Recording Studio Etiquette
Join Voice Over Expert Marc Graue as he discusses “Recording Studio Etiquette” (it’s very important!). Not only will you be able to learn these protocols without the embarrassment of fumbling, the recording engineers and studio staff will also be impressed by your professionalism and confidence during the session.
Marc Graue, Burbank, Voice Over Studios, Fixinthemix.com, Studio Etiquette, Producers, Recording Engineers, Voice Actors
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Transcription of Recording Studio Etiquette
Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voiceover Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voiceover Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else.
This week, Voices.com is pleased to present Marc Graue.
Marc Graue: Hello. This is Marc Graue from Marc Graue Voiceover Studios in Burbank, California. And today, we thought we’d cover kind of an interesting subject that a lot of people don’t talk about, studio etiquette.
I know it’s kind of an odd thing but the fact of the matter is, when you walk into a studio, there are a number of situations and people that will come into play including the receptionist. When you walk in, be polite, just announce yourself, “Hey, man. I’m da-da-da-da-da. I’m here for the session at 3 o’clock.”
The reason for this, we’ve had a number of people who will walk in very arrogantly. “Do you know who I am? I’m a voiceover thespian.” Well, that’s fine and dandy but if you hand her a demo tape and you’ve been kind of obnoxious, guess what, your tapes going to end up in the obnoxious file and the trash can on the floor. It’s very important to treat everybody with respect. That also lends itself to the session itself.
When you walk into the studio, the engineer will kind of place you on the microphone that he seems to feel is going to fit you best and that’s what his job is. So you don’t need to go, “Oh, a microphone. That’s not a Neumann 87. Oh, you’re putting me behind the Sennheiser 416. How dare you. This could have been my finest moment.”
He’s on the other side of the glass. He’s got a completely different set of ears so he will know exactly how to set you up. And you don’t need to worry about that. That’s not your problem. You are there to perform. You don’t need to worry about the technical aspect.
But if your headphones are set up too quietly, you’re going to find yourself all of a sudden talking like this. And vice-versa if the headphones are really loud, you’re going to be talking like this. So be sure and mention levels to the engineer and find a comfortable level for it, you tell him, “Up there. That’s perfect.”
If an engineer tells you, “Okay, what are you going to do on this? You run it down for me.” That doesn’t mean going into a five-minute dissertation. “Well, I was actually thinking about approaching this as a middle aged man that’s probably in his mid 40s sitting on the porch watching the traffic go by at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon drinking lemonade.” No. What he means is, read the copy the way that you are going to read it. That way in essence, he’s got a level set up in the control room. The director assuring what direction you’re going and you’re getting warmed a little bit and getting familiar with the copy, the same thing as far as levels.
Here, give me a level. Don’t go, “Hello. Testing, testing.” That’s not what we’re looking for. On the other side of the glass, he’s getting set up on a level as far as exactly how you’re going to read. If it’s a cartoon character and he’s doing, “Hello. How are you doing?” He’s going to need to back that off or you’re going to be blowing up compressors on the other side of the glass.
If it’s very quiet in that luxury Sedan, he’s going to be taking care of that on the other side, same thing with pop filters. An engineer will set you up in the studio as how he sees fit and that’s what his job is. So you don’t need to worry about, “Gee, here, let me grab the mic and move it over here.” Because the engineer is in there cringing, going, “Stop that. Quit touching that.”
Now, with the interpretation of the copy, everybody – everybody will eventually at least have one pick up in your career, of course. So if you flub the copy, that’s fine. That’s very much expected. Don’t get intense, don’t get all like, “Cut, cut! I’ve done 20 takes.” We’ve had sessions with very pro VO people that have done 40, 50, 60, 70 takes. That depends entirely on whether the director or the client is getting the read that they want.
So if you flub the copy as you’re reading, that’s fine. Just pick it up right there. Don’t lose any time, just go right back in. Pick it up at the beginning of that sentence or at the beginning of that paragraph. Don’t go into, “Okay because I should have probably hit that. I didn’t really pause there where I should have, huh?”
The reason for that is many commercials, in fact, most of them are pieced together. Very rarely is it a single take all the way through. If you continue at that same pace and same inflection, it will cut right in. If you’ve messed around and now it gone, “Wait a sec. Okay. No, that really isn’t okay. All right now, I’m ready.”
It’s going to be a completely different inflection, completely different level and the take will not be usable which means you’re going to have to go back up to the top which makes the client upset, which makes us happy because we’re charging now or at least. So, need the more time you take, that’s great but the clients usually aren’t quite as understanding about that.
Now, here’s something you probably don’t give a lot of thought too but you should and that is, hygiene issues. Don’t pour on a ton of perfume or put chili oil because people will think you’re out in your car and like getting ready for the session.
Studios are very closed quarters. So you may be in a group session with four or five, six other actors. If people are choking going, “Yes”.
We had a one voiceover guy who’s very popular who had breath like he’d been on the rear end of a horse. It sounds terrible and I know it’s funny but how are you walking to very close quarters in a studio and you’re smelling this gentleman’s breath from across the room, it’s not pleasant. Everybody’s eyes are watering and it’s really hard to perform that way. Of course, nobody wants to say anything. You just find all of the mics or all of a sudden on the other side of the room and you got one guy sitting over here by himself.
