Typically whenever I do an audioblog entry it’s written out ahead of time and then I read off of that script. But as a gesture of sincerity towards the words that I’m about to say, this time around I just decided to speak first and then transcribe later for those who prefer to read.
The reason there won’t be a regular audioblog entry this week is because I don’t feel that me talking about VO-related matters, in light of what happened with the “Dark Knight Rises” incident would be appropriate, basically. But for however little my words mean, there is something that I’d like to say to anybody who follows me on a regular basis, and that’d be this:
Remember what matters in life.
Somebody once told me that, “You can’t do VO for money, ’cause you’ll never be happy. The only way you’re truly gonna be happy is if you find personal happiness in the experiences you share with your loved ones.”
So take a moment to think about that, is all I’ll say. Think about the people who are important in your life. If they’re friends, give them a call and ask to hang out for a bit. If they’re family members, take an opportunity to give them a call this weekend and tell them you love them. Or, better yet, if you can reach out to them in person, give them a big hug and tell them you love them. ‘Cause when you really get down to it I do believe that it’s the people in your life that matter the most.
Hey, it happens…well, actually, THIS doesn’t happen to me, because I don’t write music, but you get the idea.
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The first person to ever comment on my audioblog said something that became eerily prophetic. To be clear, I do mean the first *person*..technically, the first comment I ever received was an automated comment from WordPress welcoming me to the world of blogging. Don’t get me wrong, that was very nice of the automated comment, and I thanked it, but the first living, breathing human being to comment on my audioblog was European voice-over talent and blogging machine, Paul Strikwerda. Being the damn good blogger that he is, he said something that has haunted me more and more as time goes on (and NO, I will not attempt to read this with his Dutch accent):
I haven’t quite reached that point yet, but as time goes on, I occasionally get the feeling that it’s starting to feel like that. I’m not putting it off, nor do I consider it a burden, but this audioblog is occasionally feeling a bit more like a…chore, I suppose would be the proper word. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, that’s my favorite part! What I don’t enjoy is thinking of something to write about. Writer’s block has been most unkind to me on more than one occasion.
For that reason, I decided to reach out to my fellow bloggers this week, and to any potential bloggers worried about not getting anything started due to writer’s block. Here are some ideas that I have!
1) Talk about why your life sucks. Okay, not quite, but rather, talk about a problem you recently had in your VO career and see if you can’t write your thoughts about the best solution to it. Other people may appreciate your contributions! Not too long ago, my main email address crashed on me, and I think my story of how I solved the problem and remained in contact with my clients will probably end up becoming one of my next audioblog entries.
2) Talk about why other people’s lives suck. The VO industry only has so many subjects that haven’t been talked about. I won’t repeat them here, because I don’t need to…you’ve likely heard them over and over again. What’s the best editing program, is ISDN worth it, how do I market myse–NO, NO, I promised I wouldn’t repeat them here, sorry. Still, write about some questions that you see others asking, so that way, if somebody else ever asks you one of the many questions that gets asked for the eighteen quadrillionth time, you can just say, “Well, I actually wrote on this–here’s a link, have a look!”
3) Write about how you don’t have anything to talk about. Very lame if used repeatedly, but once in a while won’t hurt if it’s given some context. I did it once!
4) Strike up a conversation about VO…with someone who has nothing to do with VO. Why do we want to know what outsiders think? Because it gives us a very good idea of how our business is perceived and, by extension, the value of our business. I was depositing a check from one of my gigs not too long ago, and the guy behind the desk asked me, “Voice-overs sounds like a cool job…how does work find you?” Most working voice actors should know what’s wrong with the last five words of his question. Actually, hold on, I’ll give you a second to go back and count the words.
Anyway, I responded, “Ho boy, if only it were that simple…work doesn’t usually find me, I have to find work.” That could be a blog entry in and of itself!
