Although many voiceover jobs are booked directly from your reel, clients often request a sample reading of their script. Occasionally you’ll have to come to a studio for voiceover auditions, but it’s becoming more and more common for clients to ask you to do a ‘self-tape’ on your phone. Just like with auditions in a voiceover studio, it’s important you make a good impression. Here are some tips for recording a great self-tape – and hopefully they will help you get the job!
Minimise external noise and dampen sound
Recording a good self-tape starts with creating the right environment. You’ll never be able to block out all the external noise as we can in the studio, but pick the quietest room in the house. Try to avoid rooms with hard surfaces, like tiled rooms, plastered walls or brick walls – this will create an undesired reverb effect on your recording. To test the space, you can try clapping your hands to hear the echo/reverb. A small space, like a walk-in closet works great. Also, the clothes will dampen or deaden the sound, reducing the reverb/echo effect. Play this recording to hear how a tiled room affects your recording:
Another great trick is holding a duvet (or a blanket) over your head while you record or even making a little box-shape with your duvet on the bed (very useful if you are in a hotel room!). A bit awkward and does look very silly but it really cuts out noise and dampens external sound. This will also tighten the recorded sound, giving it a ‘studio’ feel. Play this recording to hear how a blanket can improve sound quality:
We suggest trying this out to hear the outcome. Early mornings are often a quieter time of the day to record. Listen for background noises like air conditioning, refrigerators or ticking clocks and eliminate any unnecessary sounds you can.
Rehearse the script
The client wants to hear your interpretation of the script and will generally give you directions on what they are looking for in the performance. Do your best to follow these directions regarding tone and pace. If they don’t provide any direction, use your skills as an actor to determine the emotion the script is trying to express. Look for adjectives in the script – they will often give you a good idea of the tone required. Figure out which words to emphasise and try out a variety of different reads.
Don’t overdo it. You want your voice to be fresh when you start recording, but get an idea of what you want to do with the script before you start.
Record multiple takes of the script
There are lots of different voice-recording apps out there for both iPhone and Android, many of them free. If you don’t already have a voice recorder on your phone you’ll need to download one and familiarise yourself with how it works. Also make sure you know where the microphone is on your phone – you’d be surprised how many record speaking into the wrong end! We’ve used the iPhone’s ‘Voice Memo’ app for all the demos and photos in this article.
At the beginning of each take make sure to ‘slate’ – just give your name unless the client has asked you to include other information. It’s a good chance to ‘introduce’ yourself to the client. Keep it natural and relaxed.
For short scripts, record two or three takes, reading different variations in a row. If the script is longer, you can record separate files for each variation. If you are presented with a very long script, simply record one or two paragraphs, lasting no longer than 30 seconds. Even though you have recorded 10 takes, it can show confidence to supply only 2-3 takes.
Make sure you don’t distort the microphone (also called ‘clipping’). Most recording apps will have an input meter to show if you are ‘hitting the reds’ and distorting the sound. At the same time, a very low recording level will leave a lot to be desired. It’s a good idea to practice getting the right recording level. Ideally you should be getting a good level without clipping the recording.
Another thing to keep in mind is ‘popping’. If you are VO artist you most certainly will have heard this term mentioned in the studio. It primarily happens on ‘plosive’ sounds (words that include B or P for example) and without getting too technical it’s essentially a burst of air hitting the microphone, creating an unnatural ‘pop’ or ‘thump’ sound. The closer you are to the mic, the worse the popping gets. So to test this, simply say ‘pop’ into the mic a few times and listen back for an unnatural distorted sound. Play these files below to hear examples of plosives and a clean recording:
[mp3t track=”http://www.sohovoices.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Popping-1.mp3″] [mp3t track=”http://www.sohovoices.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/NoPopping-1.mp3″]
Send the files
Before you send the files, have a listen to them. Make sure they’ve recorded properly and you’re happy with the takes. If you are using the standard recorder on an iPhone, the app will name the file automatically, so when you send the files, be sure to label them with your name and the client or project name, for example: JohnSmith_Nespresso. If you are sending multiple files you’ll need to number them as well, so JohnSmith_Nespresso_02.
In terms of formats, an MP3 file is preferable, so if your app gives you the option, choose MP3. With other formats you might run the risk of not being included in the casting if the client cannot play your files.
Once you’ve sent the files, pat yourself on the back and go about your day. As with all castings, once you ‘walk out of the room’ forget about it!