By Stephanie Ciccarelli
June 14, 2011
Can the microphone tell your age?
Unlike actors who perform on camera, voice artists are provided with a unique opportunity to vocally "shape-shift" and also disguise their biological age by manipulating their voices and employing techniques that make them sound younger or older than they truly are.
Has voice acting set your career off into uncharted waters when compared with your on camera experience?
Let us know by commenting on today's VOX Daily!
Last week, I happened to see a witty comment on Facebook from one of my friends, Diane Havens, about this very topic. Diane wrote, "On camera, we can't be 29 anymore. Only in the wonderful and forgiving world of faceless VO, where youth springs eternal!"
That being true, voice "age" can be defined as something malleable with physical age playing less of an influential role in casting decisions. While the microphone picks up a lot, the microphone itself does not reveal anything other than the audio it "hears" unlike a camera which captures all that the lens can "see."
In addition to gigs that require a certain youthfulness to them, voice acting affords talent many opportunities to transcend their physical appearance and beyond. You could be the voice of a talking squirrel, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or a sponge.
It may go without saying but height, weight, skin color, eye color, build and other physical features are also moot if you can believably voice a character role.
Voice acting can also overcome race and gender.
Let's take a look first at gender. Adult female voice talent typically provide the voices of male cartoon characters ranging between the ages 7 and 14. The prepubescent boy voice is next to impossible for a grown man to pull off but a female talent can ease her way into that space and deliver a convincing if not indistinguishable voice for the role in question. One of the most popular examples of this is Nancy Cartwright who has provided the voice of Bart Simpson on The Simpsons for over 20 years.
If we were to look at how voice acting and vocal technique can transcend race, a great example to cite would be how Larry Davis, who is not African American, can replicate the speech patterns, vocal tone and quality of Morgan Freeman's voice. Larry is hired frequently to provide voiceovers in the style of Freeman and has nearly perfected the art of the Morgan Freemanesque read.
No doubt you've also heard (or can do) a variety of accents as characters who come from different lands and ethnic backgrounds. While this skill may not be as closely related to the physical attributes of your voice, developing an accent is still considered a skill that helps you to break away from your natural manner of speaking to pursue other roles that may not be usually available to you in an on camera casting with particular physical casting requirements.
Come to think of it vocal range and pitch, while not nearly as obvious, are more believable when delivered from behind the mic than on camera where the voice may not "match" the expectations viewers have when contrasted with the actor's physical appearance.
If voice acting has given you opportunities to take on work for character roles you wouldn't have landed on camera, I'd love to hear about them. Be sure to comment and let me know!
iStockphoto.com/KohlerphotoRelated Topics: Accent, cartoons, hired, Microphones, Morgan Freeman, radio, techniques