5) Set a deadline, but wait until the last minute to actually do anything. Some see this as irresponsible, and indeed, with certain things, it is. However, if used properly, procrastination can be a powerful creative tool. I once had an English teacher who assigned both in-class and take-home essays, and he always said, “Guys, the in-class ones are so much better. I think it’s ’cause you’re pressured to do well. When the pressure’s off, you guys suck!” And he’s right! When the pressure’s on, you think harder. For that reason, I write (and voice) an audioblog entry every Sunday, but about 90% of them are conceived and written Sunday morning. It’s not just me, either! Even Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys who make “South Park,” said that they only feel they’re at their creative best when an incomplete episode is due to go on the air in a few hours.
Writer’s block doesn’t have to cripple you, and I hope some of these suggestions will keep your creative juices flowing. On the other hand, sometimes writer’s block inevitably does cripple you…so take a week off! Y’know what’s going to happen? Nothing. Nobody’s internet presence is indispensable (and yes, I’m counting myself as well). The world will continue to go on it’s daily business. If you write, write for fun, and about something you enjoy!
A green apple. Surrounded by water. Is it *possible* to have a more fitting symbolic image for the preparation a voice actor must undergo for their auditions and roles? I think not.
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Daniel Day-Lewis, one of my favorite movie actors, is…a bit unusual. He’s unusual in that the degree to which he will prepare for a role is almost unrivaled. He will actually try to live the role if he can. When he was done training for his role in the movie, “The Boxer,” his trainer said that Day-Lewis probably could have gone pro if he wanted. His extreme efforts, and the efforts of actors who use similarly extreme methods, were parodied through Robert Downey Jr.’s character in the hilarious movie, “Tropic Thunder,” and rather ironically, Downey was nominated for an Oscar…for his portrayal of an actor who cared for nothing more than winning Oscars.Thankfully, as voice actors, we don’t quite have to do things like live in a replica 1692 village and build our own house without electricity or running water to prepare for our roles (something that Day-Lewis actually did for his role in “The Crucible”), but if you think for one moment that we can do this without preparation…think again.
Granted, we don’t have all that much time. You’ve likely heard many experienced VO talent recommend improv classes for beginners, and that’s precisely why. We gotta make creative decisions with lightning-fast speed, not only because we’re not given much time to prepare, but also because in today’s “I need it yesterday” world, we’re not even given that much time to actually do our job, quite frankly. Still, this job is competitive, so if you’re smart, you’ll do a tiny bit of preparing to give yourself a slight edge. Here are a few suggestions that I’ve got:
1) LOOK UP words you’re not sure how to pronounce! Nothing says, “I’m lazy and doing this quickly” quite like mispronounced words. Heck, you can write, “How do you pronounce (insert word here)” into Google nowadays! If it’s a company name, scour YouTube for it. If you can get in touch with the client, ask them how to pronounce odd words! Otherwise you’ll end up sounding like that guy in the “Mr. Dumass” commercial (search YouTube for it when you’re done with this, it’s one of my favorites).
2) Determine the age group! Be as specific as you can possibly be. I remember when I was 6, I got very offended when somebody said I was 5. I mean, I was polite and said, “No, I’m 6,” but on the inside I was thinking, “No, I’m 6, and I will thank you not to lump me in with the other 5-year-old morons, thank you very much!” I once did an infomercial in which I spoke in my regular voice, but when the client called me back and said, “Great delivery, but this is a children’s toy, think 6 years old”…then I had to up the pitch and the enthusiasm little bit! It might have annoyed an older audience, but hey, this product wasn’t for them anyway.
3) If the thing you’re auditioning for has a length–30 seconds, a minute, whatever–make damn sure that your audition is that length as well. A mistake I made early on was that I didn’t pay too much attention to time in the interest of giving a relaxed performance where I wasn’t pressured. Looking back, I think that was a mistake. Why, pray tell, would the client choose your 50-second audition for a 30-second spot when they’ve got a gajillion other voice actors who actually took all those little details into account? Furthermore, while this isn’t exactly super-common, some clients are so rushed that they may just ask to use your audition as the final product. Like I said, we live in a “we need it yesterday” world!
4) …..Okay…….please don’t yell at me for stating a “no, duh” fact….but…..keep hydrated and eat green apples. I know, I know, a ton of my readers and listeners just said out loud, “Thank you, Colonel Obvious!” I don’t mention this in the context of vocal health, though, I actually mention this in the context of speed. If you sound too dehydrated, it may necessitate another take, and things like mouth noises and clicks…I mean…yeah, they can be edited out, but that takes more time than just making sure your mouth is click-free beforehand. For that reason, I consider green apples to be the symbol of preparation for a voice actor.
