The Voice in the Booth
Sexy Man Voice …
Back in the early days of GPS navigation for cars, I received an email from a Kim Kwon from South Korean. Mr Kim had found my voice details online and thought I would be ideal to be the voice of his company’s new navigation equipment.
Compared to today’s complicated and detailed instructions for in car navigation, this one was pretty simple. But still contained around 2000 instructions from turn right in 200 metres to you have reached your destination on the left.
After a few emails, voice demos and negotiations, we were set to record the instructions for English speaking Korean drivers.
The multitude of audio files were delivered and Mr Kim was very please with the finished product. In fact he paid my Invoice that very same day – this can be very rare in the Voiceover business.
Weeks went by and I didn’t give any more thought to my debut as a GPS Navigation Voiceover Artist. But then out of the blue I received a call from a guy with a very thick Asian accent. After sometime I worked out it was Kim Kwon. Initially, I thought there must have been some issues with the VOs. But this was not the case at all, Mr Kim was after a completely new batch of Voice instructions – ‘one for the ladies’. This left me a little confused, as I’d never been requested to do ‘one for the ladies’ before. It wasn’t until he said that he wanted me to be ‘Sexy Man Voice’ that the penny dropped and I realised what he required.
Mr Kim thought it would be best to give me a few examples – ‘Hey baby, we are coming up to one of our favorite destinations on our left hand side’. Even though I pretty much got the idea straight away, I just let Mr Kim give example after example for my our personal entertainment.
After a couple of days the scripts arrived. Mr Kim and his colleagues had been watching way too many sloppy American romance movies as nearly all the instructions contained the word ‘baby’ and Casanova overtones.
So, with the smooth tones of Barry White and Hot Chocolate’s You sexy thing as my inspiration – ‘Sexy Man Voice’ was born.
‘Slow down baby, because in 200 metres I need you to turn right’
‘Hey baby, in 1 kilometres we’ll be home safe and sound’
‘Turn right in 100 metres, the proceed with caution …. Nice and slow’
Occasionally I wonder if there are still ladies being guided around South Korean with help of trusty old ‘Sexy Man Voice'.
The Voice in the Booth
Sometime back, at a fairly major recording studio, for a national client, in front of a cast of around a dozen people including the clients, directors, producers, creatives and writers, the sound designer and myself were talking direction from every quarter on how this TVC we were voicing should sound.
Let’s just say … it was a very ‘yes sir, no sir’ type of recording session.
The session had been going for around 45 minutes and we’d laid down numerous takes that were so close to what everyone was after. But the general consensus was, there was something missing. We’d given almost every style a crack and I was starting run out of different ways to deliver it. In fact the words on the page were starting to become just that … words on the page.
It was at this point one of the very nicely dressed chaps sitting at the back of the room proclaims – Tangerine – I think it needs a squeeze of tangerine.
Now this guy must have pulled a bit of punch, because the entire entourage agreed whole-heartedly that indeed a small smackerel of ‘tangerine’ was required.
I immediately made eye contact with sound designer, who had his back to the room full citrus lovers, for some guidance. But all I got from him was a wide eyed stare combined with a cheeky smirk. Which basically translated to me as – you’re on your own with this fella.
With that he opens the slate and announces – this time with ‘tangerine’ …. Recording!
I looked up to see at least a dozen expectant eyes staring back at me. I’d never eaten a tangerine and had absolutely no idea what they sounded like. So I took a slow calm breath and thought of a juicy wedge of citrus and basically delivered the same read as the previous half a dozen.
At the end of the take the slate opened to sound of a slow clap and cries of “brilliant”, “outstanding”, “nailed it”, “that’s the one”
Just as I was started to feel pretty pleased with myself I realized the accolades weren’t for me – no, they were for the very well dressed Mr. Tangerine Man at the back the room.
There’s a lesson to the learned in every recoding session.
Have you every had any similar ‘tangerine moments’ – please share.
This video, written and directed by Tim Mason says it all ...
(Thanks to Dan Marsden from Whistling Wolf for sending this through to me)
The Voice in the Booth
Vocal Direction …
Tone, style, texture, emotion – All part of the direction and guidance given to a Voice Artist on how to interpret the script. It’s this vital information between the writer, directors, creative and the voice talent that ensures the desired feel is portrayed.
For example if you’re instructed to make it a little ‘darker’ – it’s time to lower the eye brows a bit, find some resonance and lower the tone, without scaring too many children.
‘Make it brighter’ means reach for that smile, conjure up Mr. Friendly and lift the pitch slightly.
‘More sell’ – Think “it’s all got to go, time is running out, you’ll never see anything like this again in your lifetime”.
‘Softer’ – try thinking of beautiful butterflies, beds of roses and dreamy white fluffy clouds – without putting everyone to sleep of course.
‘Make it Real’ – this requires a more personable approach, how do you talk day to day, out side the studio without the sell or the white fluffy clouds. Sometimes this can be the hardest to master!
It’s also so important to understand the audience you’ll talking to and mentally putting yourself in front of that audience as you deliver the words in a tone they can relate to.
Understanding the direction and audience you’re talking to are key. It can be the difference between a good read and something special, a client that is happy and client that is already booking you for the next voice over session.
But what if you’re asked to ‘add a squeeze of tangerine’ to the read? That’s a story for next time.
If you’ve got any handy tips on vocal direction – please share.
The Voice in the Booth
All Aboard ....
If you know me well, you’ll know I love to travel, particularly throughout Europe.
