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Interpreting Client Cues

All voice over artists have had it happen, you've whammed out an amazing recording and sent if off to your clients, only to receive an email back shortly on the line of "This is great, but could we make it more_________." insert description word like: punchy, weighty, lively, hot, cold, fun, believable, etc...

One of the greatest challenges of being a voice over artist is found in interpreting these client notes! And a key to understanding these cues is in understanding they are often not a direction in itself, but rather an essence influencing your direction.

I once was chatting to a fellow colleague and they told me a story of this exact situation. They had sent a sample away to a client, and the client had responded to them with something like "This is great but can you make it have more fire!" The voice actor not knowing how to interpret this cue, sent the exact same audio file back to the client renaming it as a new take.

Tsk tsk tsk. This was not only dishonest, but also a missed opportunity that stemmed from the actor not understanding that voice over is an art of subtlety in which believability is paramount, understanding how far these cues should be emphasized is key to this believability and thus happy clients!

Remember, seeing is believing but hearing is knowing!

When a client provides you with these vocal cues often if you take them as concrete directional points you will often push to hard trying to achieve the abstract concept, or at least I do if I do this, and this will remove the believability from the script. Remember, you have likely been hired for the gig because the client likes your approach and capabilities, all they are looking for at this point is tweaks on your core approach.

So how do you take subtle cues like this and make them meaningful rather than fake? In my experience, it is all about feeling and visualization over doing.

Think of it like this: all these cues are, is the twist added to a cola!

Your approach and your primary script directions are the cola you are presenting to the client, the cues are the twist you add to it. Something that is barely noticeable and yet can make that subtle tangy difference that makes everything pop. And you achieve this pop through intentional thought over intentional action (i.e. if you think about it as you deliver voice without the intent to do it you will land that note).

Its a strange concept but true, voice over is soooo subtle that it picks up your inner monologue as you deliver lines, that is where warmth comes from, that is where believability comes from.

Think of your favourite crazy characters you see in cartoons or the scariest monsters you have seen in video games. Despite their unnaturalness, you still believe in them! They still feel real. One of the reasons for this is because the inner monologue of the voice actor is real, despite the outward queues being artificial.

This is pretty abstract, but just remember voice over is subtle, don't feel you need to emphasize when you can instead feel.

Let your feelings add that twist to your voice!


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