5)Think of something that generally evokes the emotion you’re trying to convey. I know many people advise thinking of the specifics of your target audience rather than going for a general feeling, and I’m not opposed to that. At all. However, I think that, before you get into specifics, it’s best to think of something that has the general, overall emotional feel that you’re going for. ‘Cause if you just go straight into specifics, then–in my humble opinion, of course–you’ll just end up carrying your every-day baggage into the recording session. If the spot you’re auditioning for calls for a humorous tone, and you’re in a bad mood, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the specific choices of your target audience down. You won’t sound funny, you’ll just sound like someone who’s in a bad mood and trying to be funny (who has their target audience figured out). So if it’s a funny spot, think of something funny before you start making specific choices. For me, that would be Ernie Anderson’s blooper reel.
As always, I never give advice, only opinions, but I hope my opinions might prove a little helpful to somebody out there. Anyway, now that that’s over with, search YouTube for “Mr. Dumass!”
The Neumann U87, generally considered to be the “studio standard” of condenser microphones.
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I know that audio technology isn’t everybody’s thing. To some, it’s nerd material. So, from this point out, all of my audioblog entries that deal with audio technology will have the following sound byte placed in front of them when dorky or nerdy material is approaching: “WARNING, NERD MATERIAL!” So, to that end…”WARNING, NERD MATERIAL!” I’d like you guys to do an experiment for me. Watch the video below starting at the 3:08 mark, and watch until the 3:28. Don’t watch anything else.
DON’T WANNA READ? THEN (CONTINUE) LISTEN(ING)!:
Done? Okay. Well, what you just saw was the comparison of two different microphones…except both of them were the same. Confused? They were two different models of the same condenser mic, the Neumann U87. This mic is considered by many to be the best condenser mic currently being manufactured. However, the first model, the Neumann U87i, was–
–hold on, hold on, stay with me, non-nerds, I’m going somewhere with this!
So yeah, the first model, the Neumann U87i, was released in 1967. Almost 20 years later, in 1986, a new model was released, the Neumann U87ai, with the only difference being a (very) slight modification to the voltages of the mics. This resulted in some minor sound differences that, by the opinion of the professional audio engineers in this video, were so minor that someone could use the mics for stereo recording purposes, or even swap them out during a recording session, and no one would know the difference.
So, you have undoubtedly asked…where am I going with this? Here’s where I’m going with this: none of what I have written so far in this entry matters.
When you listened to the audio comparison just now, could you tell the difference? If you couldn’t, don’t be ashamed! As VO talent, we are constantly looking for ways to increase the value of our services, and one of the ways we often decide to increase the value of our services is by making investments in our home studio. The compulsion to improve our audio quality is not abnormal by any means–hell, if you’re a voice actor who isn’t at all concerned with audio quality, then chances are you’re not doing very well–but at a certain point, it no longer matters that much. It eventually gets to a point where, no matter how expensive or “high-end” your equipment is, the only people who are going to be able to tell the differences in the audio are audio dorks. For that matter, the differences aren’t even a matter of “good” vs “bad,” it’s just differences in sound that will be better for certain applications. If you look at the entirety of the video, you’ll note that the two Neumanns were used for different applications (namely acoustic guitar, singing, and voice-over), and that the engineers noted a preference for different models depending on the application.
Now, the next question you may ask is, “Dave, if you’re just gonna tell me what happens in the video, why did you have me start and stop watching at a specific point?”
Well, that’s because of an interesting find I found in this video, an audio conference with established audio professionals (as in, click this blue text to view it). In fact, this thing is such a freaking treasure trove of audio info that the discussions to be had about specific points in the video will probably supply me a few more audioblog entries! So I won’t discuss all of the points made at length, but one of the first points made was a very interesting one: if a listener has reason to assume that certain audio samples will be different, they will listen for those differences, and remember the audio samples differently than those who were not listening for differences. To quote presenter James Johnston, “This is not deception, this is just the way your brain works.”
