Voiceover is a particularly unique medium for a director because of the many issues that are unique to the voiceover industry. First, the majority of voiceover directing is done remotely. Whereas, on an on-camera commercial set, directors have the opportunity to converse face-to-face with the talent, in the voiceover world, the majority of sessions are conducted from two separate locations. Consequently, many directing nuances are lost due to the inability to interpret voiceover direction in-person. Next, often times, individuals that work outside of the creative field may be placed in a role that requires them to offer direction in a voiceover session. For instance, a corporate employee might be heading up a video project and struggle to play the role of ‘director’ in this unfamiliar creative landscape. As a result, the inability to “speak-creative” can become a barrier. Technology is another tricky concern that can complicate voiceover directing - lag-time, software barriers or other general Internet glitches can sometimes make it difficult for voiceover directors to accurately interpret the voiceover talent’s audio. Needless to say, with all of these unique directing challenges, discovering clever ways to communicate creative intent quickly and efficiently allows all parties to get ahead of any voiceover directing complications before they begin.
So what is the secret? Well, beginning with a clear and tangible perspective means that all parties can begin a critique from the same place. I’ve mentioned in previous articles that I am a believer in operating from an objective piece of content to establish tone when working in a subjective medium. There are many ways to introduce an objective piece of content to establish a creative benchmark - one way, for example, is by leading a voiceover session with playback of the talent’s original demo and highlighting the nuances that prompted the director to cast the talent. Another alternative is to simply play a previous creative project from the brand that has a similar pace, tone and vibe to the one being created in the session. Still, there is also a much simpler tool to establish objectivity at the beginning of a voiceover session, and despite its effectiveness, this strategy is surprisingly much less utilized…
Consider beginning a voiceover session with the edited music-bed.
Music and voiceover are always dancing together – bringing out the best in the other. So if a music bed has already been selected and approved by the client, invite the voiceover artist to listen. A dynamic music bed saves every creative in the room a tremendous amount of time and frustration, because a song follows the traditional narrative structure and will have an introduction, emotional pivot and a resolution, just as a commercial has a beginning, middle and end. Meanwhile, nestled inside this narrative arc is a pace and a tone, or vibe. Therefore, the structure of the music, along with the pace and tone, all combine to create a roadmap for the direction of the voiceover.
Simply put, many times, the music-bed itself IS the direction for the voiceover talent.
By playing the edited music track, the voiceover performer can hear many subjective elements without requiring the creative team to explain the desired sound. The voiceover talent can hear the introduction, notice the music change (emotional pivot) and hear the resolve. In essence, a music bed offers the energy, tone, pacing and emotional adjustments as a nice bundled up package providing clear direction without the need for creative clarifications.
In short, having a music bed cut and ready-to-go before the voiceover session gets ahead of any voiceover directing challenges by saving all parties time. The sound engineer, voiceover talent and voiceover director can quickly get on the same page because they all have an objective piece of content that allows them to begin work on the same canvas. Each person can hear where the tone shifts in the music, agree on the pace and then immediately dial-in the overall vibe.
Remember that time you read a blog post on a voiceover talent's website and thought, ‘wow-that was insightful and extremely valuable information.’ Then you shared it with all of your creative friends and opined, ‘if only there was a way to meet Chris Burnett and we could work together…’ And finally you realized that…Wait! You CAN. Let’s connect and chat about your video project, creative and voiceover needs. You can reach me at Chris@ChrisBurnettVoiceActor.com and I look forward to connecting and sharing your career successes.
Chris Burnett - seasoned voiceover talent, on-camera talent, coach, creative thought-leader and hopefully your new best friend. Let's chat-preferably over cocktails.