Becoming A Voice Actor (A Detailed How To)
Think You Got What It Takes?
Traditionally, voice acting has been the exclusive purview of motion pictures (the movie industry). However, today voice acting is a varied and multi-faceted industry with many, many niches to fill. Voice actors work for TV programs, radio, computer programs, video games, and the list goes on.
The expected salary and benefits that come along with being a voice actor is just as varied as the industry itself. While the average annual pay for a voice actor in the U.S. is $75,000.00 [info from indeed.com October 2015], the variation in pay from one voice actor to another is quite large and it depends on the experience and the type of work each actor specializes in.
Yet, as an aspiring voice actor what difficulties or benefits can you expect to encounter on your way to the top. Well, see the next section.
[**Note: A voice actor is also known as a voice over artist, a voice artist, voice over talent, voice performer, voice talent, voice over narrator, narrator, announcer, voice over actor, or voice over performer. Often these terms are used interchangeably. For the purposes of this hub I will stick to the terms "voice actor" or "voice over artist."]
Background, Training and Equipment
This section describes the ins and outs of not only becoming a bona fide voice actor but also maintaining a vibrant career in this ever evolving industry.
There are generally no strict educational requirements for becoming a voice actor. However, many voice actors have had some training or done some coursework in voice acting. In fact, many voice actors come from the regular "in-person" acting world. This happens a lot because at its heart voice acting is simply regular acting without directly facing your audience.
As mentioned before, direct training or coursework in voice over artistry is available for those who seek it out. However, when looking into how to become a voice actor, it is good to be informed about what characteristics the industry is looking for in general. For example, categorically, there are two dominant voice styles that used in the North American market: "Natural" and "Unnatural."
- Natural - the preferred tone of speech among most casting directors is the natural or conversation tone of voice. The goal in using this style is to sound as relatable as possible without pretense and without sounding nonchalant. And yes, there are different ways of sounding relatable and natural
- Affected (Unnatural) - Prior to the 1990's, much of voice over was done with this affected voice style. However, this style fell out of favor because it is not very relatable. Today, the affected style is used most often for movie trailers, special promos or animation scripts.
After you have chosen to practice either one or both of the two styles of voice over, it is important to remember the key practice elements to separate merely good voice actors from great voice actors. For instance, since most voice over work is done in a studio (sound proof) booth or similar setting; practicing in a such an environment can give you a leg up on the competition. Also, being a good reader is a skill that many first time voice actors overlook. Yet, in the long run it helps a great deal, as in many cases you will have to read from lengthy scripts without making a single mistake.
However, most importantly, you will need to find your "marketable voice." This is a voice style, tone and cadence that is both easy for you to repeat as a voice actor but also marketable to the casting directors and other professionals who will ultimately be hiring you. To find your "marketable voice," attending private coaching lessons or group voice acting lessons will be very helpful.
Do You Have Any Interest In Becoming A Voice Actor?
In your quest to become a voice actor, you will need the right equipment to make your voice sound crisp, clear and coherent. Fortunately, this does not mean that you need to spend a whole lot of money. There are simply three things you need your equipment to do. 1.) You need a sound-proof or semi sound-proof environment to cancel out excess noise or echoes in your recordings. 2.) You need a working recorder, 3.) You need headphones (however...do not get buds).
Now here is how you save on these equipment costs. For the sound-proof rooms, you do not necessarily need to rent studio time. Many aspiring voice actors find that a walk-in closet (with clothes in it) provides a similar range of sound proofing. And if they do not have access to a walk-in closet, there are many tutorials that describe simple adjustments that can be made to the walls of any home to dampen/ cancel out excessive background noise.
There are many, MANY different types of microphones/ voice recorders on the market right now. Moreover, the type of microphone that you need for voice acting will really depend on the type work you will be doing. For instance, for telephony work (i.e. answering machine voices), a microphone that picks up the crisp and clear tones of your voice are probably better. On the other hand, many voice acting demos can be recorded on an iphone with no problem at all.
In regards to headphones....you need them. You won't know how to become a voice actor without hearing your own voice repeatedly. You don't need expensive headphones, but you do need headphones that fit comfortably around the ear. Also, voice actors never use "bead" headphones as they tend to block out he highest and lowest notes in any voice recording. This is bad news if for instance your voice acting demo has a low rumble in the background. Bead headphones/ earphones won't pick up the low rumble, but the professional casting director will.
Types Of Work:
In the process of learning how to become a voice actor, you should be familiar with the types of work that are available to voice actors in the marketplace today. As a brief overview, the types of work that most voice actors get paid for as follows: Voice Over Commercial Work Voice Over Narration Work. Brief descriptions of these industry segments are listed below:
Voice Over Commercial Work:
This category covers, national commercials, PSA's and trailers. When you have figured out how to become a voice actor, you will learn that while these jobs generally pay very well, they only make up about 8% of the job market for voice actors. Also, these jobs typically go to seasoned veterans and superstars.
Voice Over Narration Work:
This is a much, much broader category of work for voice actors. And better yet, it encompasses 92% of the work that is available for voice actors today. Narration work can range anywhere from reading entire books for an audiobook service to being the announcer voice for large airports or concert halls. Here is a brief list of the types of narration work that are available in today's marketplace: Biographies, Character Animations, Documentaries, Education & Training Videos, Corporate Training or Promotional Videos, Film Dubbing, Telephony Auto Attendant, Exercise & Self Help Videos, Website Presentations, and the list goes on. Needless to say, this category is the main reason why the voice over industry has seen such explosive growth in the last decade.
The Future of Voice Acting
So let's say you did all the necessary training, you obtained all the necessary equipment and after a few acting gigs you have become a bona fide voice actor; now what does the future hold for your chosen career.
Well lucky for you, the future of voice acting looks very bright. The demand of voice acting services keeps growing year after year. And this makes sense because more and more digital entertainment services are being created every month. For instance, every time a new animated show or a new video game is created; voice actors are needed to give a voice to aniimated characters.
Furthermore, the diversity of voices and voice styles demanded by casting directors is at an all time high. As proof of this, consider the fact that merely two decades ago the great majority of voice acting work went to men and male voices. Today, the workload is almost evenly split between men and women. Many casting directors have come to realize that female voices tend to sound more believable than male voices. Conversely, they have come to realize that male voices sound more authoritative than female voices.