Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

Slating, Altering Copy, Watermarking and More

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

February 7, 2011

Comments (38)

Woman recording with headphones on, standing behind a microphone and pop filterOver the years, we've learned a number of things about how clients want (and don't want) in terms of auditions. As such, our suggestions to voice talent applying for work through Voices.com have evolved.

One of these areas is how to protect your audio. In the past, we've suggested watermarking but over the last year or so have been moving away from this technique in favour of slating.

Let's take a few minutes to go over why this is and how slating can serve as a suitable addition to your auditioning strategies and a way to connect better with prospective customers.

Building Up Knowledge

We first opened up for business as a voice over marketplace in February of 2004. If you've been part of our site since the beginning, no doubt you're observed the many developments and changes we've made to improve the service making it easier to use resulting in a heightened user experience for our members.

Before we offered our safe payment service SurePay to provide more security to our members, we needed to find ways that would help our talent to protect themselves and their audio in audition situations.

Voices.com's Previous Position on Watermarks

When it came to recording custom demos, we used to advise talent to use audio watermarks as a means to protect their work.

These sound logos were not meant to obscure the audio file but essentially make it harder for clients to walk away with the audio before paying for it.

Think of this like how a photographer provides sample proofs with a watermark on them that renders the image less polished and therefore less desirable for professional use. In this scenario, the higher quality version is not made available to the customer prior to purchasing.

While this was good in theory, clients were not terribly keen on how talent were choosing to make use of beeps and the like as it distracted them greatly and ultimately detracted from the read. As a result, people who were bothered by watermarking didn't feel comfortable presenting samples to their clients and were less likely to consider talent whose initial audio submission was less than desirable.

Voices.com's Previous Position on Altering Copy

We also thought slightly changing the script for audition purposes would be a good idea back then but over time and from feedback received, it isn't wise to touch the copy. The original motive for this was yet again protecting auditions, however, some clients did not perceive these changes as positive and were less likely to present auditions to decision makers if the talent did not read a portion of what was written.

Some of these scripts go through many hands before they are approved and what's on that page is what should be read. If a talent were to change up the copy or make suggestions, the client may not receive this well... especially if this includes the changing of the pronunciation of a client or company name.

From personal experience, I know that I'd rather hear a shorter version of my script than to hear someone changing the words. While it may not be true, changing the copy may suggest that the talent either can't follow directions, that they don't respect the copy or that they are having difficulty reading the script as written.

How Slating Works And Why It's Better

After attending many, many workshops and understanding how slates work, our opinion began to shift toward slating as opposed to watermarking.

Slating is simply saying your name at the beginning of the recording. There are different ways you can slate, however, the basic slate is simply stating your name at the beginning of the file.

I acknowledge that a slate doesn't serve the same purpose of a watermark, however, a slate is beneficial in other ways that don't compromise the trust between talent and their prospective clients.

Slating Serves Many Purposes. A Slate Can:

๏ Readily identify the speaker
๏ Set the tone for the read
๏ Get your name in the client's head
๏ Is considered to be an industry standard auditioning technique
๏ Serve as another way to document whose voice is on the file should it get downloaded
๏ Act as a watermark of sorts for clients who are unable to manipulate audio *
๏ Be perceived as the least disruptive form of protection on an audition file

* It may be hard to believe but there are some people out there who either can't be bothered to edit audio or who simply don't have the means or desire to do so. While this isn't watermarking per se, if someone cannot remove or doesn't care to remove the slate, the slate would still in effect render the audio less usable.

Bottom Line

If you find that other audition protecting techniques are working just fine for you, for example watermarking or reworking copy, good for you! That being said, we are not encouraging talent to watermark or change up the copy in auditions but do want to stress that we are in favour of slating in auditions. As I said earlier, reading a snippet or a shorter segment of the script is better than mangling copy or taking liberties with an approved script.

What Are Your Thoughts?

If you have any comments about what you read or about how you go about protecting your auditions, I'd love to hear them!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Nicolas Hansen

Related Topics: auditions, copy, how to, industry, pop filter, reading, recording, slating, techniques, voice acting, watermark, watermarking


Comments


    In the end then we risk all for nothing. How do I really protect my work and stop them from actually using the audition as the script. There's always someone who can do a little basic editing and just cut out the slate. Maybe that's why I don't get any work at all after over a year here and over 2 years as a member of a competitor service, ya think?

