This is a simulated audition for a Hot Wheels product: We are looking for a voice talent who can deliver a fun, energized, and friendly read. This spot will be aired on children’s syndicated television networks.
Drivers, start your engines. Gear up for a wild ride around the Hot Wheels Super Loop Speedway. Be the world's best driver! Cars and other sets sold separately.
Winners and All Entries Below
But first, read our free: Analysis: Why the Winners Won ... and Why Others Didn't.
Congratulations to our winners, Terry Briscoe, Kimberly Lomax and Matthew Kerbis. They took the script in unusual directions, and their entries sound as though they could land this hypothetical job, if they’re careful to avoid some potential mishaps along the way. Here are tips to help you cross the Finish Line as a winner yourself.
Read the direction. Then read it again, point by point. What do you think they mean? That is, are the instructions clear? Or do they seem contradictory? If contradictory, how can they go together? This case, for example – “fun” is probably clear enough, and it can mesh with “energized.” But how does “friendly” fit in? Now consider that the audience is kids. What does a child consider as “friendly”? There’s no one answer, but apparently a lot of people thought it would be fun and energetic to sound like a track announcer. In a sense, they “played” with their voice, which may be a sort of “friendly.” But no one played it to the point of extreme parody (for example, a la wrestling promoter/announcer Vince McMahon). And it was not a unique choice, so that approach alone is not what won our contest. In fact, in almost any other VO situation, such a forced, strained “announcer” sound (what’s been euphemistically called an “epiglottal push”) would be a disqualifier.
We would like to have heard more people “have fun” with their delivery, in any number of ways. But whatever your choices, be natural. Stop “thinking.” (The time to think about your performance is before you perform. If you second-guess yourself as you speak, people can hear that. While acting, think what you’re saying, not how you say it.) And don’t talk on egg shells. Relax, just say what you mean.
The more you “style” your character, the more you need to remember enunciation. By “character” in this case, we mean any voice, affectation, style or other characteristic that is not natural to you. It’s easy to get caught up in it so that you either forget your VO basics (enunciation, consistent volume, etc.), or you think the character has special license to ignore them. Nope. Listeners still need to understand you, on the first hearing, even if mixed with music and/or sound effects … and in this case maybe some stadium reverb. We lost count of how many words were confusing or difficult to decipher without seeing the script. For example, you should say: “drivers” not “dryers” or “drawvers”; “Hot Wheels” not “hawills” or “hubmeals”; “engines” not “ejins” or “injuns”; “for a wild ride” not “foeahwhylrigh”. For more examples, see our winners.
Be technically professional. To win an audition, you need to sound professional. And so does your recording, especially if the job (like many jobs these days) will be self-produced in your home studio and possibly self-directed. That means avoiding the various faux pas that annoy casting professionals and make you seem inexperienced. Here are some examples from this month’s crop:
* If you have two very different approaches that seem equally valid and win-worthy, and if the directions don’t limit you to one take, you might include a second read. But beware: that situation is rare. If the two takes are very similar, it will suggest that you are unable to hear how much alike they are. Or it may be taken to mean you have limited range. A better approach, if two similar takes each have a glowing moment, would be to edit the best parts together and submit as a single take. If you can’t do that imperceptibly, you might record a third take with benefit having recognized those moments.
* If you do submit multiple takes, say, “Two takes” at the start of your recording (after your slate, if any). If you want to clarify how they’re different, make it succinct. For example, “Two takes – take 1 is natural, take 2 is announcer style.” Say nothing more. The point is to alert the screener, not to waste their time. Why alert them? Because some screeners don’t listen to the full submission. The only indication that you have a second take would be if the audio player indicates that your recording is twice as long – if the screener notices. But even that may not save you. See next bullet.
* Trim your recording, before and after. Leave just a half a second or less at the start, and don’t leave silence after. Note that our Second Place winner had 22 seconds of silence afterward.
* Slate professionally. When slating instructions are not given, whether or not to slate depends on the situation. With some audition software, the listener can see your name or username, so slating might not be needed. On the other hand, if you’re doing a character, they might want to hear what you sound like naturally. On the other other hand, if your natural slate is not in character, they might bail before your read begins (that’s rare, but in the busy world of casting, it happens). To cover yourself and all these bases, you might put your slate at the end. In any case, slate confidently, and just slate your name, nothing more. (If slating instruction is given, always slate as directed.) Unless you’ve been given a choice of scripts or are reading a bunch of them in one audio file, the casting pro already knows what you’re voicing.
1st place winner: Terry Briscoe
He gave two reads. Parts are similar, parts are a bit different. We prefer elements from both. If this were a real job, we’d use lines from both takes He’s loose, expressive, and has exciting variety, without sounding theatrical. However he should attend to some voicing issues. Take One’s first word sounds like “Nnnn-drivers” with a click sound. The words “for a wild” sound like “foe-ah-while.” “Gear up” is hard to grasp, as it sounds like “Gearp.” We noticed these – and we know what the words are supposed to be – consider a first-time listener who hasn’t a script, has no context, and hears this mixed with music and sound effects. Parts of this read will be indecipherable. Also the very opening of Take One is a bit stilted … that’s our first impression. The tag is voiced in-character (or maybe he always sounds like this?), whereas some people who used a similar character reverted to a relaxed natural voice in the tag. Neither practice is in itself good or bad. Recording quality is good.
2nd place winner: Kimberly Lomax
A fun, fluid voice, with nice variety. But she speaks a bit too quickly. (Note that the Director’s Notes did not specify a time limit.) And in addition to being harder to follow, her speech was slurred throughout. As for recording quality, well, it was a fun idea to EQ the opening to sound like a PA system. But the downside is that it hurt more than helped – it makes her sound nasal, which would likely cost her the job. The audio volume is too low. And, as we’ve noted in the Tips above, there’s “dead air” at the start and more than 20 seconds of silence after.
3rd place winner: Mathew Kerbis
Good voice, and his delivery rests on a good foundation. So he would be in the running for this job if he fixed the following: The first syllable of the first word (“Drivers”) is too fast. Then we thought he said, “Dear up.” Or did he say “Dare up”? Aha, the script shows it’s “Gear up.” “Cars and other sets” sounds like “cars another sets.” And some of his hits (emphasized words) might be better chosen. In particular, he could have hit “wild” (“…..for a WILD ride around the…”). And in “best driver,” isn’t the most important word “best” rather than “driver”? The recording quality is good and the audio is clear. But on headphones popping is easily heard (e.g., “superloop,” “be,” and “best”), as are mouth clicks, (e.g., after “speedway”). The recording would also benefit from audio compression to make the volume more consistent.