A behind the scenes look at recording TV documentary narration
As I type, I have more windows open on my Mac than is strictly good for it. My world is a multi-tasking heavy one and I'm often asked what I ACTUALLY DO as a Voiceover Artist.
Well, today, dear reader, I'll give you a window (different sort) into my world.
Do you really work in your PJs?
Sometimes, but mostly I'm dressed! Voiceover work has little respect for evenings and weekends as it's always someone's deadline, somewhere across the timezones and my work means that I have clients across the world.
I do sometimes feel at an advantage when there is a fast turnaround for a job that's from the US as I have a few hours on them, but I have been editing at night before now to make sure a client in Thailand has what they need for their project, just in time. Phew.
Saying all that, It is of course up to me what jobs I accept or decline, although my default setting is "I'd love to record that for you", I do have to make sure that it makes business sense to accept the job.
What happens if you get a cold? Do you sound really husky?
I hate getting colds! Like most VOs I know, I am on a constant pursuit of vitamins and immune system boosters - the fizzing in a glass ones being my current favourite. When a cold does strike though, it's a bit tricky.. you no longer sound like the person who submitted a successful audition last week and you can't audition this week as you'll sound like you again the week after.. sigh..
I'm all for honesty and integrity.. if something urgent pops up I'll have a look at the read and see if it's something I can handle (knowing that you're only as good as your last VO), my regular clients are nice, human people and understand I'm not a robot and do get a cold on occasions - so I usually plan a day to record for them that suits them and my health! If it's not happening and they need something urgent, I often refer to folks in my network who I think will do a great job.
I try to resist the temptation of wrapping up in scarves and looking like a suffering luvey! Most of the time..
Is it just about having a great voice?
No, it's really not. As a VO, I'm actually in many different businesses; broadcasting, advertising, online learning and training, marketing, branding, corporate and internal communications etc etc.
Empathy and understanding across these businesses is essential if you are going to deliver something that works for them. I have major insight into training and elearning for example, this means that my knowledge of how the modules are used as well as the audiences for them, informs how I deliver the content.
The KEY skill, I would say is turning the written word into the spoken word.. it's about the message and the audience connecting. If your voice is good, hey, that helps create the mood.
Do you get to go to loads of great studios?
Sometimes! There is a real buzz about recording a job for a client in a cool set up in Soho.. you feel the showbiz and who doesn't love that?
Most of the time though, you'll find me on my own, working in my studio on the top floor of my house. I have a great little booth and some nice gadgets and I actually enjoy the whole recording and production process.
I spent time as a BBC SM (Studio Manager, kinda sound engineer) at the World Service so I am lucky in that audio production and tech stuff is 2nd nature to me. That said, most digital audio software is pretty easy to use these days. When I bought my microphone, I was a bit of an awkward customer.. I wanted to try a load of them and had the poor guy unpacking lots of mics and processors for me to try to get the one that worked best with my voice. Ears like a bat thanks to the BBC training!!
How do you get into Voiceovers?
It's a journey as unique as the individual VO artists I think.. some come from radio broadcasting, some come from acting. What unites everyone is the pursuit of excellence in VO as a performance craft all of it's own. It isn't just talking. It's performance of a very subtle nature. The detail of the work is minute and it is so precise.
I have theatre training, I'm a radio presenter and a sound engineer and I have always been asked to voice bits and bobs for people over my entire career.. when I left the BBC as staff in 2011 I decided to go for VO full time. So that's what I now do! I'm a member of Equity and the Radio Academy.
How do you find work?
In a combination of ways, online sites, agents, contacts and networks. I also actively pursue areas I'm really interested in working within. One much wiser than me likens VO to maintaining a garden, with lots of plants coming up at different times. I try and make sure I am constantly planting bulbs and seeds whilst maintaining the more established plants! :)
As a VO, I love my job as a VO and also as my own marketing manager, accounts person, Chief technical officer, operations manager, sound engineer, head of special projects, insight manager, legal adviser... hence lots of windows open on my Mac and the multi-tasking!
Got a question about Voiceover or how you go about working with a Voiceover?
Contact Clare now
In Part Two of my Blog post, animals, children, weather and our utterly rubbish sandbags
As a voiceover artist you are often heard and not seen... that would have been somewhat unsettling for Victorian parents who preferred their offspring to be seen and not heard..