And that brings us to what you should wear during a session. Wear clothing that’s kind of loose fitting and stuff that’s not noisy like nylon, jewelry or a jacket that’s constantly making this kind of noise when you talk. It will drive the engineers crazy not to mention that in some cases, it’ll make the takes unusable because there’s so much noise going out and say, “Oh, that was perfect but we can’t edit anything because you got all these noise going.”
So, that’s again something that you should think about. Now, when you show up at the session, chances are, they will hand you which called the side. That in essence is the copy that you’ll be reading. Don’t try and bring too much to it before you go into the session and the reason for that is that if you’re sitting, you’re going, “Okay. This is a fat street rat and the guy’s going to talk like this. Yes, okay. The guy’s going to talk. Hey, I got it. Okay, this is perfect. This is great! I got the fat rat thing going. This is going to be perfect.”
And you walk into the studio and the director goes, “No! That’s not what this is at all.” And your brain goes, “ha-ha-ha” and you’re stuck. It’s really, really hard to get yourself out of that position. So try and keep yourself almost as a clean slate. The director is there to direct you. That’s what his job is. So he’ll tell you exactly what he wants and your job is to interpret that and give him a reading that he’s looking for.
Now, realize too during the session, there is a lot of other things taking place than just you reading. There could be a phone patch going on, there might be ISDN or maybe a client in Canada. There may be one on the phone in New York. You’ve got an engineer, you’ve got a director, you may have the client sitting at the back of the room, a person from the ad agency. It’s very disheartening to be sitting in the booth looking out of the control room and watching people shaking their hands, waving his arms, rapid fire, yelling at the top of his lungs while on the other side of the glass what he’s actually saying is, “I didn’t order cheese on my hamburger. On this side, you’re going, “Oh, my God. My career is over.”
Don’t worry about that. That’s the whole reason they’ve got talkback. So what you’re bringing to a session is what you do. That’s why you’re there is they like something that they heard, that’s why you are there to work. We’ve had sessions that have gone perfectly, everybody is happy and then the writer shows up and goes, “Well, that’s not how I wrote that line at all.” And so everybody kind of nods politely and goes back and redo another 40 takes to make sure that now, the writer is getting what he wants.
Another good point is virtually, everyone walks around with a cell phone now. You turn it off during a session. Because even if you leave your phone on vibrate, you’ll pick up that noise as well as you’ll get cell phone interference going through the board. So just make sure to keep your cell phone off during the session.
When you’re recording your VOs during the session, you are relying on people on the other side of the glass. They’re going to tell you whether they were happy with that take and they need a little more smile, they need it a little quicker. Can you billboard, et cetera.
So you want to make sure that if the client’s happy, you’re happy. There’s nothing worse than a client goes, “Oh! That was perfect. Thank you.” That’s the keeper and you have to tell them that goes, “I don’t think that really capture the essence that time.” It’s like you’re not there as a critic. You’re there as talent. If they’re happy, you should be happy.
The key point when you show up for a session, make sure that it’s timely. If for some reason like traffic, you’re going to be late which we ran into a lot here in Los Angeles, make sure you call the studio and let them know you’re going to be about 10 minutes late. Studios are all based on an hourly rate. So if you’re late, it’s costing the client money and in turn, that could cost you money.
When you’re laying down your VOs too, remember, don’t argue with the director of the client. I’ve actually seen sessions where the client will go, “No, that’s not quite it.” And you tell them that goes, “Well, the way this part is written, he would never say it like that.” And that’s probably the worse thing you can do because guess what, you can just see your name flying out their (trash pack) because they’ll never call you again.
You will have directors who go, “Well, I think what’s happening is it’s not feeling organic. It’s feeling wooden and it’s resting up in this area and what we wanted to do is feel more generic, more from down in this area.” And your job is to keep a straight face and go, “Oh, yes. Okay.” And give them a reading that’s as close to that as possible even though inside you’re thinking, “This person is making no sense whatsoever.”
So you’ve gone through the audition process, you’ve actually gotten a call back. Now, you book the job, good for you. So show up early, be ready to do. In essence, whatever it’s going to take for the director and the client to be happy, smile at everybody and just be happy that you’re getting paid to talk.
Julie-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voiceover Experts show notes at Podcasts.Voices.com/VoiceoverExperts. Remember to stay subscribed.
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Your Instructor this week:
Voice Over Expert Marc Graue
Marc Graue is the owner of the legendary Marc Graue Voice Over Studios, a Burbank California landmark for more than 25 years. His client list reads like a who’s who of the voice over business including the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, HBO, Disney, Warner Bros., Dreamworks, Showtime, MTV, Discovery Channel, ABC, CBS, NBC, HGTV, Activision, Electronic Arts, THQ and many more can be found in the studios daily. As a producer, Marc’s voice over demo clients include: EG Daily (Rugrats / Babe), Yeardley Smith (The Simpsons), John Dimaggio (Futurama / Kim Possible), Randy Thomas (Academy Awards / Entertainment Tonight), Brian Baumgartner (The Office) and 100’s more!
As a voice over artist Marc has been represented by William-Morris in Beverly Hills for the last 12 years and can be heard on Avatar-The Last Air Bender, Veggie Tales, Code Name: Kids Next Door, Warcraft, Spiderman 3 the Video Game, Ratchett & Clank, GUN, Gothic 3 and on countless trailers and promos.