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What does a voice over artist do all day? Part 12.

For reasons unknown to me, all the voice over jobs I had this week were for short scripts – the longest was around 160 words, which is just over a minute of naturally paced speaking. Unless you’re drunk.

There's a great reading speed calculator over at Gravy for the Brain if you're into...well, reading speed calculators.

One of the first things that grabbed me about voiceover was how to capture the listener’s attention in a short space of time, or in a limited number of words.

A basset hound having his ears pulled out wide

Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash

The shortest script I’ve ever voiced was just two words – the name of a drink that would play over the speakers in a bar whenever somebody ordered it. But just because a piece only has two words, it doesn’t mean you should prepare any less or not give it as much thought. There’s still an audience and they still need to understand why it’s being said.

I really enjoy that challenge, especially for something like a simple telephone message. Too chirpy and the listener might feel shouted at. Too straight, the listener might not feel like they’re important enough. Of course, it also depends on the brand and what impression they want to give off.

That was my first job this week. A 30-word, one option IVR message. It had to have a bright and friendly tone to suit the business but also had to appease the customer should that one option not be what they wanted!

Much like musicians have goals of radio air play, or artists having their work in a gallery, one of my goals since getting started in voiceover (perhaps rather obviously) is hearing myself on TV. So, my week (life) was absolutely made when an opportunity arose to voice a 6 second promo piece for a famous interlocking plastic building bricks brand (yes, Lego). They’re sponsoring a televised event in the next couple of months and MUM I’M GONNA BE ON THE TELLY. Once that gets put out, I shall definitely be spamming the video everywhere.

An angry lego man standing atop a television

The joke here is that's Lego on the telly. The bigger joke is the amount of dust I've just seen and need to clean today. MY LIFE.

Edit: the video is out, so as promised, here it is! There's two promos, one straight after the other.

We’re living in a very strange world at the moment and the times of going back to places of education are looming. So, it should come as no surprise that my next job was in some way linked to this. It was an explainer video voiceover for a company that deals with bills for university students in shared houses. It takes the stress out of situations where you have that one housemate who I won’t name (Dave) who's always late paying and expects you to front his share ‘til he gets his next loan. UGH. Sounds like a great idea to me and I know a lot of people this could have helped in the past!

The final job of the week, and one that made me sit back and think afterwards, was for an internet radio station called Chat and Spin. I really enjoy radio voice over work as it can be so varied - short idents, ridiculous promos, serious ads, there really are very few limits.

This one was an ad for the station itself - a call for donations. They’ve lost advertisers due to COVID-19, which of course, means lost revenue.

So many of us have been affected in some way due to COVID and the resulting lockdowns, even if indirectly. We’ve all seen the stories in the news about huge companies folding, institutions we’ve loved for a lifetime that will be no more. But it’s equally important to take a moment to think of the small guys, those who don’t get mentioned but are working as hard as ever just to survive. Support local businesses and independents.

Over the next couple of weeks I hope to document what else happens in a typical day in the life of a voiceover artist. So not just the jobs, but the prep, planning, practice and all the other bits that go on in between the talking.

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Martin Whiskin voiceover artist talking into a Rode NT1-a microphone
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