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Production in Voice Over Auditions: How Complex Does it Need to Be?

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

April 30, 2009

Comments (30)

Little girl playing piano and singingFor many voice talent, interpreting a script isn't a problem... it's wondering what else to include in the recorded audition!

When you're creating a custom demo or auditioning for a voice over job, do you simply submit dry voice, or do you include music, sound effects or other production elements?

Share your comments and experiences with your friends at VOX Daily.

Auditions: Dry Voice or Full Production?

Recording your voice for an audition is one thing but adding tracks with music and sound effects is another.

Dry voice is pure, 100% you (no preservatives and or pesticides)!

"Dry voice" is the industry's way of saying unadulterated sound. When you are required to record a dry voice track, all you should be doing is providing your read, nothing more. That means no music, no sound effects, no effects on your voice... you get the picture.

What happens when you add to your voice?

Adding to your voice is a completely different animal. Whenever something is "produced", it means that production elements were used, such as music, sound effects and so on. Usually in this instance, you are multi-track recording and might have a separate track set aside for your voice with an array of tracks for music beds, sound effects and the like.

Depending on what it is that you are auditioning for, you may find that produced audio may either help or hinder your chances of landing the gig. Dry voice is safe, but remember, it's not always the safe choices that get noticed...

Having said that, whether you decide to do dry voice exclusively or dabble in production, always make sure that your vocal choices with regard to interpretation are unique and demonstrate how you would best serve the client.

What's Your Auditioning Style?

Depending on which you prefer, how has this worked out for you, and does one provide better results than the other?

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Stephanie

P.S. Thanks for Elizabeth Webb Sosner for the inspiration to write this post :)

©iStockphoto.com/Imgorthand

Related Topics: auditions, custom samples, dry voice, industry, music, produced, production, recording, voice


Comments


    Hi Stephanie,

    Another great topic to discuss. Personally I only provide Dry Voice. From my experience most sound engineers request no effects, as after you've provided the recording they will final mix with the client.

    Recording Dry Voice also means you have nothing to hide. Using effects to mask a voice's lack of ability or poor acoustic installation won't keep you in the business for long. Arguably unless you've been specifically asked to 'boost' your voice then don't do it!

    All the best,

    Marc Chase

    Posted by:

      I couldn't agree more with Marc.

      Your auditions not only gives a sample of your artistic abilities, it also gives a sample of your audio quality. If you produce or mask your audition, subsequently land the gig and are asked to submit the final recording dry, then what? As a seeker or sound engineer I would feel deceived.

      Basically, if you feel the need to make-up your auditions in order to compete, then you have a problem somewhere you need to fix instead. Don't add EQ if your mic sounds too thin, get a better mic instead. Don't add noise gating if your audio has noise, or are having acoustical problems, fix the noise or the acoustical problems instead. ... and so on. It pays off in the long run.

      Jacob E.

      Posted by:
      • Jacob E.
      • April 30, 2009 2:42 PM

        I prefer to receive dry auditions. It makes lines easier to post produce if you are starting with raw material. If you are sending in clean or raw lines - send both.

        Posted by:
        • Paul Mannering
        • April 30, 2009 3:12 PM

          I only submit dry voice. I don't produce at all.

          Posted by:
          • Michelle Dunphy
          • April 30, 2009 3:13 PM

            Like my martini's-- dry.

            Posted by:
            • Dina Monaco-Boland
            • April 30, 2009 3:15 PM

              Watermarking comes to mind... If I'm doing a news intro read, I have a generic "driving news intro" music track that I'll use both as a watermark, and hopefully, to add context to the read. What sort of watermarking sounds do others use? My VO career is in diapers... I'm interested to hear what the full time pros think.... ;-)

              Posted by:

                Thank you for addressing this topic!

                "Dry voice" is the industry standard unless noted otherwise. Clients would have to pay an additional fee for production. Unless, of course it's pro bono work!

                Holly Franklin
                great BIG little voice
                http://www.hollyfranklin.com

                Posted by:

                  Dry voice. Used to try and over deliver by producing it but it never paid off. Most of the gigs that I have earned through auditioning were from dry read auditions. I do try and provide different takes when I can. :)

                  Posted by:

                    Does anybody normalize auditions anymore? I usually do, and sometimes I put some light compression on.

                    Posted by:
                    • Kitzie Stern
                    • April 30, 2009 10:33 PM

                      As a receiver of auditions, I always like it dry and unproduced, unless the file is marked "pitched" or "compressed". One Voice Talent (and he knows who he is) was asked to read for product B and we wanted it like his audition for product A. Unfortunately, he had pitched and produced the sound for A, and could not reproduce it for B! We used him anyway, but it was a little tense for a while.

                      Posted by:
                      • Rick Marcil
                      • April 30, 2009 10:33 PM

                        Definitely normalize! :)

                        Posted by:
                        • Terry Daniel
                        • April 30, 2009 10:34 PM

                          Great subject! I normally send dry. However, I have sent IVR messages with music before and it's gotten me the job. In one case the client didn't even think about music behind his phone message and like the idea and music I picked so much he hired me!

                          Posted by:
                          • Robin Wolf
                          • May 1, 2009 8:32 AM

                            I always send dry voice auditions.
                            It's one thing that I dont know how to produce, but even if I did, I would submit dry.

                            Posted by:
                            • Rupa Krishnan
                            • May 1, 2009 8:48 AM

                              Dry and normalized.

                              Posted by:

                                Great topic! I think it was Pat Fraley who suggested in a podcast that two takes can get a much bigger response for your audition. Using that template, whenever time and customer allow, I like to send one 'dry' and the other 'produced'. Even if you don't get picked, it gives the customer yet another view of their project thereby keeping you in mind for next time!

                                Posted by:

                                  Yes, DRY like I like my Martini's. (Gin, rocks and several olives please)

                                  Good question. I send about 97% of my auditions dry back to the requested agency/client. However, If I am dealing with someone that is *new* to using voices.com or similar outlets, I may watermark to protect me. I have been known to toss parts of my VO on a filtered track to emphasize something within the audition. That has won me a few jobs that caught the client off guard and they have told me they liked my "extra effort".

                                  As far as my regular clients or agents go....Send only what is requested. Nothing less and nothing more.

                                  Posted by:

                                    Dry voice for me! But I like Robin's approach. I guess if I had some music that was just screaming to go on the VO, I might do it as an additional take, whilst reading PART of the audition copy. But generally, dry -- I agree with what I've learned thus far -- they really want to hear your voice. And, if your voice isn't what they've got in their head -- all the post production in the world won't help!

                                    Posted by:

                                      I have posted before that I am against any production of auditions. Since no one wins the majority of his auditions, adding time and expense to all those non-winning efforts is feeding a black hole of non-productivity. Someone may argue, "Yes, but I win more auditions when I produce them." But you still lose most auditions, so your net gain in billable vs. non-billable time is probably zero.

                                      And "anything you add could be used against you." The client could just as easily reject your track because he doesn't like your sound effect, or is confused by your mix. My advice is to put your efforts into something that could pay you back, like training, marketing or a new demo.

                                      Posted by:

                                        Ditto what many have already said: NO PRODUCTION on auditions!. Dry voice is best for them to hear your voice and judge your studio capabilities. And it's just NOT cost effective to produce. Also, most of my clients just want dry voice tracks, so why would I give non-paying prospects more than I give most of my paying clients!

                                        Posted by:

                                          It's a waste of my time to audition for jobs that require production as part of the package, simply because I may not have the right sound effects or music beds on hand. Then, looking for these necessities will take up time, which I could be spending on the next audition. Unless you have a great library of music and effects, concentrating on the voice will always be more important.

                                          Posted by:

                                            In any audition, I pay particular attention to whatever form of direction I've been provided with the script (if any!). If I get an OK to use music, off I go with music underneath. But, without that direction, I have to get a feel for whether a music bed would enhance the style and delivery of the read. If so, then I'll dub something in. If not, it's always delivered dry with audio watermarking (protect your work... it's yours!). A music bed could provide your prospective client with an idea of what the finished track may sound like when it's fully produced. Many times your read is test copy because the client hasn't gotten to the point where a true script has been prepared for voicing. They may not know exactly what they're looking for , so you have to be careful. Your decision to toss in music or other fx is your decision. This is where trying to get as much info about a client up front is critical. Whatever you learn before you step in front of the mic should help guide your pre-production decisions. Example: If the audition is coming from an agency or production studio, I wouldn't use music or fx unless specifcally directed to do so. I always assume that an agency or production house works with plenty of resources to get the finished production delivered to THEIR client!

                                            Thanks for the opportunity to add on to the discussion!!

                                            Posted by:

                                              Hi All,

                                              Good comments as I often wonder just what VO artists are 'really" doing. I hope you don't mind me asking in this blog, but I really don't understand "watermarking" and how to apply it and why to use it. Anybody care to comment? Thank you.

                                              Posted by:
                                              • Tom Dolan
                                              • May 2, 2009 7:52 PM

                                                As with most of the already-posted replies, I also MOSTLY use dry auditions. But on SOME occasions...when I feel it would ADD to my chances of being chosen...I will add music, effects,etc.
                                                I'd say, perhaps, 90% dry, 10% produced.(and the only reason I continue to occasionally produce is my success with those pieces)

                                                Posted by:

                                                  Hi Stephanie,

                                                  Thanks for the great info today. I am grateful and appreciative of all the VOX emails I receive. They are inspirational and informative.

                                                  I have produced both "dry" and voice over productions with what I call a "soundscape" (usually music, copyright free or music I've composed) depending on what the client is looking for.

