The conversational voice is just that natural chatting to a friend tone, kind of like what I’m doing right now.
I recommend playing with different scripts and recording yourself. You can get some great practice scripts on voices.com or you can check out voicebank.net where you can hear demo reels from all over the world.
When you decide on what scripts you want to work with, start breaking them down. If you work in a standard breakdown method, you’ll break the scripts into three sections or acts, you’ll [unintelligible 00:02:43] it and then you’ll create a back story for the character. You’re going to do the same thing with voice over scripts, even 15 second commercials can break down into three acts.
Usually the standard breakdown works out to something like the problem, the solution and the tag. To explain this a bit further, the problem is stated “Tired of having this problem that everyone has” then there’s a solution that’s offered “Here’s something that’s going to solve that problem, introducing the problem-solver. Here’s a brief description of how that problem will be solved”. Then you’ve got the tag “Here’s where you get the problem solver. Visit our website”. Product videos break down the same way, just a bit longer.
If it’s a conversation style ad, usually each person takes a role of problem issuer and problem solver, but it still breaks down to the same three acts. Knowing how an ad breaks down will help with your delivery and transitions, preventing you from delivering a flat read.
Animation does the exact same thing but more like a traditional on-camera script breakdown with one character winning the scene, one character losing the scene, but with more [cookie] laughter and the occasional explosion.
Our tendency, because the script is right in front of us, is to treat it like a safety net. Don’t – you should know that script in front of you inside and out, where the total shifts are, what your role in the story is, and what the style is. Even for a 15 second commercial, the shifts are going to be really tight; you need to know it inside and out.
Okay, that’s it for the intellectual stuff; here’s some physical things you’ll want to keep in mind.
When you’re on set you have a fabulous human being who follows you around with a microphone and worries about all the technical details so you don’t have to. Here you’re going to have to learn a bunch of new techniques. The first is your [plosives] – watch your Ps, Bs, Ts, Ss, anything that pushes air really quickly out towards the microphone.
When you’re practising scripts, when you’re trying to find your branding, start practising softening your plosives. When you start recording, you will really be able to hear why it’s a big deal.
What out for moving around too much. We all get excited when we get to act and this can manifest in slaps on our thighs, hand movements that rustle paper, or moving away and towards the microphone without any actual technique involved. This is going to result in really poor recording that can’t be edited out and you’re going to have to do the whole thing again. You can still move a little bit but be aware of what the rest of your body is doing and what kind of noise you’re making.
In fact, when you’re doing animation, I recommend embodying the character, just make sure you’re not making any extraneous noises.
Ladies and gentlemen, remove your jewellery. I’m always amazed at people to who wear necklaces or bracelets or dangly earrings that jangle; the microphone will hear, remember to take it off.
Projecting. A lot of actors I coach who come from the theatre think they can’t project into a microphone. You can. In fact you should always have proper diaphragm support and project. What you should be doing is adjusting your projecting for the space. It’s like the difference between performing in a black box theatre versus a 2000 seat [A house]. You’re going to want that support when you have to talk for three or four hours at a time and your throat starts getting sore.
And finally, drink a lot of water. When we’re on set we don’t really think about how hydrated we are but when you’re in front of a mic talking for three or four hours at a time, especially with a character that’s really vocal and emoting a lot, you can not only do damage to your voice and your throat, but your mouth will also get dry and you’ll be getting these horrible snapping mouth sounds that you, as the editor, and any editor you’re working, will have to deal with. And trust me, that’s not fun – just drink some water, swish it around, you’ll be fine.
Remember even if voice over is something that you’re just using to fill the gaps between on-camera gigs, treat it with as much as respect as you would your on-camera work. Learn how to edit properly, how to craft your work, set up your studio, get a good coach, keep practising and, in time, you’re going find that your voice over is going to start informing your on-camera work. You’re going to start having a fluidity with text you didn’t have before, and a subtlety that’s going to shine through.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to have fun. How great is it that this is what we get to do.
That was a lot of information but hopefully it’ll start you out on the right path. If you’d like clarification or extrapolation on anything, or you’re interested in learning more about making the transition from on-camera to voice over, branding your voice or your voices.com profile, or if you just want to learn more about what I can offer as a coach, visit my website at beckyshrimpton.com.
Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this voices.com podcast, visit the Voice Over Experts Show Notes at podcasts.voices.com/voiceoverexperts. Remember to stay subscribed. If you’re a first time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTunes podcast directory, or by visiting podcasts.voices.com. To start your voice over career online, go to voices.com and register for voice talent membership today.