    Posted by:

      Good article! In Nashville, TN where I live and in addition to VO, work as a songwriter, the biggest thing you hear new songwriters worry about is that someone is going to steal their song. It happens, but it's rare! The really big writers don't worry about officially registering their songs for copyright protection, until they actually get a cut. It's the new writers who register their songs right out of the box. One veteran writer said to a new writer in a workshop, "I hate to say it, but you would be lucky if someone wanted to steal your songs at this stage of the game"
      I think the same goes for VO....my feeling is that I want to do the best audition possible, without any distractions or misunderstanding that I am reading the script wrong. Odds are, no one is going to steal it, so why risk messing up my chances with a casting person out of that fear...that's my 2 cents...:)

      Posted by:

        Another way I've protected my audition is to us only part of the script. If the audition piece is long enough, I find a good paragraph somewhere in the middle and record that.

        Posted by:

          Sorry, but I strongly disagree.

          If the job poster is not experienced enough to simply remove a slate, I probably wouldn't be auditioning for them in the first place.

          IMHO, partial copy reads are the best. It gives the job poster more than enough in most cases to hear what you sound like and cast the project.

          My second choice would be some slight alteration to the copy (removing or changing a name, web site, or phone number)... and I'd only do this in cases where the posting was questionable (ie. "must read all the copy", or "this should be simple")

          Slating by itself provides next to no protection.

          You might as well rely on a screen door to protect your house's contents...

          Posted by:

            Slating is fine for the identification of voice talent, but it does not protect the audition from editing. The best way to protect your audition from being used as the final product, is don't read the entire audition script.

            Posted by:
            • BP Smyth, Narrator
            • February 8, 2011 10:17 AM

              Hi Jack, Ruth, Heather, and Joe,

              Thank you for commenting and for sharing your thoughts!

              @Jack: If you are not doing anything additional to protect your work (recording only a portion of the script, for instance) I suggest that you do so. I also want to stress that as Ruth stated, there are few people out there who set out to steal voice talent auditions and some precautions may actually hinder you as opposed to help you get work from the vast majority of clients who are happy to do business properly.

              How can you tell if clients are hiring through a site and therefore paying for the work commissioned? One way you can do this is to visit the Voices.com Recently Hired List and click through talent feedback ratings and reviews to cross-reference this with the names of clients and companies you have auditioned for. A feature we are considering to implement is one where you can see that a job has been awarded to a particular talent and has been completed through the site. You'd be able to view this from within your account on a per submitted audition basis.

              @Ruth: You have a great outlook on this! Thank you for sharing your perspective and for reiterating that the overwhelming majority of clients are wanting to do business above board. Why risk offending someone or rendering your audition completely useless to someone in a position to cast you? It is better to take steps in a positive direction (shortening the script, slating) than it is to assume that danger lurks around every corner.

              @Heather and Joe: I agree that only a portion of the script be submitted. We never recommend that talent read the full script for clients using the site when auditioning for jobs. We do however encourage you to protect your work if you feel the need. For some people that does mean slating, using watermarks, altering copy, or simply recording a bit of the script to give a taste of what you can do.

              @Jack: Thank you for commenting! I agree that the slate may not be the best way to protect an audition file as most people are technically savvy, however, not everyone who uses the site is as skilled as you might expect in terms of audio production. Recording a portion of the script is as you've noted the best way to go both in terms of professionalism and for protecting audition submissions.

              Great discussion, folks!

              Best wishes,

              Stephanie

              Posted by:
              • Stephanie Ciccarelli
              • February 8, 2011 10:30 AM

                Some consensus there in favour of a slated, shorter, unbowdlerised, and unbleeped read! But then again - the first job I ever did through Voices.com I demoed in full (about four minutes) and the producer said fine I want to use the mp3 as it is, here's yer cash! I intend to go on trusting people, the vast majority are good pros. Feelgood factor.

                Posted by:

                  Slating is no protection at all. It's for identification only and let's face it anyone in this business can manipulate sound files now unless they've been living under a rock. Heather is right. Take out a small piece piece of the read. Clients are not that stupid, if they are, they've been living under the same rock with the people that don't know how to use sound editing software these days. Finally...there are people that will rip you off. I've had it happen to me. It's no different than locking you car. We do this for the one in a thousand that may steal it, not for the 999 honest folks out there. It's just common sense.

                  Posted by:

                    Slating and watermarking are simply not the same thing.

                    I usually don't slate and never watermark. If I don't feel comfortable submitting an audition because of concern that someone might "steal" it, I simply don't audition.

                    The idea of changing a phone number or leaving out a name was a method I used on occasion, but now, if I am auditioning for something, I will read it the way it is written. Unless I decide to do some ad libbing - something that depends on the project and script.

