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Directing Voice Actors 101

In addition to being a composer and music producer, I spend a fair amount of time directing voice actors for various types of projects. I thought I’d pass on a few ideas that have helped me along the way.

Hire great talent
Okay, this is not always going to be possible as budgets seem to get smaller and smaller. If you work with great voice actors, your project will immediately be better before you give one ounce of direction. I know this seems logical, but worth saying none the less.
Don’t overwork the actors
They’re going to be better earlier on before you tire them out. Record everything. You never know how good a take will be.
Micromanaging is bad
You probably have an idea in your head as to how you want them to say every word. There is more than one way. Think big picture and overall performance. It’s still a performance that needs rhythm, and pace. Not unlike a vocal performance in songs.
Careful with line reads
The better the actor, the less they like or need line reads.
Dealing with takes
Once you’ve zeroed in on a tone you like and the pace is set, let your voice talent do a few takes without interruption. If you like at least half of each performance, you’re probably going to be able to put a complete one together by combining lines from the different takes. Pick the best take and use it as your starting point. When you find a line you don’t like, take a listen to the other takes to find an alternate. After you’ve gone through the script and have the best lines edited together, listen through and see what you need to fix. Usually, you’ll be about 80 percent done and just have a few lines to record. This keeps your talent fresh and the session moving along at quicker pace.
Be positive
Everyone wants to do a good job and voice talent is no exception. Staying upbeat and focusing on the positive is going to get you a better performance every time.
Don’t over-direct
Sometimes saying less is saying more. See what develops and let the actor do their thing. Of course you need to set the stage and give them basic direction, but hopefully you’ve hired a professional who will bring something special to your project.
A word about casting
It’s easier than ever to have a great demo reel. When you’re looking for voice talent, listen for range, tone and diversity. Demos are a little like Photoshop, the real thing might not be as good.

As always, feel free to send in questions or comments.
DL

 

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