So this audioblog entry was really just an experiment to see if people would notice differences if they weren’t told to listen for them. I’m very curious to know how many of you went back and re-listened to that i vs ai comparison video after I made my intentions more clear. Did you notice differences between the i and the ai models after re-listening? Well, you may not be able to attribute that to actually hearing the differences, so much as you may attribute that to the fact that you were told to listen for differences.
If you’ve managed to swim through that Sea of Nerd just there, there is, once again, a larger point to be made about VO even for non-nerds, and it’s this: audio quality is important, but not to the extreme. Yes, it’s very important, but it’s not as though every audio sample is going to be submitted to Skywalker Ranch for complicated audio analysis. Most of our clients aren’t going to be listening to our audio samples going, “Eh, it could have been less compressed, or perhaps a little more emphasis could have been put on the high-end frequencies.” They’re just listening to our audio and going, “Um…….yeah. Yeah, sounds good.” Or they’re listening to it and going, “Um…….neh, not diggin’ it too much.”
So while audio quality is definitely important, eventually it gets to a point where only nerds–nerds who are actively listening for the sake of incredibly specific analysis–will be able to discern any differences. If you really want to stand out, then it’s your acting skills and ability to interpret your clients’ copy that will truly be the deal-breaker!
Were it possible for me to post a picture of the poster for the movie, “Cop Out,” I would. Since that’s not legally possible for copyright issues, I decided to just use the trailer of the film. Which is legal, for some reason…how does that work? Oh, well. The reason I’m putting it there is because this weekend, I’m moving, so I haven’t had time to think of an audioblog entry of sufficient merit…I’m coping out this week.
However, for the sake of not *entirely* copping out, I do have one minor thing that my regular readers may wish to take note of. Since I started writing/voicing my audioblog, I didn’t know if it was going to turn into anything substantial or not. It was just a glorified experiment (at best). However, in the time that has passed since then, I decided that I really like blogging, and that I’m gonna keep doing it! Since I’m gonna keep doing it, though, I decided that “DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG” was in need of some organization, rather than a giant list of entries (which is what it has been so far).
So…to that end…I have divided all of my audioblog entries into sections, each one about a particular subject, and each one containing a short audio intro by me. Click “|| Navigate This Blog! ||” to learn more about them. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to disassemble my booth…oh, man…this ain’t gonna be fun.
Among the people who get automatic email notification for whenever I post a new audioblog entry, my mother is one of them…but since I already wrote an audioblog entry for my mother on Mother’s Day, it only makes sense that I’d make one for my father on Father’s Day! Like before, there will undoubtedly be some people who cringe or roll their eyes at the fact that I’m using my audioblog for “mushy stuff”…and like before, I will say to those people…too bad, it’s my blog!
For those who don’t know, my name is actually Dave Wallace Jr. Dave Wallace Sr. is a brilliant man, and while I don’t think I inherited my dad’s brain power, I like to believe I inherited his determination (which is a nicer word for “stubbornness,” as I inherited that from him too). To put it lightly, he’s good at what he does, and if I can turn into just as successful a voice actor as he is a lawyer, that’ll be quite the feat…but it’s for his compassion that I am most proud to be his son. I’m not the best at returning phone calls, but that has never stopped him from calling me all the time to ask how I’m doing, and I’m grateful for every single time.
So Dad, I’m not sure whether you’ll read this first or see me first come Sunday morning–well, I suppose “today” might be the more appropriate word, but I’m recording this in advance–but either way…I love you!
The guy featured in the opening clip is an enormously talented (as in he makes seven figures) VO talent by the name of Ben Patrick Johnson. He most certainly does have a great voice, and his talent is enough to justify the money he makes (and, by all accounts, he’s a really nice guy). Here’s the thing, though…this particular audioblog entry is about why I’m not really intimidated by him, nor am I worried about him–because we’re not competing for the same jobs.