A week today though, I am stepping out of the booth and onto the stage. All of me. My voice will be joined by the rest of me.
Working with BBC Kent, I will be hosting their WW1 At Home event on stage, in a large tent in Folkestone, Kent.
The event is to commemorate the start of the First World War, which began on 4th August 1914.
Kent has often, quite literally, been in the firing line for war stories and commemorations. The Battle of Britain took place in it's skies, so many of the Little Ships made their way to Dunkirk from Kent. A great deal of the planning for significant parts of WW1 and WW2 happened in Dover Castle.. frequently in the underground tunnels that still hold their secrets and atmosphere like a bottle holds perfume.
The ships carrying the troops to war in 1914 departed from Folkestone and continued to do so. For many, Folkestone was the last bit of England they visited in their short lives. The new arch on The Leas commemorates just this journey and it's designer, Philip Gearing, will be joining me on stage on 4th August to tell us about the arch and it's significance.
The lives of people in Kent were profoundly effected by WW1, not only the soldiers and their families, it built towns (Crayford and the Vickers Machine Gun) to build the kit of war. Andy Robertshaw will be demonstrating what is is special about this piece of kit - for better or worse..
It changed the way women operated and were perceived in society, such a short time after Pankhurst fought and won her own battle and we hear more about the lives of the women, not just as those who were left behind but as strong, instigators of the Land Army and beyond.
As part of the commemorations, I will be joined on stage by people who will be bringing the way WW1 effected the lives of those living and working in Kent to life. We will be discussing, exploring and experiencing the sights and sounds of the time.
We will be reflecting on the people and places then and now and we will be contemplating how we view WW1 now. With 100 years of hindsight.
I am delighted to be hosting the event and I'm looking forward, with genuine fascination, to interviewing some people with tremendous insight and to meeting local people and hearing their stories too. It's SO important to remember, commemorate and celebrate the lives and stories of people who shaped the way we live today. We will remember them.
More on BBC Kent's commemorations here
Clare is an experienced live host and facilitator. You can find out more about how Clare can bring your event to life by emailing for more details
So that was Makegood!
Awash with acoustic foam tiles, branded postcards and velcro - it was a superb opportunity to meet potential clients face to face and to invite them to listen to my demos, right there in front of me..
As a voiceover artist in this "day and age", meeting our clients face to face is not something we do every day - the internet has transformed how we work, with our own studios, email and digital audio meaning that we are generally working on our own and getting feedback about our work is a prize that is hard won.
As part of Makegood, I spoke to hundreds of people interested in my work and what exactly I am in the business of doing. Yes, we all know I talk, record, edit and send BUT in reality I enhance people's brands, products and services. I am in the business of branding, sales and audience profiling.
Makegood provided me with the opportunity to actually say this and talk through what that means with actual people!
Then there is the demo business. We send off our showreels digitally or via our websites. Only a few times in my world have a sat and watch a client or potential client actually listen to my precious showreels in front of me.
At Makegood I witnessed hundreds of people put on the headphones and press play.
I watched their faces, smiles, raised eyebrows and quizzical looks as they asked "are they all you?" and "is that you?" to which I nodded and smiled.
I am honored and delighted to say that the feedback to my work was positive and affirming.
As I often say, what I love about voiceovers is the opportunity to dip into the many worlds in which voiceovers inhabit.
What was special about Makegood was the opportunity to engage with people face to face and invite them into my world, just for a little while, to listen, to understand and to talk about my business. The business of reaching audiences with clarity and style. Which ultimately has little to do with foam and velro.
.. and this time next week I will be worse.
29th May 2014 is the begining of the Makegood Festival. Yes, perhaps I have been banging on about it a little of late.
It's a huge showcase of some of the hottest, most creative businesses, ideas, innovators and entrepreneurs around today.
I'm delighted (and privileged) to be one of those businesses.
Clare Reeves Voiceovers will be exhibiting at Makegood. The only Voiceover Artist in the show.
I will be surrounded by arty people who make and sell truly beautiful and ingenious things. The visual impact of their products will be stunning.
And then there is me. A voiceover artist. I don't have gorgeous jewelry to sell or even teddy bears with artificial human teeth (trust me, they'll be there). So it will be me, my crew and some kit.
I'm going to be relying on myself and my voice to make the impact that I need to have for the event to work for me.
So, how am I going to compete with all the treasures?
