Gobs on Sticks

Thoughts mostly (but not always) about the voice-over business, from London Voiceover Artist, Mike Cooper

  • About the author

    My name is Mike Cooper. I'm a full time Voiceover Artist living and working in London, and this is my blog. Find out more about me on my main website (there's a link further down this column), or if you'd like to hear some of my work, check out the files below.
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Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

Excuse me… do you speak British?

Posted by MikeCooper on November 10, 2010

Voice casting websites are a something of a double-edged sword in the modern voiceover business. (Some might even say a “necessary evil”, or worse…) But among their better features, one of the really good things these sites enable a producer to do is to select the accent they want for their project.

The problem, of course, is that not all accents are the genuine article. Many of my American and Australian counterparts in the voiceover industry will list a “British accent” among their repertoire on such websites – just as a good number of my fellow Brits will list an American or Australian accent among theirs. But, as a producer, one of the things which will always show your production values as being lower than you would like in the media business is a bad accent –  i.e., one which is poorly performed – and the problem is that while a non-native speaker might not be able to tell the difference, anyone who grew up with that accent will immediately spot it as a ringer. Once that happens, your message is dead in the water. No one’s listening to the words in your spot anymore: they’re just marvelling at how it ever got on air in the first place.

Bad accents are nothing new, of course, and they vary in their degrees of cringeworthiness. Dick Van Dyke struck a blow for the cause with his famously bad Mockney in the film version of “Mary Poppins”, and it could be argued that we got our own back, to some degree, with Michael Crawford’s effort in “Helly Dolly” a few years later. (This would have probably been much more noticeable if the audience weren’t agasp at a young Barbra Streisand playing a role clearly thirty years her senior, but I digress). The accents performed by non-native speakers aren’t all that bad, admittedly, but I’m always intrigued when I see a British accent listed on a non-native’s demo list. And, truth be told, I’m almost always disappointed by the results, chucklesome though they often are.

In the interests of transparency, I do list an Australian accent as one of the things I can perform, but then I lived with an Aussie at very close quarters for six years and I feel I can capture the nuance without going over the top and turning into Crocodile Dundee or Rolf Harris. The Australian Tourism Board apparently agreed when they booked me for a series of Canadian TV spots last year, so “fair dos”…

All this notwithstanding, I always try to be honest about my abilities (or lack thereof) and as such I have turned down the invitation to “wow” the audience with my (frankly laughable) “English – North American” on more than one occasion. That said, in the interests of doing my bit for the “Special Relationship”, I’ve just married one, so it’s not out of the question as we go forward.

Anyway, back to the point…

Steven Lowell is the Community Development Manager at Voice123.com, one of the largest voice casting websites in the industry today, and he’s just written about exactly this in his blog. He cites American voice talent who claim “British English” as a native language, when in fact they can only perform a British accent, as one of the reasons that producers often feel insulted at the quality of the auditions they get back.

In his piece, entitled “‘Faking It’ Just Isn’t ‘Making It'”, Lowell says: “As a voice seeker posting a job, remember that details are key to the success of what you receive. Specifically choosing a native speaking language of a country will get you mostly what you want, but it helps to specify, ‘Native speakers only’ in the project description.”

…and he makes a very valid point. So, next time you’re looking for looking for an authentic accent, make sure you check out the credentials of the talent. Always get a sample read by way of a demo (this should always be free of charge), and make sure someone who knows that accent backwards thinks it’s on the money. Otherwise, truth be told, you’re probably wasting yours.


Posted in Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Gobs on the Web

Posted by MikeCooper on August 14, 2009

I thought it would be a good idea to round up some of the voiceover business stories I’ve found most interesting and useful on my travels around the internet recently. So here, in what I hope to make a weekly feature, I present “Gobs on the Web”. This first one is going to be a bit longer than I expect these posts to be in general, because there’s been a lot of good stuff in recent weeks which I’d like to pull together in one go.