The five words that are probably some of the most harmful words to people entering the VO business (or, at the very least, those who are thinkin’ about it) are, “You have a great voice.” I’ve said it many times, and people who have been doing it for much longer than I have said it even more times: it takes much more than a great voice to succeed in this business. So I was inspired to write this audioblog entry when someone was nice enough to give me that “great voice” compliment some time ago after visiting my website and looking at some of the projects I’ve done. My response? “Well, I’m glad you think so, but honestly, I only have a good voice–at best–for the things they use my voice for.”
What do I mean by that? I mean that I only get hired for jobs where my voice and acting ability can add something to a particular VO project–be it credibility, youth, reassurance, excitement, sincerity, what have you. Knowing what your vocal specialty is in this business is a necessity if you intend to compete. For me, that’s the “young, hip, cool” sound. Whenever I get an audition that requests a “deep, gritty, movie trailer voice”…than I won’t even audition for it. ‘Cause that just ain’t my voice (or, to use the metaphor recently employed by my online VO buddy Derek Chappell, it ain’t my make and model). Unless, of course, the client is intentionally looking for a humorously fakey-sounding parody of the typical movie trailer voice style perfected by the late Don LaFontaine, Hal Douglas, and Ben Patrick Johnson…but they usually aren’t.
Weird thing, though…in many ways, this goes against what I was taught in high school and in college, where I was educated in acting. There, they emphasized versatility above all else. They emphasized the ability to adapt to any character whatsoever…anything from a neurotic teenager to a grizzly old man. They wanted you to get inside the character’s head, no matter who the character was. Whether or not you’d realistically be cast in this role in a real-life situation was irrelevant.
As well-intentioned as that may have been (hey, education is about allowing someone to flex their creative muscles and think outside the box), there’s a bit of a disconnect between the art of acting and the business of acting. In the art of acting, we’re supposed to be as versatile an actor as possible so that we can take on as many roles as possible. In the business of acting, though, the most successful actors are the ones who can market themselves effectively by telling all potential clients, “Hey–here’s how you can use me.” Casting nowadays–not just in VO, but in all forms of acting–is typecasting. “Typecasting” used to be an evil word that meant the end of an actor’s career, but now it’s simply a wise business practice.
Discouraged that you can’t do whatever you want in VO? Don’t be. The good thing about this is that I don’t have to worry about the deep-voiced movie trailer guys. Why? Because, as enormously talented as these guys are, their voices sound nothing like mine, and are so far separated from mine that I don’t have to wonder if I’m losing jobs to them. I’m not. The jobs that they’re getting are jobs that I never had any chance of getting, because my specialty is different than theirs. Similarly, they’re not getting jobs that demand voices of the “young, hip, cool” variety. VO is competitive, sure, but you’re never competing against everyone.
VO is a tough job, but there’s one universal benefit–it requires a lot of introspection about what your talents are. Remember, you are enough! Don LaFontaine once said, “The best voice actors I know are the voice actors who understand their relationship with words.” So really, I know that few people talk this way, but if you really want to compliment a voice actor, the best thing you can possibly say is not, “You have a great voice”…but rather, “You really know how to use your voice.”
I’m gonna make a prediction in this entry about where VO is headed…in the future! The thing is, I’m a tad scared to make it. I mean, aren’t some movies pretty laughable in how off they were in their predictions about what will happen in the future? Take “Back To The Future Part 2,” for example, in the clip that I opened my entry with. According to that movie, our cities will look like THAT in…2015. Three years. If they’re right, then DAMN is there going to be a rapid explosion of technology in three years! Or how about “Blade Runner,” which supposedly takes place in 2019, and shows a Los Angeles with a smog-covered sky, lots of buildings, and lots of crowds that make it difficult to see where you’re going……..actually, that is Los Angeles, never mind. What I’m trying to say is don’t laugh at me too much if, years later, my predictions of the future turn out to be wrong. However, I’m gonna use some actual examples to back up my prediction: namely, my prediction that VO will be completely replaced with on-camera and 3D motion-capture acting.
What I’m using as the basis for my prediction is…video games. Yeah, I know, “But Dave, those are video games, not your usual day-to-day VO jobs”…right? Well hey, that’s why I said this is a prediction of the future. Currently, only clients like video game and movie companies can afford this top-dollar technology, but every technology gets cheaper in time, and I can definitely see the average client using this technology when it gets cheaper.
