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VO Reading Speed; How to Read Scripts Insanely Fast … While Still Sounding Natural. Part 2 of 2

Edge Studio

NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read Part 1.

Last week we discussed ways to speed up or slow down a read while still making it sound natural. But there are times when copy has to be squeezed into a timeframe that would not be humanly possible to fit without some technical manipulation.

When you know your read is going to be sped up – a lot – are there things you can do to make the end result more intelligible and at least more natural?

Yes, there are. Edge Studio’s David Goldberg discusses them in his classes, which includes feedback from other voice professionals who have been in such situations. Here’s a sneak peek at his advice …

Did you miss last week’s article? Click here to read last week’s article — 6 Ways to read VO copy faster or slower, still naturally.

However, first some background. Contrary to what you might think, many tags and disclaimers are not presented unusually quickly. Actually, many sound natural. Because they blend in, they tend to go unnoticed, which is often a good thing as far as the advertiser is concerned, considering that disclaimers are by nature “negative.” People typically only notice unnatural things.

But, as we’ve all heard, there are times when a natural read just won’t fit. “Fast talk” is required. And, although the words may go by the listener so quickly that they won’t all be caught, let alone remembered, it is nevertheless important that they be understandable.

And not all sped-up copy are disclaimers. Some are sales tags or promotional billboards (and such) that have to fit in the allotted slot (for example, just under 3 or 5 seconds). Being sales or promotional copy, from your point of view it is important to convey appropriate energy, emotion and character, and from the client’s point of view, certainly important that you be understandable.

Achieving “fast talk” requires combined efforts between the casting team (finding the right voice actor), the voice actor, the director, and the engineer.

The Casting team needs to select the right voice actor. Some people simply speak faster than others, or are better at it, or speak fast more naturally. If someone cannot speak quickly to begin with, it won’t sound correct sped up digitally.

The Director needs to be aware of all the performance and technical options, directing the talent to voice in a way that gives the engineer optimal material to work with. By knowing how much each team member can reasonably accomplish, the Director must assure that the end product will meet the targeted time.

The Engineer has various technical tools at his or her disposal, particularly editing and time compression. Once breaths are removed, everything gets edited further, and often time-compressed after that.

And the Voice Actor needs to understand the following.

To maximize your ability to articulate, remember these warm-up tips:

  • Do vocal exercises to warm up your face, mouth and tongue.
  • Speak tongue twisters, quickly increasingly your speed. (You’ll want to have done this in your regular practice, because the point is to limber your speech apparatus, not learn the tongue-twister. Then try reading as if it were a tongue-twister, too.
  • Do stretches with your face, like yawns and exaggerated expressions. (Yoga practitioners will have a repertoire to choose from.)

Extreme time compression or expansion can add digital anomalies. Some clients will be more particular (or perhaps just more discerning) than others. In any case, to assure the best possible output, talent should deliver the best possible “input” to work with.

Clarity is most important, so articulate carefully — and evenly. When the recording is sped up by time compression, any error or awkwardness will become more noticeable. To ensure clarity, some talent prefer to read each line separately.

Maintain your energy, including on the last word, where inexperienced talent often make the mistake of letting their energy drop.

Keep pitch changes to a minimum, because variations in pitch don’t sound right when sped up. (In real speech, such changes can be done only so quickly.) It helps to speak in an almost monotone voice.

If it’s known that time compression will be used, the voice actor should maintain a slow- or medium-tempo delivery. Otherwise the recording won’t sound correct when digitally sped up. In fact, a slower, slightly overly pronounced read can yield better results when time compression is added.

Stay very focused and be confident. To this end, it’s as important as ever that you know what every word and the overall copy means. Mark copy in advance, setting it off in phrases. (You can’t do that optimally if you’re not sure of meaning.) Smooth flow helps in reading quickly.

During the actual read, exaggerate your lip, tongue and jaw movements to aid articulation. (In fact, that’s another sense of the word “articulation” – jointed movement.) It’s partly a mental thing. The extra range of motion, rather than slowing you down, will make you clearer, enabling you to speed up.

And remember, no matter how quickly or slowly you speak, and no matter how much it will be sped up or extended, always speak to your listener. You may not need to communicate with someone specific, or convey a character, but, as we noted above, you still need to communicate. An engineer or editor can do only so much with the read, unless the performance is there.

Additional reading:

Weekly Script Recording Contest Archives, January 24, 1914.

” target=”_blank”>Results: Why some voice talent didn’t win”
May 6, 2016 Blog:
Put time on your side — calibrate your internal VO clock