So, first up, Edge Studio this week posted the latest in their helpful series of posts for voice actors: The Voiceover Mistake Chart, listing the kind of mistakes that new – and sometimes experienced – voiceover artists make when going about their business. It includes everything from titling your demos in a way that makes them impossible to decipher, to wearing too much cologne in the VO booth and upsetting the next talent. The first section also deals with common pronunciation mistakes (though having had a read through, that section is more on the money for American English than for the rest of us). Edge Studio say they’ll keep adding to the list, so it’s a good one to bookmark. The guys have also very helpfully provided an archive of 3,500 voiceover scripts which talents are free to use to practice and demo with! Kudos to them for that (and thanks to Tracy Pattin on the VoiceBank blog for spotting it.)

Meanwhile over on the ProComm Voiceover Blog, Dan Freeman has posted an excellent article on choosing the right microphone. His advice? Listen before buying if at all possible. And for those of us whose location doesn’t allow auditioning, he has some great “stock suggestions” for good starting points which shouldn’t embarrass you. (I was pleased to see my own mic, the Neumann TLM 103 on the list – it’s a cracker!)

Voice Actor, Producer and Coach, James Alburger, posted recently on VoiceOverExtra about how to work remotely with your clients. It’s all very well living in the digital age and being tape-free, but email doesn’t cut it for sending big files without a lot of compression. James’s excellent article explains the various options for remote session recording and walks anyone who’s not sure through the basics of ISDN, Phone Patch, and newcomers like Source-Connect for live sessions, before going on to talk about FTP and file delivery services (including my own personal favourite, YouSENDIt.com, which even has its own iPhone app for you to monitor who downloaded the file and when).

Stephanie Ciccarelli of online casting service, Voices.com, is in the middle of a series of great posts over at VoxDaily. First of these is 95+ Podcast Resources for Voice Actors95?! She’s been busy, I’ll say that. Aimed primarily at those trying to get into the business and build their client list, Stephanie has helpfully categorised this mammoth list into sections like “Getting Started”, “Marketing”, “Branding”, “Demos”, “Technique” and so on. There should be something in here for everyone, though I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve not personally been through all of her recommendations. (If you’d like to read my own series on Getting Started then click here and read from the bottom up…)

In much the same vein, check out Stephanie’s other posts of recent weeks: 4 Ways to Increase Your Voice Acting Income and 6 Ways To Get Experience in the Business of Voice Acting (Stephanie is very fond of numbers.)

Finally, some lighter reading: Bill Pryce of Austin, Texas got stopped at security with a Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic – which appears to have been mistaken for, erm, a shotgun… And congratulations to Rory O’Shea, who’s living the dream and has just completed building his basement studio in Toronto. In fact he’s so happy, he’s giving us a tour.

I hope you enjoyed this first roundup – do drop me a line and let me know. Comments are welcome as always!

Posted in news | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Online voice directories – worth the cost of admission?

Posted by MikeCooper on March 22, 2009

I blogged yesterday about how using online services like Voice123 and Voices.com could be helpful to those getting into the voiceover business.

Timely as ever, Nevada-based voiceover artist and TV presenter, Dave Courvoisier, has been blogging himself about whether such sites are worth the cost of membership. On his “Voice-Acting in Vegas” blog, he also features some sound advice from established voice actor and coach, Bettye Zoller. You can read Dave’s post, including Bettye’s thoughts, here.

What are your views? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Posted in Voiceovers | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

What a mistake to make…

Posted by MikeCooper on March 14, 2009

I read a great blog post this week at VoiceOverExtra.com by David Goldberg, who’s a producer and voice coach at EdgeStudio in the United States.

In his piece, David talks about the reasons why some voiceover artists don’t get asked back twice and covers everything from basic schoolboy errors in marketing (like not putting your contact details on your demo) to some of the finer points of studio etiquette.

There’s a lot of stuff here which seasoned talents will know, either consciously or otherwise, but you might be surprised at what you hadn’t thought of. If you’re following my articles on getting started in voiceovers, then you owe it to yourself to take a look! Here’s the link.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Mike makes the news thanks to Voices.com

Posted by MikeCooper on January 22, 2009

Stephanie Ciccarelli of Voices.com has mentioned my gig voicing Dinosaur Secrets in today’s VoxTalk podcast. You can listen to it – and subscribe – here.

She’s also interviewed me for the Vox Daily blog, which you can find and subscribe to here.

Posted in Documentaries, news, Voiceovers | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »