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How Covid is Changing Voiceover

28 August

The New VoiceOver Landscape

It’s been a most bizarre time for us all, transitioning from the way things were, to the way they are now…and I know for many of us, how they will be in the future.

The past few months has been about restructuring our lives to manage the current Covid climate.  Many have suffered from a loss of income, the challenges of isolation and restrictions; and concern over loved ones.

But many of you will be using your already refined skills of resilience and productivity to embrace what this has wrought, getting skilled up in new ways, changing patterns and habits and in turn reshaping and restructuring your life.

No matter to what degree you’ve done this, you’ll be beginning about now to think about ‘what next’.

If it’s still voiceover for you, I’m about to give you my perspective on how things have changed and my prediction on what that could mean.

And that’s what today’s blog is about.

  • How the voiceover landscape has changed?
  • And what will this mean in terms of our on-going voiceover career…or the one we hope to begin. 

Rethinking VoiceOver

Setting up your Home Studio for Voiceover

This was the first and biggest change to my own working voiceover life and that of many of my colleagues.

Although in many places globally voice artists have been set up to work from home for some time, I only had a very improvised set-up which I used primarily for coaching.

In Australia, the numbers of voice actors working from home was quite small.

When Covid hit, the word was, ‘get set up at home’.  Get Source Connect (SC) Standard or miss work. 

My two biggest clients required this.

And the word from Advertising Agency Producers was that they would only work via SC.  My Agent recommended to those they represented, that if they were doing regular work, they needed to invest to survive.  So, I did.

I’ll give you some information on Source Connect later in this article.

Once restrictions are fully eased, we will go back to working collaboratively in the Studio.  We all love this, the connection with and to others, but we must be prepared for this to take some time.

I believe that working from home will become a more ‘usual’ way for voice artists to work and is sure to be one of the biggest permanent changes in the VO world.

 

How I Set Up My Home VoiceOver Studio for Broadcast Quality

Firstly, I created a ‘booth’ in a corner of my study.  It was made simply from pine frames with black fabric stapled to it and at the back I put cheap insulation held there by tapes.  I put two panels into the corner of a wall, so it was ‘small-booth’ sized.  It was about 7 foot tall.  I also attached a roof made of the same materials.  It was all connected with metal plates.  I then built a partition to stand behind me when I was in the booth, and draped a soft rug from the roof and down across the partition.

My very improvised booth is not sound proofed.

It’s well baffled though and got the thumbs up from my regular clients.  Sound ‘deadening’ can take a bit of work.  Can’t be too dead, nor too live.  Get expert help by sending samples to engineers.  They’ll pick up what isn’t working.

The most important thing to remember is noise.  Inside noise.  The kids, the heating, the washing machine and dishwasher.  Outside noise.  Listen for dogs barking or especially birds. 

If you can hear your computer whirring, you need to baffle that as well.

My Gear 

I already had an excellent Australian made RODE NT1-A mic and ProTools set up.  I updated my Interface to a Focusrite ‘Scarlett’.  I was all set.

Just a note:  Don’t think that a USB mic which plugs straight into your computer will suffice, because it’s just not going to give you a good enough sound.  Spend the money on a good mic and interface.  You won’t be sorry.

You can buy a RODE package which includes the mic, a mic rack, a pop shield and an interface. Here’s an example but look around if you want to find one at a better price or a local equivalent. Recommended!  https://djcity.com.au/product/rode-nt1aikit-complete-studio-recording-bundle/

As I said, my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) of choice is ProTools.  I’m familiar with it from studios I’ve worked at and I have used this to do auditions and some work since Covid.

Next I’ll talk about Source Connect.  It’s a US based platform that enables remote recording sessions from anywhere with internet access.  You don’t need to record yourself into any DAW such as Audacity, Reaper, Twisted Wave, Pro Tools, or any other DAW.  Source connect allows your voice to be captured in real time by the studio you’re connecting to.

It was a little bit tricky to set up, but with patience and some tech help, I managed it.

Workflow within a very short time was brilliant and all done in my pyjamas, should I choose.

For those who don’t know much about SC, here’s some info about it from tech guru, George Whittam. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlqpurDQkfA

Here’s a link to the Source Connect website to look at their subscription pricing https://source-elements.com/products/source-connect/versions

My subscription for SC Standard in AUD is approximately $45 a month ($35USD).  There was a one-off set-up fee of $75USD and I was away.

***Don’t get Source Connect unless you are already working to such an extent that you would truly benefit from having it. 

You need to be established or at least be proficient enough in your practice, to make it viable.  If you’re starting out it won’t necessarily translate to work if you send a demo and say, “here’s my demo, I have SC “.