                    If I have provided a couple of approaches in the audition, then I might consider a quick - "two reads" or something, but usually just mention it in the remarks.

                    Posted by:

                      Hi Connie and Scott,

                      Thank you for sharing your comments.

                      Connie: I agree that slating is not the same as watermarking and was suggesting that a slate could be used instead. The intention was not to present slating as though it were a watermark but it can in some ways function as one indirectly. While it may not necessarily achieve the same goal as a watermark, the slate may prove effective in other ways.

                      Scott: I see where you are coming from. Locking one's car is simply what we do and protecting auditions is also something one should do. What it comes down to is how. From what I understand and have also read, the consensus is to read less of the copy that is provided as a rule of thumb. If someone wants to go further in this, they can protect their audio as they see fit.

                      What might be interesting is a survey of auditions that were booked at Voices.com and to note whether or not talent chose to use watermarks, slated, etc. I'm not promising this will be done anytime soon but it is something that interests me and would shed more light on what clients think. The proof is in the pudding as they say.

                      Best wishes,

                      Stephanie

                      Posted by:
                      • Stephanie Ciccarelli
                      • February 8, 2011 12:15 PM

                        I've found theft of recorded content exceedingly common. AFTRA collected for me a number of times.

                        If a producer is hell bent on stealing content, there's nothing you can do. They steal a line from this read and one from that read and patch it all together some how...which how one crook made 6 TV VOs out of 2 that he paid for.

                        The voice seeker's identity should be available to anyone choosing to audition.

                        Posted by:
                        • Steve Hammill
                        • February 8, 2011 2:12 PM

                          Hi Steve,

                          Thanks for commenting and for sharing your experiences.

                          Clients do share their names when posting jobs at Voices.com. It's a required field when signing up and part of our process includes sharing an "About Us" to detail more about the company and to help build trust.

                          Best wishes,

                          Stephanie

                          Posted by:
                          • Stephanie Ciccarelli
                          • February 8, 2011 2:45 PM

                            What does watermarking signify about your attitude towards your potential client? You don't trust them. Not a very positive basis on which to try to form a new (and hopefully repeating) business relationship.

                            If the posting says "must read all the copy", I'll pass on the audition. That's not just a red flag, it's flashing lights and a siren. It'd be interesting to find out what percentage of jobs that include such a phrase actually end up getting booked and paid for.

                            If some sleazeball wants to steal auditions, he had no intention of paying for them to begin with. You're not going to get any repeat business from him anyway, so just let it go and get on to the next audition.

                            Posted by:

                              Voices.com continues to instruct watermarking on some of the audition requests, but not all. This seems to contradict the earlier comments and discussion. Why on some and not others? I saw it on an audition today, even though I've told it's something that "used" to be done.

                              Comments?

                              Posted by:

                                I have done traditional watermarking in the past here on voices.com. However...it always leaves me thinking that the potential client might be offended that I didn't trust them. I've for the most part moved away from it. Voices.com screens clients well, and when I have my own personal auditions outside of voices.com...I do my own checking on the company and make sure I am not getting into a potential "scam" situation. Sometimes if I'm not sure I ask for the money up front. For the most part...clients are good with this. But - I have also lost jobs because I wanted the money up front too. You just never know.

                                Posted by:

                                  I agree... slating doesn't really protect the audio from being "stolen". It simply lets the person know whose audio they're going to "steal". Slating does have its purpose in identifying the VO talent, but to truly protect the audio from being used without compensation, then watermarking or changing the copy is the way to go. I personally don't like altering the copy; to me I would think the producer or whomever at the other end might think I messed up the read.

                                  When watermarking, I'll either insert a quick tone every 10 seconds or so, making sure to insert the tone over the voice as opposed to silence where it can be cut out. OR, I'll save a copy of the original audio, but in a lower quality not suitable for air. No annoying beeps, but still audio that they can't use for a final mix.

                                  Also, if I've done previous work for a voice seeker, and they ask me to audition, I'll always send them audio without watermarks. Trust has been built into the relationship already since we've worked together, so there's no need to protect anything.

                                  Of course, not all producers or voice seekers are going to steal from VO talent. But unfortunately there are those who do (and I've had it happen to me, so I like to protect my work if at all possible).

                                  Posted by:

                                    Hi Liz,

                                    Thank you for commenting. The changes have been made in job postings now and you won't see suggestions regarding watermarking any more. I appreciate your observation and am pleased to confirm that this has been resolved.

                                    Thank you,

                                    Stephanie

                                    Posted by:

                                      FADE!

                                      I've never found watermarking to be a problem for most clients, but the easiest way to protect your audio is to fade out the last sentence. Preferably, before the end of the last sentence.