Y’see, I’m a bit of a weirdo when it comes to video games in that a game’s story has always been the #1 factor for me, and few stories had more effective acting than a game called “Heavy Rain.” To give the plot an absurdly quick summary, the protagonist’s 10-year-old son is kidnapped by a serial killer who continually taunts the protagonist with clues as to where he’s keeping the boy. Needless to say, that’s a pretty dark and intense story, but creator David Cage was pretty vocal that he wanted to create a video game experience that was just as emotionally provocative as a movie. To do that, it goes without saying that the acting needed to be top-notch so that players could get emotionally invested. Rather than just doing voice-over, though…Cage went the extra mile.
All of the characters in the game were designed to look completely identical to the voice actors who played them. And they did a pretty good job with it, if I do say so myself. Check out how creepy the similarities are.
The characters in “Heavy Rain” were designed to resemble their voice actors.
Conceptually speaking, that’s not quite new. Back in the old days, Disney was filming live-action sequences on film to use as a reference for their animation, and often had the voice actors serve as the physical models for the characters they played. The point behind this, though, is so that no gamer could ever complain, “That voice doesn’t sound like it fits”…because the voice belongs to the person they’re portraying.
Then, however, comes the voice acting. After designing the characters based on the voice actors who played them, and having them act out their scenes using motion-capture technology, it was time to record the voices. That’s a process that, under normal circumstances, means just having the actors come in, record their lines, and having the animators make the facial reactions. With “Heavy Rain,” though, they literally put motion capture gear on the actors’ faces while they recorded their lines, so that both their vocal delivery and their facial expressions would be captured. So the acting in “Heavy Rain” can’t really even be called “voice acting,” because it was acting on all three fronts–body, face, AND voice. To date, not even a Pixar movie has done this.
The video below shows the entire process. I’ll also end this portion of my audio narration here so you can watch the video.
FAIR WARNING: The scenes in this video from the 0:51 mark to the 1:21 mark, while not inappropriate per say, might be a little too intense for people who are bothered by physical violence, and it’s beyond my ability to edit out since I’m embedding this video from another source. So please skip that section if you’re bothered by violence.
DONE VIEWING? THEN GET BACK ‘TA LISTENING!:
“Heavy Rain” may be revolutionary now but, honestly…I think that’s where all VO is headed. Who’s to say that, when the technology gets (MUCH) cheaper, that e-learning client of yours won’t be asking if you have face-capture gear to give their e-learning program more of a personal touch? What if a major Los Angeles-based advertising company wants you to film a few sequences in your home green screen studio for use in their new commercial for Dove soap? Absurd, right?
Yeah, absurd. Just like people said home VO studios would only be a thing for the rich…before they turned into a necessity to compete in this business. Or just like people said that you had to go to a major studio to record VO…before people started delivering audio over the internet. Let’s be honest, folks…soon, more and more clients are gonna be asking us for HD audio, before moving on to more intense demands as the technology gets cheaper. Granted, I could be totally off, and either way, motion-capture acting isn’t gonna become commonplace any time soon…but I firmly believe that’s where we’re headed. Makes me all the more glad that I trained in areas of acting beyond VO!
*sound of record scratching*
EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT…OR LISTEN ALL ABOUT IT, DEPENDING ON YOUR PREFERENCE AND INTERNET CONNECTION SPEED! This audioblog entry was originally published on June 3rd, but I’ve got an update as of June 15th that I’d like to share with you all. This entry of mine received a very polarized response, with some very worried about my prediction, and others saying, “Dave, calm the heck down!” Well, this audioblog entry was written with a slight tongue-in-cheek tone, but it lies somewhere between a joke and a prediction. Like I said, motion-capture technology isn’t going to become commonplace anytime soon…but one VO talent by the name of Peter Drew was nice enough to point me to an article he wrote–years ago, mind you–on a threat that is even more imminent…a computer program that can actually mimic convincing human speech. I do mean convincing, too, not that fake stuff that you’re hearing in this particular clip. Check out the article here!