For those who’d like a great Podcast about Equipment/Home Studios, Andrew Peters, a brilliant Australian voiceover artist and friend, has this brilliant series of Podcasts, The Pro Audio Suite https://www.theproaudiosuite.com

 

Booking VoiceOver Work in Ecomomic Downturns

And it’s a fact that not only are we dealing with the Pandemic, we’re in a global economic recession and we have no idea how long it will last.

We also have very little idea how and which companies or brands will survive, thrive or disappear altogether, but during such times, change always happens.

It’s been interesting to note how voiceover work in both the Commercial and non-Commercial worlds are travelling.  They’re quite different and have been affected very differently by Covid.

In the Commercial world, brands are changing their messaging to reflect the times, but they’re spending less on production and less on media buying.

Community messaging is of course on the up, and most national or multi-national company’s and utility providers are still advertising.

Over-all my voiceover agent reports a 60% drop in bookings coming into the agency.  My own research says that media buying – that is buying time on radio, TV or Online to run ads – is down by 40%.

But many smaller advertisers are just not spending.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a ‘retail’ client, you’ll have noticed how their focus is changing.  It’s all more about ‘home based’ purchasing, with many working from home and wanting to revamp a home office or doing some DIY in the home or garden.

Gym equipment and casual clothing.  Yup!

Kids who were, or are still, at home, sell-out’ craft shelves and arts supplies.

I could go on, but when you think about what’s happened and put advertising as a factor across it, it’s not hard to see the ways things have changed.

The other factor is ‘getting work’ especially if you’re new.  It’s not going to be easy.

There is so much disruption, that for now studios haven’t been staffed at all or are running on skeleton staff.  Most are working from home with an engineer or perhaps two working at the studio, without talent attending.  This includes radio stations.

This means that it’s not the best time to try and break in or even send a new or updated demo.  For that, I would wait and watch for restrictions easing and things changing economically.

 

In the Non-Commercial world work has actually increased.  If you are already getting e-learning work, any educational, instructional or medical work and you’re set up at home, you would most probably be surviving well, or even experiencing an increase in work.

With much more of this work now needing to be presented digitally, clients are looking for those who are skilled in the delivery of ‘information/instruction’ rather than ‘advertisements’.

If you feel you have the skills for this kind of work, which means you have a strong, clean, clear voice and excellent understanding of language and how to sort through longer scripts, it’s time to put your focus there.

These scripts are often not easy to read.

Information is not conversational but your read still needs to engage, because largely the material is ‘dry’.

However, it pays well, for what it is.

Often this work would require you to ‘record’ the script from home.  So, you would need a DAW of some kind.  The producer or client will indicate whether they need you to send the raw files or deliver the job ‘mastered’.   That is, they want it edited, de-breathed and timed (not as crucial with non-commercial work).  For that, you need to add a fee, or a minimum of $120, depending on the length of the job.  It takes time to edit work.  This is a fee they would normally pay to a studio.

I always record in WAV (unless asked for MP3’s).  I deliver always through file sharing platforms and use Hightail, but there are others.

I have a new rule with anyone who wants me to record from home.

They need to phone me or set up a Zoom or other platform to listen to my read in real time and give me direction.  There’s nothing more time-wasting than to-ing and fro-ing with a client who wants this phrase a little quicker or who would rather have this pronunciation, over another.

Get them on the line.  Save time and frustration.

 

Audio Books

Audiobook narration has hardly been affected by the downturn.  So, if you are pretty sure your reading/storytelling skills are suited to audio books…and you regularly listen to audio books, then why not give this a crack.

I know that the popularity of audio books will just increase over time. I want to give you a link to a series of Podcasts I’ve been involved in this year.  It’s called The Audiobook Podcast and you’ll find it here.https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-audiobook-podcast/id1499718079

I’ve also created a new online course, via Zoom, covering the world of voiceover over 13 hours and 5 separate sessions.  Here’s the link to look at that.

But I’ll be doing an intensive on audiobook narration regularly.  First one is scheduled for Saturday September 26th 10am-12.30 AEST.  Go to this link for more information.

 

Navigating the new VoiceOver World

Well, in finishing up, this is a moving feast and we really don’t exactly know what’s on the menu.

Agents are not taking on anyone at the moment.  They are struggling to help those they represent get work.

Voiceover Agents are doing better that theatrical agents, who have basically had to put their business into a pause phase.  It’s not good.

But on an optimistic note, hold fast to your intention to work in voiceover.

Use this time to listen to others working, find all the tips, blogs and podcasts on voiceover or audiobook narration you can and get yourself ready for when it is time to put your head up.  The time WILL come 🙂

Happy VoiceOver Career Planning!!!

 

 

 

Abbe Holmes About Abbe Holmes
Find Your Voice As a Voice Over Actor And Artist With The Voice Over Coach. For over 30 years I've had a successful voiceover career. I work in mainstream voice over for radio and television, narration for the corporate sector, website content and documentaries, as well as characters for animation, IVR, ADR, on-hold and foreign film dubbing.

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