                                      Bleeps and bloops are distracting and can put a bad taste in someone's ..... ear?? :)

                                      A fade is a gentle way of saying, "I really want to work with you. But I don't know you, and unfortunately there are a lot of weasels out there. I'm SURE you're not one of them. But .... but.... "

                                      Posted by:

                                        Hi....I was just wondering....couldn't they just take your file and pop it into some audio software and edit the slate out?

                                        Nikki

                                        Posted by:
                                        • Nikki Discola
                                        • February 10, 2011 12:40 PM

                                          Hi Nikki,

                                          Thank you for your reply. I hope all is well with you! Technically someone could do that which is why we always recommend that talent only read a short portion of the client's script.

                                          I hope that helps.

                                          Best wishes,

                                          Stephanie

                                          Posted by:

                                            Hi Stephanie:

                                            I'm glad that you have suggested "slating" for auditions. I have
                                            always slated for on camera auditions and VO auditions until I started with Voices.com. However, I will now resume "slating" Past experience has shown me that it "definitely can set the tone." It also can show the client 2 different sides of your talent, should your audition piece be very different than your speaking voice. Slating can be a valuable tool if you think about it.

                                            Rosie Goodman

                                            Posted by:
                                            • Rosie Goodman
                                            • February 11, 2011 7:43 AM

                                              I always slate auditions, unless directed not to. Why not? It gets your name out there and, more so, my coach always insisted jobs were sometimes won from slates alone (not my experience, to date).

                                              But I don't see how slates deter theft; a little editing will take the slate right out. Why not just a combination of fading to the point of unusable at the end - message received - and/or drop some copy?

                                              Separately, I appreciate all the thought given to the topic, having been 'thieved,' myself.

                                              Posted by:
                                              • Ken Karp
                                              • February 14, 2011 10:04 AM

                                                I agree with Pettitt. I fade samples; for a couple reasons. First, if the potential client isn't interested in my approach to their copy, they will know soon enough. Second, (generally) they have to slog through an excessive of auditions, so time is valuable to them.

                                                With long copy, I just give them a portion anyway, without fade.

                                                Watermarks are distractions - like static. The client need to concentrate, not brace themselves for the next jolt....

                                                Charles Kahlenberg

                                                Posted by:
                                                • Charles Kahlenberg
                                                • February 14, 2011 10:53 AM

                                                  I guess I like this idea to a certain degree as it does give the listener your name and such. The only problem I have is now about watermarking it, I have always used a music bed as a watermark and finished it fading out with my name embedded within the music bed. Are the clients screened before they post a job here so we know they are trustworthy and will actually pay us in the end and not walk off with the script?


                                                  Just a suggestion instead of them being able to download the file at the very end why not first they just get to preview it on the site so they can't download it. And if they like what they hear payment is paid to you in the surepay system and then they get to download the file. Granted there may be touchups needed to the voice-over script but still it would be a win-win situation you would still get paid and it would protect you from having your voice-over taken.

                                                  Sean

                                                  Posted by:
                                                  • Sean Keating
                                                  • March 31, 2011 7:46 AM

                                                    Great article-From my experience, Slate and only read a partial of the script. If you are reading the whole thing- or longer than 60 seconds, you are wasting time: Yours and theirs. Don't give anymore away than you already have.

                                                    Posted by:

                                                      I slate it with a special opener with my name ... if the copy is long, I'll do segments ... short copy, at least half. But since I have yet to book anything through Voices.com ... perhaps I need to change what I'm doing??

                                                      Posted by:
                                                      • Sheila Caldwell
                                                      • May 30, 2011 8:43 PM

                                                        Hi Sheila! What you're doing sounds to be spot on. Slating at the beginning of each audition is a great way to introduce yourself and it sets the tone for a professional sounding audition. ^AH

                                                        Posted by:
                                                        • Ashley Hall, Social Media Manager at Voices.com
                                                        • May 30, 2011 8:44 PM

                                                          One piece of advice I got was to slate in the voice that you are going to read the audition in. It sets the tone for the read, since some, not all, may judge you simply on the basis of the slate. Another approach which I'm going to consider is to have a female voice slate me. That would, hopefully, make them want to hear beyond the slate.

                                                          Posted by:
                                                          • David A. Bucci
                                                          • May 30, 2011 8:45 PM

                                                            I've been submitting a portion of the script and not slating. Seems to me the client has so many auditions to wade through and I want the first thing they hear to be their script. I figure I have about 3 seconds to catch their attention. But like Sheila, I haven't booked any jobs here either so maybe my approach is wrong.

