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  • Writer's pictureMark Hall

It sounds really good.... but

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

With lockdown time on my hands I worked out I have directed more than 2000 voiceover artist sessions. Most pass without incident, all amicable and job done.

The alarm always begins to sound when you have a well known talent and a 'team' of directors. Everybody wants to have their say and it can be very counterproductive.

When you go into a voiceover recording session it is always wise to have a brief chat with your voiceover, briefly explain the style you want, wait for questions and.... just have a go. Then move it left or right a little and really, with good planning, that should be enough.

That is not the case for a session I remember with a very well known actor from Liverpool. Booked for his accent, rough style and amazing tone this should have been fun. But no, then five people turn up to direct.

This story is a classic case of bad planning. Everybody is amicable, a few jokes, coffees all round and off we go. Our actor warms up, just amazing voiceover, begins reading the script. Sounds good.

'How is that for you?' he says. Suddenly a squabble breaks out on the sofa, one person likes it, another doesn't, another doubts the talent choice. Remember this is for a project close to the Heart of Liverpool with an actor from the city.

From the director in charge ( for this five minutes) comes the killer phrase 'It's absolutely perfect, really good. Just one thing......'

Now I'm no master of English but I'm pretty sure if something is perfect then its ...perfect!

So smiles all around and off we go again. Another spot on perfect take.

Now it isn't a squabble its a full on opinion fight, louder and louder. I press the button to the booth. 'Sit tight we are just gathering some feedback' Eventually we do another take and another - only of the very first line mind you, I may have forgotten to mention that.

Then came the moment, the killer moment. Some more well thought through feedback.

'We love it, you know it sounds great, any chance we could soften this down and try to loose the Liverpool feel'

I looked in the eyes of the talent - to be fair to him he was really keen to get this spot on, and then something I have never heard a talent say before.

'Now look, I think you got the wrong guy. I'm not going to try to loose my accent because that is my voice and this is how I talk and I think the reason you booked me. But if I'm the wrong guy, no hard feelings just left me go and I won't charge you'

Sure this is quite full on but fundamentally he was right. Well known, he has a brand, you booked his brand and you want to make him somebody else. I sunk into the seat pressed the talkback button and though for now this isn't my fight.

Mini squabble and we decide we like him and actually he is great. Nice words are spoken and we continue, not so much feedback now but, to be fair, a masterclass voice performance.

We get to the end and he really has done a great job, a couple of pickups but that is okay. We edit and everybody is happy at this point. I think too everybody was genuinely happy, you have to take a view and it was a great job.

I think the lesson here is to be prepared, really think what you want the finished project to sound like and work backwards. If at the start fo the session you are not getting what you want just be open and honest, no need for a 'it sounds great'. Voice talent will always prefer an honest approach and if you are not sure what you want tell your engineer and the voice talent and ask them for some options. Working together with open honest will always get you to your final destination quicker and smarter.

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