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Line Reads and Kids

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

August 21, 2007

Comments (4)

Girl Child with MicrophoneHearing children's voice overs sometimes makes me wonder if they are being fed direction through a line read.

Is the tone of voice and artistic interpretation we hear emanating from the mouths of babes actually of their own inspiration, or is it the guidance of a voice over coach or director in the booth?

After catching on camera shows on television the likes of "This is Daniel Cook" and "Teletubbies", one starts to analyze the voice overs and pick them apart mentally, even if they are performed by an adorable child with a pleasing voice.

It may go without saying, but many of the kids you see perform on television are gifted performers and have a knack for taking direction, which includes line reads.

A line read is when a director demonstrates the delivery of a scripted line the way they envision the actor to read it on stage or in the booth. Achieving the desired affect of a line read is accomplished by shaping the actor's voice with the intended artistic direction.

Line reads are doled out to adult actors and child actors alike both on camera and off, perhaps even more so for child voice actors who work on a cartoon series such as The BackYardigans or Arthur.

The question at hand is just how much more direction through line reads do child voice actors receive than their adult counterparts?

As I've never sat in on a voice over recording session at a television studio, I can neither confirm or deny that young on camera actors are coached with line reads, whether on camera or as voice actor, but I know that several of you can shed some light on this topic.

Maybe as a parent of a child voice actor who works from a home recording studio, you yourself are coaching through line reads.

If you have experience in this area or can share any feedback, add a comment!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©©©iStockphoto.com/Yanik Chauvin

Related Topics: Backyardigans, booth, cartoons, child, Dora, TV


Comments


    As the parent of a very busy 9 year old voice actor, I can tell you that it's a bit of both. Of course, when they're too young to read fluently enough to sound natural you have no choice but to throw them a line and give your interpretation in the process.

    However, my son, Jarod has done live ISDN sessions where I was not involved at all, and the director provided very little specific direction and seemed very pleased with Jarod's own interp. There were times I knew he could have been more clear on a word or punched a line differently, but sometimes you want a child's speech pattern (Often, scripts are written for a child, but in adult language, which makes the spot funnier/more ironic).

    Now that Jarod is the ripe old age of 9 1/2, reads very well, and is a drama major at a special public school for kids gifted in fine arts (you're allowed to brag on your own kid, right?? :) ) I let him have a much longer rein in his sessions. I usually let him do it "his way" first, and then give him some suggestions too... sometimes I end up picking his... sometimes mine.

    Overall, I think it depends on the child!

    Posted by:

      As the voiceover coach who has produced "killer" vo demos for professional child actors with some of the U.S.'s most famous agents and who work for Disney and in films and more, I can only speak about seasoned professional kids in our business.

      When I produce a vo demo on one of these talented working youngsters, we first decide on the copy pieces to be showcased on their demo CD. Next, taking into prime consideration their age, look, voice timbre, voice attitude, and other vital ingredients, we fine-tune the copy selections to fit that child perfectly.

      Now, the child actor has to rehearse and practice the copy and then return to my recording studio when he or she is thoroughly rehearsed. This, of course, is usually with the parent having some part to play in the rehearsals. But when the child is with me in that initial visit to choose copy, I let the child take the lead always... thus, showing me his or her strengths and weaknesses at copy interpretation.

      I also note the child's speech problems, if any, and if I want to "preserve these" at least for the time being as a voice "characteristic" or tell the child how to minimize or eliminate speech peculiarities or dysfunctions that obviously have not been noticed until now and that might hinder the child's progress in the business.

      So it's a mix of my help and the parent then reinforcing what I feel needs to be done prior to the actual recording of the demo.

      But again... I ONLY will make demos on seasoned professional children. The child demo has such a limited 'shelf life' with the child voice changing constantly as the child grows older. I choose carefully who should spend money with me. I want the children to have a fabulous demo, but only if they should be doing one at that time. I want to do my best for the children and the parents who are spending hard-earned dollars on the child's career! That's only fair!

      Line reads? Well, all producers do those as we pros all know... sometimes cause they just want to "justify their existence" and sometimes because simply put, they know exactly how they want the line to sound... that's fine. But the child has to do BOTH... be a good voice actor AND be able to copy line reads quickly and precisely!

      Posted by:

        My kid, 6, is a series regular on an animated series. She also does a combo of the two. Although she reads she is not quite ready to read her own lines yet, mostly because she'd have a difficult time keeping up with her lines in the script. Typically the voice director feeds her the line which my kid then mimics. But the difference is my daughter will then provide two additional versions in her own style without direction, infusing her own character into it. The majority of the time the voice director will end up using one of her improvised versions.

        Posted by:
        • Bumblejelly
        • August 26, 2007 10:54 PM

          I have a 4 year old with what people call a unique or pretty voice. I have never myself thought about her voice acting but several people have said that she might have a shot. I'm just curious to know how to get started.

          Posted by:
          • Vic
          • December 26, 2007 2:12 PM

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