DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:
Y’know…those old Western movies are so cool. The ones where two dudes have a showdown on an old, dusty road, and then out of nowhere the good guy draws his gun and, aiming from his hip, takes out the bad guy in one shot. It’s so damned impressive…and there’s a reason it’s so damned impressive–because in real life, that almost never works.
In real life, both of the dudes in the showdown would take care to aim carefully so that they could hit their target–their life is on the line, after all! If one of them missed, then in all likelihood they’d run away screaming like a little girl while the other one kept shooting until they got a successful hit (and quite frankly, I really wish they had made a Western movie where one of John Wayne’s characters did just that, if only for my amusement).
All of this to say, if you want to hit your target, you have to aim very precisely and carefully. Carelessly aiming from the hip seriously downgrades your accuracy. And if you miss your shot, you’re just wasting your time and your ammo. Now, in the interest of honesty, I’ve never held a gun in my life except for this one time when I was 12 years old and shot clay pigeons with my Dad. I’ve also held guns before in video games, but I’m pretty sure those don’t count. However, I’ve watched enough episodes of COPS to know that no actual police officer aims from the hip.They raise their gun to eye level and are as careful and as calculating as they can be given how dangerous their situation is.
…Oh, what!? Don’t judge me, COPS is a good show!
In any event, here’s why I bring this up. I’m not switching the focus of my blog from VO to guns, weaponry, and 2nd amendment rights. Rather, it’s a metaphor for how best to approach VO–aim carefully! Think about the copy ahead of time. Think about where it will be used, who the target audience is, what words to emphasize, where to take your pitch during your reads, how fast to deliver certain lines, what tone to use…thinking about all of these things ahead of time will always, always, always lead to much better reads! Will it guarantee you the best conceivable read in the world? Absolutely not. It will, however, guarantee you the best conceivable read that *you* can give with your current skill level.
Because let’s be honest, for all the talk of how we should aim carefully, sometimes…we don’t. Not everyone will admit this, of course. That’s to be expected. There will inevitably be one or two voice actors who read this and proclaim otherwise. “Absolutely not! I put every ounce of energy and thought I have into every single piece of copy that I read, taking lots of careful time to get the details right!”
…With all due respect, pardon me if I don’t believe you for one second.
Nobody is immune to habits. In anything we do on a day-to-day basis, we inevitably fall into certain habits. Even if we don’t intend to. In the rush of a busy VO day, it’s very tempting to not mark up the copy, or not think about it before we send out an audition. Which is not to say that we don’t put effort into it, but rather, we don’t put that much thought into it. We’ll take a quick glance at the overall feel of the copy and go, “Okay, I’ll go with my warm friendly voice,” or, “Okay, I’ll go with my intense promo voice.” I think there’s some benefit to this very quick style of thinking in that it helps our cold reading skills, but the benefits of aiming from the hip are outweighed by the benefits of aiming carefully from the eyes. It sure beats turning out a quick audition, only to go back to it later and think, “Ugh…no, no, no, that wasn’t my best take!”
Let me end this blog entry with a quote by a guy named Shigeru Miyamoto. You may not know him, but you know of his work–he made all the Mario games, the Zelda games, the Metroid Prime games, the Donkey Kong games…even if you don’t play video games, all those iconic video game names that you’ve inevitably heard tossed around were his idea. He had a reputation for committing to a release date for his games, only to push it back again, and again, and again, all because he felt the final result wasn’t ready. When his producers asked him why, he always responded, “Because a delayed game will be good eventually, but a bad game is bad forever.” Same thing with VO. A take that you took slightly longer to think about, or an audition that you took slightly longer to edit, will be as good as it can be eventually, but a bad take or a bad audition…is bad forever.