American Life Investment
This is a simulated audition for American Life Investment. We want a voice actor who doesn’t sound like a voice actor. We want someone who sounds absolutely real, like a regular person without polished speech, who is charismatic and will prompt a listener to watch our video, without sounding like a spokesperson or a sales person. Feel welcome to ‘warm it up’ and sound spontaneous without straying from the script. This is the first in a series of 18 videos, each between 2 and 11 minutes in length. We use Edge Studio to cast and record.
There's no better time than now to take control of your financial situation. Because choices you make today have a direct impact on the quality of your future. That’s why “American Life Investment” brings you this, “My Retirement Planning” video.
Congratulations to Amie Breedlove, Pippa Vos, and Marisa Miller. In their voice acting auditions, they achieved what is a classic definition of acting – sounding real in an unreal situation. Here are some tips that will help you approach that challenge in your future auditions.
But first, a note: You should watch the recording of Chief Edge Officer David Goldberg’s October 16 2023 live session, where he – and about 200 voice actors – review a selection of this contest’s submissions. It’s a special insight into the casting review process – a look (and listen) into how a casting person quickly moves through hundreds of submissions to create their shortlist. But — unlike casting other projects — David explains what casting teams listen for and how their decisions are made.
EDGE STUDIO TIP 1: Read the direction, understand it, and think about what it means. This audition, in particular, provided a wealth of hints as to how to approach your read. Above all, the client wants this to sound spontaneous. Consider how many ways it says that: “doesn’t sound like a voice actor” … “absolutely real” … “like a regular person” … “without polished speech” … “without sounding like a spokesperson or a sales person” … “sound spontaneous.” Yet, they also want you to sound “charismatic” and “warm.” Wow. How do you get all that in to a few seconds of script?
Act. Or, if you prefer, “be” – in your mind, become that person.
So, before you start recording, think about your “character.” Who are you? Where are you? Who are you talking to? And what action or emotion do you want to elicit from them? The direction provides further hints – especially, that if you land this hypothetical job, it will involve 18 videos that will presumably reprise this character. (Otherwise, why would they mention that?) So you’ll probably need to sustain the prescribed “spontaneous, charismatic” manner. A few verbal tricks won’t automatically help you make the cut. But here are some VOICE OVER TIPS you might use:
- Use a lead-in pretext. Add a word, phrase or sentence before the script that will get you loose, in-character and up to speed emotionally. For example, “Did you know, …” or “Hey! This is important.” Or even, “I’m concerned that you don’t have a budget.” (Remember to delete the lead-in before submitting.)
- Ad lib the same thoughts, in your own words. Record yourself doing it. What natural mannerisms do you have as you speak? They may be different from what you usually do in voice acting or narration. Then, voice the actual script (do NOT change it!), using what you’ve observed.
EDGE STUDIO TIP 2: Be logical. Would a real person in a real situation talk like this? For example, don’t pause just to be pausing. People do sometimes speak haltingly as they think about what to say, or search for a word, or (in real life) try to maintain eye contact, and so on. But having too many pauses makes you sound choppy, and can even be counterproductive. The casting person, instead of thinking you sound real, might think, “Why did this person pause there?”
Similarly, be logical in the words you emphasize. For example, in this script, you are not “selling.” And presumably you’re speaking to someone in a real-life setting. Therefore, hitting words like “today” might be more logical and meaningful than “you” and “your.” Also, note that this is not a commercial. The listener is purposefully playing the lesson. They know what the course is about, and what company is presenting it. So you don’t need to stress the client’s name. Instead, stress what is logically important in that situation.
EDGE STUDIO TIP 3: Flow your thoughts. In real conversation, people tend to talk in complete thoughts. Some people don’t pause at all. (You probably know people where you can’t get a word in edgewise!) So again, don’t pause just to be pausing. Logical places to pause would when the thought or emotion changes, or at an infrequently used or technical word that takes a moment to choose. (For example, “impact.”)
EDGE STUDIO TIP 4: Slow down, so your listener will understand you. Many people read too quickly. Remember that, although you need to sound like you’re in the real world, you are not. Your listener can’t interrupt and ask you to repeat a missed word. There may be ambient noise in the listening environment, or music may be added to your read. Or the user’s speakers may be less than optimal. In addition, your real-world listener needs time to process what you say.
Especially slow down your first word(s). The listener needs to get up to speed. They might not even be paying attention for the first second or two. A rushed or unclearly voiced opening word is a key red flag that the casting team will notice.
On the other hand, don’t slow down so much that you sound unnatural or sleepy. VOICE OVER TIP: Listen to people converse in the real world. Note how rapidly they speak. Their vocal mannerisms. Where they pause. And changes in the pitch of their voice. Use what you learn as a template for a “spontaneous” delivery, the right combination of “real” and “easily understandable.”
EDGE STUDIO TIP 5: Make your recording as technically correct as you can. When you listen to the recorded review session we linked to above, you’ll hear some auditions where the volume is so low that they’re almost inaudible, or are on only the left or right speaker. In real-world casting (when the talent will record the job in their own studio), that’s usually an automatic disqualification. So is changing the script, unless the direction allows. VOICE OVER TIP: Adjust your final recording so that the loudest point(s) are at -3 dB. That’s loud enough to make a professional impression, with just enough “headroom” to avoid distortion. NOTE that there are exceptions to this.
1st place winner: Amie Breedlove
Amie Breedlove – 1st place. A very good read. She wonderfully nails the balance of clarity and spontaneity. Great pacing, great and consistent tone, nice variety without sounding formulaic, repetitive, or forced. She had an extra pause before “impact,” but it’s minimal. Audio quality is also very good. There’s a very small click at the end of “situation,” but it’s so small that no one will hear it.
2nd place winner: Pippa Vos
Pippa Vos – 2nd place. A great read. But it is missing the requested charisma, and she’s a bit choppy. The audio quality is very good. It sounds just a tiny bit resonant. Maybe one nearby surface is not dampened. but the effect is minimal.
3rd place winner: Marisa Miller
Marisa Miller – 3rd place. Terrific. Another very good read, but not quite enough charisma, and it doesn’t sound spontaneous enough. Otherwise very good. Very good audio quality, too.