When I set first set out to make a bog late last year, I asked the VO community for advice on what makes a good blog. The most interesting thing, to me, was how consistently I received two particular pieces of advice that were completely contradictory! The first one was, “Personalize your blog, so you can make sure it’s unique.” The other piece of advice was, “Don’t talk about yourself.”
…Umm…wait, what? Am I, like, the only one who was confused when I read that?
And I friggin’ heard it over and over again, too!
“Make sure that your blog is unique to you.”
“Don’t talk about yourself.”
“Personalize your blog.”
“Don’t write ‘ME-ME-ME’ Stories, no one will read them.”
“The best voice actors are the voice actors who let their unique experiences and relationship with words guide the delivery of their copy, and it’s the same thing with a blog.”
“Nobody cares about your personal trials and tribulations, they’ve got their own to worry about, especially since it’s mostly other VO talent who will read it.”
“Only by making your blog personal can you make it stand out among the cluttered blogosphere.”
“Don’t talk about yourself, that’s just advertising.”
The best conclusion I could come to was that good blogs were blogs where the authors kept their personal experiences brief, and then used them to talk about a larger point that was relevant to the VO community at large. So there were personal experiences, sure, but they were usually summed up in a sentence or two before moving on to talk about the bigger picture. For that reason, there is a line that divides blogging and advertising, but it’s pretty razor-thin if you think about it.
Wai-wai-wait, hold on, hold on! I’m getting to a broader point, I promise!
Anyway. I was thinking about writing an audioblog entry about the process behind its conception, and why I like my new website so much. The idea, of course, being that I would be starting a conversation about the larger, broader topic of what I think makes a good website (unique design, downloadable demos, easily-accessed contact info, stuff like that). The thing is, every time I sat down to write that entry, I kept thinking to myself, “Hold on…am I advertising? I don’t mean to…how do I make that last sentence sound more helpful and less like the copy for an infomercial…?”
There are a few audioblog entries that I simply never went through with for that exact reason. They just sat in my draft folder, and never saw the light of day. I started from scratch, because I couldn’t help but think, “Hold on…of what use is this to someone else? Not much at all, really.”
I set out, long ago, to divide my blog and my website as distinctly as I possibly could with regard to its goals. I’m not saying I don’t advertise myself. I have to. Go to my website, or my Facebook page (page, not profile), my Tumblr account, or a couple other social media profiles that aren’t particularly conversation-centered…and you’ll find that I advertise the living hell out of myself. Like I said, we have to, it’s the nature of our business. If no one is aware we exist, we can’t expect to get work. My goal, though, was to make sure, to the extent that I could, that my blog would be an open conversation, for anyone, on all things VO. My audience, after all, is mostly other VO talent. I’d have to imagine that if I just turned my blog into a long rant about myself, that the immediate reaction’s just gonna be, “Uh-huh, that’s nice Dave, we don’t care.”
So, for however little it’s worth, here are a few ways I tried to make my blog personal without turning it into a glorified ad.
2) Add a (somewhat) unique feature to it. For me, that was the narration feature. I figured, I’m in voice-over, so it only makes sense for me to narrate my own entries, right? I figured it would give a personal touch. Sure, many people won’t listen and would prefer just to read, but the narration feature is there if they want it.
3) Add a blogroll, or a list of other blogs people can check out. It’s a nice little way of sayin’, “Hey, I’m not the center of the universe.”
4) Link to other social media in general. I post my audioblog entries in a number of forums on Linkedin, and whenever I find that good discussion has arisen on a particular thread, I go back and edit my audioblog entries to include links to those discussion threads. I think other people bring up great points about my entries and further the discussion to the point where I want future readers to know about it.
5) Acknowledge that it’s partially impossible. My website is for advertising, and my blog is for discussion, and I try to keep the two separate…but there’s no denying that my blog will help me a little bit on the advertising end. Each blog entry makes me a tad more Google-friendly (something we ALL want, let’s be honest), and while I don’t claim myself to be a VO superstar by any means, it did help my internet presence–more people knew who I was after I started blogging than before.
I guess a funny way to end this entry would be a sentence with some sort of “wink-wink” humor to the effect of, “So remember, make your posts relevant, and don’t advertise yourself…like placing videos to projects you did, such as this one I recently completed for Miken Accu-Flex 2.0 hockey sticks.” However, I’m not going to do that. I would never, ever, EVER post videos of VO projects I recently completed below this paragraph.