A few years ago, my wife and I took a trip to Vietnam. It’s a great country with an abundance of motorbikes and mopeds. After a big day of sight seeing around the capital, Hanoi, we went on our daily quest for a decent coffee (or our perception of a decent coffee anyway). We found a great spot overlooking one of the roundabouts in Hanoi. There were bikes, mopeds, motorbikes a few cars, people, dogs, chooks … you name it, going in every direction. It provided quite the show. Also enjoying the roundabout spectacular were a young Aussie couple, who joined us to say gidday and swap a few travel stories.
It turned out these guys were from Brisbane and it wasn’t long before the conversation turn to, so what do you do for a crust? After I explained I was a Voice Artist, they were very keen to know what TV or radio ads I’d voiced and they recognised a few. And as I voice all the announcements for Queensland Rail trains in Brisbane and South East Queensland, I thought they might also be familiar with these. It was at that point I realized I’d just opened up an almighty can of very wriggly worms.
“You’re joking” they said, “we catch the train every day”. And with that they started yelling out to another young couple in the café who were also from Brisbane – ‘”Hey come over here, this is the Train Voice man, you know the Doors opening, please stand behind the yellow line, voice.
They were very keen to hear a few live demos, so I thought I’d oblige with … Doors opening – please stand clear. This is a city bound train – the next station is Milton. This went on for sometime with requests for particular station announcements, warning announcements, evacuation announcements … the works!
Eventually it was time to go our separate ways and we got back to just being tourists again enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Vietnam.
The next day we made our way to Ha Long Bay, where we had booked an overnight stay and cruise on a houseboat. To our surprise, also waiting to board the houseboat were our new Aussie friends from Brisbane.
So for the next two days, those guys had me announcing everything, from safety signs … “In the event of an emergency, please wear your life jacket and evacuate in an orderly fashion” to meal times, “Dinner tonight will be served at 6:30, please assemble at the upstairs bar at 6 for pre dinner drinks and canapés”
Even though this started to wear a little thin towards the end, it turned out to be a bloody lot of fun. It just goes to prove; you never know where your Voice will be recognised.
The Voice in the Booth
Sign Language …
A number of years ago I saw a video of myself in the booth doing a voice over and was quite astounded by how physically animated I got. There were weird facial expressions, hand gestures and arms going everywhere.
Sure, I knew I always made a conscious effort to get into the character of the read as best I could, but the amount of animation surprised me.
I started to check out other voice over artists at work and discovered I wasn’t alone in the extra movements in the booth department.
I guess it helps us to emphasize the words, tone and sentiment in the script. People in many countries and cultures around the world have been perfecting the art form for centuries - Take the Italians for example, they ‘re masters at it.
My crazy sign language and hand gestures haven’t gone unnoticed either. Nathan Russell – Creative Director at NOVA in Brisbane has noted these weird movements from the booth and suggested that all my gestures be recorded somehow and turned into some kind of sign language that writers could use to give specialised direction to the voice artist.
For example – The pointed finger would mean, drive home the message. Two open hands - calm, measured and reassuring. A clenched fist – make it sound tough and determined.
Of course there are hundreds more that could be used. You could even have a separate column on the script for the placement of the gestures.
Hand gestures, facial expressions and arm movements may appear a little unusual to the casual observer, but there is no doubt they help the end product. I once wore a noisy shirt (made from some type of stiff polyester fabric) to a voice session and was asked stop moving around so much because my shirt was making too much noise. So I put a halt to all arm waving and finger pointing and the read sounded totally flat and void of emotion and feeling. I ended up doing the session with the shirt off. Lucky I don’t move my legs around during a performance or it might have been pants of as well.
Maybe you’ve got a few favorite gestures of your own – please share.
The Voice in the Booth
Pronounce this ...
As a Voice Artist I’m occasionally challenged with some absolute cracker pronunciations.
But nothing beats the annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards (The APSAs). This award ceremony showcases the very best movies, movie makers, directors, producers, and actors from throughout the Asia Pacific region. The Awards night has been broadcast on SBS and in recent years is streamed live on the web to a potential audience of billions of movie buffs. So it’s a pretty big show!
For the past 4 years, thanks to my friends at TPD Media and Brisbane Marketing and Events I’ve had the honor of being the Voice Artist / Announcer for this spectacular.
Award nominees come from countries like Japan, Korea, China, Iran, Russia, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Turkey and many more including Australia.
Because of the shear diversity and trickiness of some of the pronunciations required for this job, organizers even hire an expert in linguistic and how to say strange names – the talented Greg Saunders from Melbourne.
Part of my task is to give a brief a synopsis on all the nominated movies, make general announcements on the night and welcome the winners to the stage to accept their award. Now this is where it starts to get interesting. Not only do the winners get a mention, so do the director, the writer, the producer, the co-stars and anybody else who deserves a shout out.
Sure, these may well be household names to Asia Pacific movie buffs, but to a balding Voice Artist with his trusty Sennheiser microphone at the ready – this can present some challenges. For example the mind races just a tad when you’re first presented with this script for the winner of Best Screen Play – Happy Hour from Japan.
“From Japan - Produced by Satoshi TAKATA, Hideyuki OKAMOTO and Tadashi Nohara. Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. Written by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Tadashi Nohara and Tomoyuki Takahashi.
This is Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Tadashi Nohara and Tomoyuki Takahashi’s first APSA. Please welcome Tadashi Nohara to the stage to accept the award.”
All I can say is – thank the lord the producers of the Awards presentation thought it would be a good idea to have these pre-recorded. Let’s just say I defently didn’t get this one first take.
What pronunciation pearlers have you come across – please share.