"If it were easy, everyone would do it!"

Voice acting is simple, but it isn’t easy. It’s simple compared to other types of acting when you consider that you are working alone in a booth instead of on a set with other actors and all the accouterment necessary in those mediums, but acting itself isn’t easy.

Voice over has fewer complications than working on film and TV sets. You can work in your sweatpants, you don’t have to remember staging or think about where the camera is, you don't have to memorize lines, and you never have to sit in a makeup chair. Plus, you get to explore characters that you never would have the opportunity to portray if your face and body had to tag along. What a sweet deal! Yet, the kicker here is that people working in film and TV are highly trained actors who have poured years of energy into their craft, and there are STILL adjustments they have to adapt to in order to deliver work in the booth that is useable and believable. Mic technique, booth etiquette, hydration, oral hygiene, sleeping habits, even the fabric of those sweatpants and the type of shoes you wear will all effect your performance and the quality of the recordings. Microphones are sensitive and unforgiving pieces of equipment.

As unforgiving as microphones are when it comes to unwanted noises, the human ear is still far more sophisticated.  Our ears can alert us when the feeling is absent from the words and take us right out of the scene. You can tell when someone doesn’t put their heart in what they’re saying, when they’re just performing lip-service, when they are just reading. On stage and on screen, the sets, costumes, staging and special effects can assist mediocre acting by helping the audience suspend disbelief, but when all you have available to convince and captivate the listeners is your voice, you better believe what you’re saying or we’ll hear it. As Sanford Meisner said, acting is “living truthfully in imaginary circumstances,” and in the booth, when we are denuded of the assistive trappings of stage and screen, we not only have to operate completely from our imaginations, we also need to have the truth of those imaginary scenes play through to the living ear on the other side of the glass.

Our work is to let the audience lose themselves for a moment, to teach people new ideas, to inspire the animator to add something they hadn’t thought of before, and to calm down and reassure people who have been waiting on hold for too long. It’s frustrating to see all of the ads out there for quick and dirty voice over training, claiming that you'll make a demo after only six weeks of study with catchy headlines like “Get paid to read!”  Voice actors aren’t paid to read, our craft is acting, and to be a skillful actor takes dedication and work that you won’t master in a month and a half. Voice over is about connection, to be the bridge from the words on paper to the audience. That’s not easy, even if it’s relatively simple.

Written by Aaron Burke for Voice One, September 15 2021

If you are new to voice over, check out our Intro to VO class, which is part our Beginner Bundle.
If you're ready to take the plunge into your voice over career, check out our curated Core Curriculum, designed to give you a a solid foundation in VO.
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