                                                            Posted by:
                                                            • Mindy Vitale
                                                            • May 30, 2011 8:47 PM

                                                              David, I like that idea, I think I am going to have a male slate for me. Also, I don't watermark, because a new client, say, for a telephone recording may not understand what the sound is and think that I just have noise. Not all clients know what watermarking is. I just leave off a bit of the copy and that has always worked well for me.

                                                              Posted by:

                                                                I always slate, but never watermark. I've been told on many occasions that watermarking is an indication to your potential client that you don't trust them. Not a good way to start a business relationship. Happy Memorial Day! Cheers!

                                                                Posted by:
                                                                • Jan Anderson
                                                                • May 30, 2011 8:48 PM

                                                                  If it's short, I will usually just give them the whole read and not worry about it. If it's more than just a couple of sentences...they get whatever I can fit into 30 seconds...no more. I figure 30 ticks is long enough to get an idea of whether they like my voice or not. I never watermark.

                                                                  Posted by:
                                                                  • Ben Straley
                                                                  • May 30, 2011 8:49 PM

                                                                    I do not watermark or slate, over the years I have found that if the audition is properly labeled the client knows who you are and there fore does not need to be told again who you are. They want to hear the audition. So in the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy..Git Er Done! They want the audition so give it to them and let the labeling say who you are.

                                                                    Posted by:
                                                                    • Nick Montague
                                                                    • May 30, 2011 8:50 PM

                                                                      I find watermarks annoying at the end what comes out more often is the watermarks then your voice.... Def. Agree with Ben, if they do not like those you within 20-30 sec. they're just not going to like you.

                                                                      Posted by:
                                                                      • Jennyfer Moreno Shek
                                                                      • May 30, 2011 8:51 PM

                                                                        Always follow the instructions of the client at the premier. If you are fortunate enough to generate flexibility with the auditioneer,...after sticking to the original format, you are at liberty to experiment. This is not a game. Winning and audition is about talent,being granted a privilege to display your talent and get paid for it, so my advice is to remember we have two ears and one mouth...to listen twice as much as we speak: be kind courteous, informational (when asked) concise and open minded! Good luck to you all in your auditions! the "super professionals!" your brother in the business of entertainment.

                                                                        BRIAN STARR

                                                                        Posted by:
                                                                        • Brian Starr
                                                                        • May 30, 2011 8:53 PM

                                                                          I rarely slate for myself, but find it a nice touch when coaching and editing my boys. A friendly "Hi I'm (Weston)" from a kid is a nice start for a child audition. I always say thanks at the end, or "have a great day" if it's fitting and that voice is always my own, even if it's different from the read they just heard.

                                                                          I never watermark, and sometimes I have had polished auditions become the job, without any pickups. If it's a scene, I'll take time to cut and paste the two voices together and basically give a sense of the finished piece. Most of my jobs have been won this way, as I have an actor husband, actor sons, and actor neighbors. So I err on the side of taking time to give it polish, if I have the time. But these are usually for jobs 1 minute or less.

                                                                          Posted by:
                                                                          • Jeany Van Meltebeke Snider
                                                                          • May 30, 2011 8:55 PM

                                                                            If people feel watermarking with a tone makes the client feel you don't trust them, they should feel the same when you change the copy or only read part of it. It's the same principal.

                                                                            I use a very low beep that is not annoying. I think a tone is professional, unbiased, neutral way to do business. I think of it as a good business practice, like getting receipts when you pay in cash.

                                                                            You're always supposed to slate an audition. It's definitely not a watermark and not protecting anything.

                                                                            I've had a lot of feedback, and have no problem using a watermark. Maybe because it isn't loud. My advise, lower your watermark tone -

                                                                            Posted by:
                                                                            • Winnie
                                                                            • June 3, 2011 8:27 PM

                                                                              Don't lock your car.

                                                                              Leave your iPod, your laptop, and five hundred dollars in cash in full view on the front seat.

                                                                              Then see what happens.

                                                                              Clients who object to watermarked audition tracks are doing one of two things:


                                                                              1) Stealing your stuff.

                                                                              2) (just as bad) Using your stuff as a sales tool to make presentations and sometimes spec spots for their clients. Something voice talent folks used to get *paid* for.


                                                                              No respectable client (not one!) will insist on a complete, unaltered, un-watermarked voice audition track.

                                                                              All other clients are to be strictly avoided.


                                                                              cc: The Web

                                                                              Posted by:
                                                                              • Frank Watson
                                                                              • December 8, 2011 10:51 AM

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