I don’t know about you, but I have sometimes have auditions coming in all day. One voice over audition can be quick and easy but a deluge of auditions can take up a large portion of your day…whether it be from agents, P2P sites, referrals, previous clients, or other casting locations. Creating a workflow for quickly receiving, interpreting, voicing, and delivering these auditions will keep you from getting overwhelmed by the waterfall of emails that you start to get as you get further and further in your VO career. Here is how I have organized my personal workflow to keep things rolling along smoothly.
What are the steps?
I call this the ‘RAILS‘ of the voice over audition train. Here they are:
These are the steps that I have determined to be the most important for me, as I receive and deliver auditions day in and day out. Let’s go through each one of the steps.
Receive The Voice Over Audition
The Receive step is a pretty important one. In this step you get an email, phone call or other communication that contains an audition. A client thought of your voice for a project, your agent got a project that might match your voice, or a P2P site somehow determined that you might be a fit for a project. Whatever the source, you have an audition waiting.
In the Receive step, the very first thing I do is look at the voice over audition to determine your suitability for the project. Is it from a client? Chances are, you should send an audition because the client already knows your work and wants you to do some more. Is it from your Agent? More often then not, your agent will send you auditions that they believe you would be good for. Again, you should probably audition for this one too. Is it from a P2P? Here is where the real time suck can be. You can audition for 100 project that you aren’t perfect for, and not land a single one of them. Why waste your time?
So first in this step, you look at the copy and determine if your voice is right for the project. If not, TOSS IT! Don’t worry about a “missed opportunity.” If they want a voice similar to James Earl Jones, and you have a voice like Steve Carrell, you stand a good chance of getting trashed right from the start. Now, if you only get 2 audition opportunities a day…TAKE THEM! It doesn’t matter what it is…because you are getting experience, and developing your workflow. When the waterfall begins, then start picking and choosing.
Assign the Audition
The second step is to Assign the voice over audition. This means determining the priority of the audition and scheduling the time to do it. This will be determined by a number of factors. What is the source? What is the deadline? Where are you physically when you receive the audition? These questions will determine the priority that you place on an audition.
There are 3 categories that I place auditions into:
– Do immediately
– Schedule for later today
– Schedule for another day
By immediately, I mean that I open the email, open my recording software and record the audition as soon as I receive it. If I am in the middle of a live session, I obviously don’t stop the session to check my email and send out auditions, but sometimes time is of the essence. I immediately audition for an urgent auditions from my agents, from prior clients, and sometimes from P2P sites (where I believe my voice is a perfect fit or I was directly requested). I typically audition immediately for ANY audition that I receive from prior clients.
The other two are based on the deadline for the audition and my schedule for the day. If I’m at the bank, I can’t audition till I get back, but I’ll mark the email as unread so remember to do it when I return. Sometimes my schedule prohibits me from auditioning the same day an audition comes in. If the project allows, I’ll do it the next day.
I always do auditions as soon as I can. This sometimes gives you the first spot in the listening line, and also shows clients that you are attentive to their needs. I want to deliver a KILLER read, ASAP. That way, the client knows they can always count on me in a pinch.
After assigning the job, I move on to the meat of the audition.
Interpret the Audition
Once it is time to audition, you gotta do it right. You only have one chance to WOW a client. Don’t waste that chance by sending a rushed crappy read just so you can be the first in line. Take time to give the client a high-quality product. You are never auditioning for a “job.” You are auditioning for a client. Most of the clients I have worked with come back for more work in the future. Producers like to work with people they can count on, so why would they go looking for a different voice each time they need a project completed?
On to interpretations. Here are the parts (for my workflow) of interpretation:
– Read the script
– Understand the script
– Prepare the script
– Voice the script
I’m not gonna get into the ART of interpretation…I just want to make sure you don’t blow through auditions JUST to get through them. That is a surefire way to get your audition tossed out. If you really want to be competitive, you have to deliver an intentional performance of the script. It is your job to determine the intentions of the copywriter and producer, and deliver EXACTLY what they have in their head…or something BETTER! This is where the real skills of a voice actor are tested. You’ll need to come up with your own personal method to quickly, and effectively, break down a script, and prepare to record it.
Once you are prepared to voice the script, is your software set up the way it needs to be?
I always have my software (Adobe Audition) open and ready to record all day long. I also have my controller set up so that I only have to press a single button to create a new Mono audio file. Once I’ve done all of the necessary prep, all of my equipment is ready to record BEFORE I need to do it. This will help you keep the flow going. If you have a great mental concept of the script, have practiced the voicing, and are ready to record, AND THEN have to start messing with the technical side of recording, you can quickly lose your creative flow. Set your software up in advance so that you don’t have to get into “engineer mode” before you start to perform.
If this is an issue for you, do the technical stuff first (before you start to break down the script). This way, your software will be waiting for you to just hit record, and you don’t have to think about it at all. Once you have recorded the spot, it’s time to move on.
Layout the Audition
This is a sometimes necessary, and sometimes not so necessary step. The Layout step is what you do to prepare the actual audio for delivery. When you send out a file, it needs to be in a professional “wrapper” to match the amazing read! But the layout isn’t always the same.
No matter how you deliver the file, it is of the UTMOST importance that you follow the directions of the person who sent you the audition. When someone wants you to name files a specific way…DO IT EXACLTY!! File labing is a BIG DEAL. Think about it…you have a labeling system that keeps all of the specific files for each project in the same place, looking the same, and nice and easy to use. Then, one of your thick-headed VOs sends you a file labeled however they want. You have to take the time to relabel it, or it will mess up your system. It really gets people upset and they will frequently just toss it because ain’t nobody got time for that!
So you’ve edited the file correctly, removed all of the noise, mistakes, cleaned up the audio so it sounds good, removed breaths if it is appropriate, normalized (this is NOT compression or limiting…but that is for another post) the audio to an appropriate level (I normalize every file to -1db), left a little bit of silence in the beginning and end of the file (I like to do .5 seconds lead, 1 second tail unless asked for something else), and added the appropriate slate (slate or no slate is often part of the specs but if not it’s your choice, make sure you slate appropriately).
Ok, it’s time for you to prepare the file for delivery. Most people want an mp3 for auditions, so make sure you export it with the correct specs (did they ask for 44.1khz, 16-bit, 128kbps mp3….then give them that EXACTLY. Don’t just send an mp3 however you feel like sending it).
Now that the file is prepared, it’s time to send it off.
Send the Voice Over Audition
The Send step isn’t just hitting “send” on your email. You will sometimes need to craft a message to go with the audition. Sometimes you have an upload link, and no ability to send a message. If that is the case, just upload the file, and you’re done. If you are responding via email or form, don’t load the email with a massive amount of self-promotion. Instead, keep it short, professional and informative. Make sure you include any necessary details (phone patch, Source Connect, ISDN?), and when you can deliver the finished product (if that information is needed). Tell the client everything they NEED to know as concisely as possible, and leave out all of the stuff they don’t care about.
Once you have carefully crafted the appropriate communication, let ‘er rip!
If you start to develop a consistent process, running the RAILS can take only a few minute! Get the process down…if you take 30 minutes per audition, and have to do 10 of them a day…well, you get the point. Until next time!