                                                  I've been hired for both kinds of work. Sometimes a client
                                                  Will specify they only want voice over and will add their own music or Sound effects, so I focus on my acting skills for those kinds of productions.

                                                  Other clients specified they wanted music as well, which I will
                                                  Produce on a separate track. Both experiences are just as
                                                  Rewarding because you are giving birth to a creation, that has a life of its own that ultimately creates a positive emotion from your clients and their consumers/customers in the manner they seek.

                                                  Thanks again for all you do!

                                                  Best wishes,

                                                  Maria Berry
                                                  Voice over artist and producer
                                                  voices.com

                                                  Posted by:
                                                  • Maria Berry
                                                  • May 4, 2009 10:35 AM

                                                    I audition "dry voice" figuring that the producer wants to know what I sound like when my voice stands alone. I imagine they have a concept of what other elements they will use in the finished product. Maybe this is being naive but when you audition for several jobs a day getting the voiceover right is my priority.

                                                    Mike

                                                    Posted by:
                                                    • Mike Forrester
                                                    • May 4, 2009 10:36 AM

                                                      I think we are all in agreement..."Dry Voice" is the industry standard and professional. It allows the seeker to hear the natural tone and know what he/she has to work with.
                                                      I also add watermarks to auditions.
                                                      Thank you.

                                                      Posted by:

                                                        Nice topic Steph and it all depends. It depends on how busy I am, and the client itself. Now I am a Sound Designer by profession and have been doing it for about 25 years now. I have heard people that ARE NOT sound people try that? And, well that isn't their cup of tea, so it makes it sound odd. Did it stand out? Maybe but did it stand out in a good way? Hmmmm.

                                                        Some of the biggest gigs have ever landed have been from clients that I full produced my audition, BUT it sounded very close to the final thing, which made it stand out. I actually landed Geraldo AT Large promos by producing the demo just like their actual audio, in fact it sounded better! After I landed the gig they even said so. Same thing for Netflix and Okalahoma Tourism too. Oh and Amtrak were all full produced auditions. Wait, also Sunny Delight too.. just forgot about that, so if you CAN do it and you have the tools, INCLUDING SFX and music that sounds like what they are looking for do it, if not, you might want to stick to Dry VO. It's just great you can churn your stuff out and send it in.

                                                        Sadly, a lot of the 200 dollar gigs from Voices.com didn't meet my threshold of doing full produced auditions. In fact all of my success have been to agents working for me and not sites like Voices.com or even Voice123.com.

                                                        I didn't renew for either.

                                                        Good luck.

                                                        Posted by:

                                                          Boy, am I getting in late on this "dry" vs "produced" discussion...

                                                          Think about who the audition is FOR. Sometimes you don't know at all, and sometimes you do. So, if you know the audition will land in the hands of a pro, like a sound engineer or producer, there's no need whatsoever to produce with sfx/music...they are professionals and can distinguish precisely what they are after (although some may be better at it than others). If it's an advertiser or the end user of the audio, you know, someone who isn't used to listening to voices and creating audio, it might not be a bad idea to send two files...a produced version and a dry track. Never send a produced version alone. You have to assume that at some point the file will be in the hands of someone who wants to listen to your audition with their own music. You rob them of that opportunity if you don't send a dry version. So if you send a produced version, BE SURE to send a dry track too. Be sure to only produce small samples though...If I'm listening to auditions, I can find the ones I don't want pretty quickly...within 10 or 20 seconds of listening. When a producer is listening to 50 or 100 auditions, they won't spend much more time than that on one file unless they REALLY like your delivery. Producing an entire spot with sfx and music would in my opinion be a little bit of a waste of your valuable time.

                                                          So after all of that, > my vote is to send dry tracks. I do that exclusively. I might, some day, find the opportunity to send a produced audition, but I wouldn't count on it!

                                                          --Jay

                                                          Posted by:

                                                            I spent a year and executed nearly 500 auditions: most of them were produced with royalty free music. I booked 2 jobs: and one of those I did pro-bono due the the nature of the material and the user. Maybe eveyone one right! Dry is better. My feeling was that producing the audition gave it a lot more life and I felt that when I had music that was appropriate, I'd use it. This theory never did pan out to be successful. Reviewing my submissions, my conclusion was that in most cases too many people replied to postings--which I have always felt must have been overwhelming to the "casting agent"and perhaps they never did listen to everything that was submitted, but only took a closer look at the first 3 or 6 voices that they liked. In addition, they never closed out the request and most of my auditions still say "not yet" even though I submitted a year ago. So it would be nice to know some statistics on how the repliers to requests for auditions either got the gig or didn't get the gig on the basis of whether or not they did some production work.

                                                            Richard Mullen

                                                            Posted by:

                                                              I record dry. If the producer wants to add something let them do it themselves. That way they are in control.

                                                              Posted by:

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