Too often, voiceover artists decide to go it alone in the booth. “It’s me against the world.” Brand new script. Critical engineer. Anxious producers. Annoyed executives on phone patch. It doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t forget who’s literally paid to be your biggest coach and cheerleader. The engineer. It’s in the engineer’s best interest to have a great session. That means making you sound great. That means catering to your needs. That means communicating and solving problems, sometimes subtly and under the producer’s radar. Use your engineer’s talents and investment in the job to your advantage.
Ready. Set. Record.
When you arrive early, get comfortable. (That’s right I said early). Own the booth. Put your water within easy reach. And your pencil. Ask for help when adjusting the music stand. The engineer should have been on that the minute you entered the booth. Position yourself in front of the mic where sound pickup is appropriate but don’t let the mic invade your personal space. Is the mic in the way of the script? Is the light on the stand casting a shadow because of the mic position? Fix it or ask for it to be fixed. It’s your gig. Getting comfortable at the start of the session does not mean you’re being needy or high maintenance. It ensures that you can focus on your job for the rest of the session.
Have the headphone volume knob within easy reach so you can make adjustments without interrupting the flow of the session. Request the right balance between music and dialogue tracks. Get the right talk-back level balance. Ask for the volume of the phone patch to be adjusted. Don’t start until it’s right. Requesting adjustments in the middle of a session can interrupt the flow. If levels aren’t ideal, you’re working with a handicap. While you’re trying to change your second read based on producer notes and making script corrections, you’re one distraction away from an unnecessary stumble.
After you hear, “standby”, and you can see producers discussing your initial read, watch the engineer’s body language. Often, engineers are more transparent with negative feedback than producers. If you can see faces from the booth, look for an encouraging sign or a wince in-between reads. Try to develop a professional connection with the engineer from the get go. If you had a perfect read but the engineer needs another one for “safety”, don’t argue. There are full range studio monitors in the control room and the engineer is listening in the sweet spot. He or she will hear problems that you won’t. Don’t make the engineer explain and announce the problem to the producers: a slurry S, too much “tuh” instead of “to”, ”family” is two syllables… or is it one?…. perhaps you weren’t consistent in your read. Maybe you were off mic. Maybe the speed was 10% too fast. Remember, the engineer is on your side and may be the person editing audio after the session. He or she needs that extra take just in case… or maybe because you’re great read really wasn’t that great. Just give it to him. Unless the session is painfully slow because of technical issues, the talent will get blamed before the engineer. That means you.
Meet and Greet
Don’t forget professional etiquette after recording. Many producers want to get going right away, dispensing with pre-session small talk so recording stays on schedule. After the session and especially if you finish early, there’s time for meet and greet. Connect with your engineer. You can guarantee there will be feedback for the producers and studio manager. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were kind words said? Make a positive last impression.
Feedback From the Engineer
Enjoy this recording studio audition clip from Rock Star starring Mark Wallberg. The scene exemplifies the angst felt by voice talent who, without proper body language and feedback, have no idea they’re they’re crushing expectations in the control room.
Cheers to your voice. We hope to see you in the booth.