In truth, it's taken some thinking about. But I'm there now! I am branded with my logos and images on EVERYTHING. - banners, postcards, press packs, my clothing choices.. even my hair colour!
It's reflecting the style and quality of my work. I'm all about glossy!
I have an office full of boxes of acoustic tiles and velcro and banners and kit.
During Makegood, I'm going to be using all this as a backdrop to showcase my work through my demos - which you can pop over and have a listen to as well as a chance for you to come and get involved.
You'll be able to give me a line to record for you in a style of your choosing. We will record it and send it to you.
I'm also going to be The Voice of Makegood - providing live announcements throughout the event to help visitors discover what is happening and to perhaps be a little bit showbiz with - if they let me..
So as I reach the 1 week to go stage I can say that I am ready and raring to go.
I'm excited about this opportunity and meeting the people who come along.
Let's just hope I can sleep the night before..
Clare Reeves Voiceovers - Makegood Soundgreat
No, you can't be a voiceover artist if you're a radio presenter.
This would have been a very short post if I had believed that. These two vocal art forms actually complement each other well. Here's how.
OK, yes, I can sound like a BBC newsreader when a VO client requests that. Interestingly though, I tend to find that they want someone who sounds like a BBC newsreader either off duty or who has had a little too much coffee.
Sounding natural on the radio is a real skill and the trend today is for a conversational presenter but one who makes an impact on the listener. Sounding natural is not about getting behind a mic and broadcasting for the first time - that's a bit too natural. It's about training your voice, listening to your off air recordings and working out what you were doing that made that bit sound really good. It is about exaggerating speech a little bit, playing with the mic - VOs know the power of dropping our volume and getting in close to the mic. Mmmm, cosy. Then, stripping it down and being natural and YOU - but with the benefit of consciousness about your sound.
Essentially, as a VO, I can work out in an instant what voice style is required at any given moment and use it on the radio. It's still me, I'm not doing an impersonation, it's just dipping into my tool bag. Radio texture comes from the tone we use to communicate content and tell stories - nothing fake. You can't get away with it unless it's deliberately OTT. With VO, as many of our projects are very short, I can sustain a voice that isn't quite the real me for that time. I can't do that with a four hour radio show!
In radio we focus on an "audience of 1", thinking about them, what they are doing and telling them the story as an individual. This is something I use in VO, it's great for selecting the right tone and pace and provokes you to think about the brief a bit more deeply. Radio teaches the lesson we all know about really understanding the script and what we are selling. It pays to be across the story - if you aren't then you need to ask the right questions. Radio guru Valerie Geller recommends that you know your script so well that if it were to blow away in a gust of wind, you'd be able to deliver the cue and conduct the interview. It's a good thought and would certainly make for telling the story in a personal style.
It's a happy relationship between presenting and VO. I'm delighted I can do both (and that my employers are happy with my double life). The benefits for me are that I can draw on tools from both sides of my work and my aim is that when I'm in the hot seat or booth I don't have to think about it too much, it just happens. Hence an article longer than one line after all.
For more light-heated insights into the wonderful world of voiceover work, make sure you take a look at my Twitter feed, @clareonairlive.
We're all at it - marketing that is!
How do I get my business to be noticed? Let alone get to the top of the Google search without buying your way there with "friends" or ads..
And then - when people do contact me, I need to make sure that their interest pays off and they leave with what they want or need and I get a sale and a new contact. Everyone's a winner.
With our multi tasking, gadget-tastic world we are processing more messages than every before simultaneously - it's doubtful as to whether we are pondering as deeply on these messages as we did once on reading a letter (a real one) from our best friend.. but that's the reality.
And the winners are those that sneak in ways of reaching our customers that feel natural, easy and even perhaps fun.
I've recorded voiceover for quite a few phone messaging systems / IVR's for international companies over the years.
And goodness knows we have all been on the receiving end of them, especially if you are in a hurry!
What if we looked at these messages differently? They are the shop window for your company. Your brand is represented in a pure form - audio - and how you present yourself to your customers at this point is YOUR BRAND. Your customers are listening to you. You've got them by the ears!
Getting the office junior to record your next big TV commercial voiceovers? No? So why do that with your phone messaging systems?
And is it enough to give a list of options on that system, or could you work more smartly and use it to learn about your customers and to tell them about your latest product or service?
Now, let's all do it. Smarter. And with some style.
Contact us now
Voice over talent and broadcaster, speaking out.