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Male Voice Talent: The Case for Directed Sessions

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male voice talent

As a male voice talent, one of the biggest perks of the job is getting to work from the comfort of my little home studio in my sweatpants, safely tucked away from the cold and snow of Minnesota winters.  That being said, sometimes I still crave human interaction that goes beyond the surface of my Gmail inbox…which is one of the reasons I love directed sessions!  Getting to work with clients face to face (so to speak) and get instant feedback can be a fun, collaborative experience, and save tons of hassle and time.

Putting Directed Sessions to Work

Case in point: this morning I was working with one of my favorite animation studios on a new animated video for one of their clients, featuring a product coming to market.  Even though character concepts, script, and storyboard were all created and approved by the client, throughout our communication we were having a difficult time nailing down the specifics for how to embody each of the characters.  How to breathe life into these personas (one of them non-homosapien) and distinguish each while still maintaining a sense of humanity.

Bold Actors Make Bold Choices

Actors know that by not making bold choices and claiming a specific, the performance will be general, ambiguous, and lackluster.  Beyond that, the delivery will usually feel somewhat self conscious.  And in the world of voiceover, when the client specs leave something to be desired, it can be easy to just pick a character direction that feels “safe”. Safe is no bueno.

So today, my client and I (the male voice talent) jumped onto a call where I patched them into my studio.  Within minutes, we were able to move past ambiguous and try different approaches, get goofy and feel a sense of collaboration.  I think it was a huge relief to both of us to know we were moving in the right direction, and in real-time experiment with different characterizations, tones, and pacing until we reached something that truly matched the vision.

Vision is First a Feeling

Vision is not always concrete, but it almost always has a feeling associated with it.  By stepping into the ring, both parties can come together and make sure that “feeling” is met, even if it can’t always be described with words.

Directed sessions can oftentimes feel like an improvisation workshop, trying on different hats and getting an immediate response from the client as to where things are landing.   In the example of today’s session, what we accomplished in 20 minutes could have instead taken days and multiple emails back and forth to get to the very same place.

Animated Character Voice Specs Checklist

As much as spontaneous creativity can bring out great stuff, I still love having as much information up front as possible.  Here’s a short checklist of helpful specs:

  • Character objective – what he is trying to achieve in the scene
  • Character profile – who is the character?  What is his age, profession, life experience, and general attitude.
  • Character sketch or rendering – especially for animation, this is critical.  I need to be able to visualize whose shoes I am stepping into.
  • Celebrity references – these are helpful as a starting point in focusing or mixing different styles or tones
  • YouTube references – I love getting links to videos that accomplish something similar to what my clients want
  • Storyboards – having a visual representation for how the story unfolds is so important.

If you’d like to hire me as male voice talent for your next voiceover project and jump into a directed session together, click here to get in touch!

Michael Schwengel