Okay, sorry, now I backed myself into an uncomfortable position where I have to post the video to make the joke work–you don’t have to watch it, go ahead and ignore it if you want!
It’s great to have pride in your job…just remember what your job is.
DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:
Times are tough in this economy. So, in an attempt to keep our business strong, I think many of us, as a natural reaction, have come to uphold VO as a sacred art. An irreplaceable one. One that only we can do! One in which we, as sacred keepers of our god-like voices, stand atop Mt. Olympus and declare to the heavens, “GOD, I ROCK!!!” So imagine how much of a reality check it was when a respected colleague of mine posted this in one of my favorite forums (voice-overs.com–I highly recommend it!). By all means, go check it out for yourself, but here’s the most important part of it: he quoted another (successful) voice actor who said, “I think some people are taking our jobs waaaay too seriously. We say words for money. That’s it. And we should be grateful we were given nice voices and the ability to learn how to act.”
Ho. Ly. CRAP. Considering all the talk about the “infestation of newbies,” the “rates crisis,” and the “devaluing of VO services” that takes place today, this was a very brave thing of them to say…and, in my opinion, so desperately needed!
I love what I do. At the same time, I feel like it’s important to be realistic about what my job is really worth. I think it’s important to take criticism, to laugh at myself, and to keep my real-life priorities in check. Heresy, I know, but it’s a heresy that we all need to take to heart a bit.
Think about it. Sure, as VO talent, for the sake of our business, we want as much exposure as we can get. We all want that national spot for McDonald’s. We all want to dethrone Robert Downey Jr. as the voice of Nissan. We all want to be recognized as serious, competent VO talent so that we can command a respectable business. Because if we command a respectable business, we command respect, right?
Nope. C’mon, guys. Most people don’t want to listen to us…and “us” includes Robert Downey Jr., for that matter–most of the people I talk to have no idea that he does the Nissan commercials! The average person doesn’t watch TV for advertisements, they watch it for their favorite TV shows. In fact, I don’t think it would be such a stretch for me to say that there are people out there who hate ads. Think of it this way. Y’know when you’re watching a YouTube video with a lot of hits, and an ad pops up, and the “Skip To Video” button becomes available after five seconds? How many of you just have your cursor hovering over that skip button, rapidly clicking, just begging to get to your video and not caring at all about whatever ad is being shoved in your face?
Yup. That’s what I thought!
For that matter, businesses are catching on to the fact that people don’t like ads…most notably, DVR makers. According to an article* in the Wall Street Journal by Shalini Ramachandran, Dish Network unveiled a new DVR feature back in March that’s slowly gaining more prominence called “Auto Hop” which allows watchers to automatically skip the ads of their recorded programs. Apparently, some networks aren’t too happy about this.
To be fair, clearly advertising on TV has some value, or else it wouldn’t cost anything. By “some,” I mean that the same article noted that CBS brings in $4.9 billion in advertising revenue from “Two and a Half Men”‘s time slot alone. NBC brings in $4.7 billion from ads that air during “Smash,” ABC brings in $3.9 billion from ads that air during “Modern Family,” and Fox gets a nice $3.1 billion from ads that air during “American Idol.” So, yeah, not exactly chump change. Still, the fact that there’s a demand for something like Auto-Hop is proof enough of what our job is in the grand scheme of things: we speak words for money.
Sure, there’s acting involved. Sure, it’s more difficult than it looks (well, sounds). Sure, one has to make sure they can do the best job they can do with their audio equipment and their recording environment. Sure, it takes a consistent marketing effort. Sure, not everyone can do this. Sure, being successful at this business–at any business–involves taking ourselves seriously to a degree. I won’t ever say, argue, or imply that this is a skill-less, thankless, meaningless job. It most certainly isn’t! My point, and the point of the person quoted above, is merely that there is such a thing as taking one’s job too seriously sometimes. Remember, we speak words for money. Words that, even when spoken by Iron Man, people generally aren’t interested in hearing.