Hearing Voices: Finding and Directing the ‘Right’ VO Artist
With every brand video comes an important message – and that message deserves only the perfect voice to match. Landing (and working with) the right voiceover (VO) artist is not always easy, but as Bottle Rocket Media collaborator Joel Kapity explains, it can be an extremely impactful and cost-effective tactic to grab the audience’s attention. Here’s what the longtime director had to say about putting personality to text.
With so many ways to skin a brand video, why use a VO artist at all?
Great question. With the explosion of social media, it has become a big trend to simply match visuals with text and leave out any dialogue or voiceovers – especially when it comes to posting quick videos to social sites, like Facebook and Instagram.
But, for brand videos with a bit more substance, the right voice can be the main attraction. It can draw the audience in and give personality to text. It helps leave a more accurate impression of the brand’s tone and attitude, and it is way more cost-effective than going the route of traditional actors.
Finding the right VO artist can’t be easy. What’s the process like?
Step one is meeting with the client to discuss needs and get a sense of the brand’s overall personality. That’s usually the guiding light for the rest of the process. From there, I’ll work with a talent agency, casting director, or simply do my own casting – depending on the budget I have to work with. At Bottle Rocket Media, we are super flexible when it comes to voiceover artists. Every project is approached voiceover with a clean slate so we can work with the most appropriate demographic for the brand; gender, age, tone, and accent are all part of the creative criteria when booking VO talent.
I try to start with about 12-15 VO reels and match them against a scratch track, or sample track, we have recorded ourselves at the Chicago studio. At this point in my career, I usually know what I want and that helps to narrow my initial selections to about two or three that I feel comfortable sending to the client. It’s key to leave the client out during the bulk of the casting process—it keeps them from getting bogged down in an unfamiliar environment and allows us to get to the end result quicker.
Once the client gives me the green light on their final choice, it’s time to get recording.
What are the unique challenges of directing a VO Artist?
The ultimate goal is to get the piece broadcast ready, but that can take two hours of recording or an entire day. Sometimes the right voice is unfortunately attached to a very inexperienced artist, and I will spend extra time on certain annunciations – even words like ‘a’ and ‘the.’ But, for the right-sounding voice, it is worth the time.
In general, I like to begin my sessions with some get-to-know-ya conversation to help relax the artist and give me a sense of their natural sound, intonation and volume. Then, it’s on to the reads—I always have the artist do at least three different reads in different styles. I never assume that I am going to get everything I need in one full take. It’s usually a matter of taking bits from different reads and making it all come together through the power of editing.
But, even then it’s not over till the piece has gone through all of its corporate and legal approvals. Also, sometimes specific messaging changes. It’s not that uncommon to have to go back and replace a word or phrase to meet certain standards of the brand, and get the client what they need.
Final question. Can you give an example of when a VO came in clutch?
I recently directed a pretty hefty piece, but as we were getting it broadcast ready, we realized it was way too overloaded with graphics and text. It muddled the client’s message and came off as confusing. Using a VO artist was the cure. By removing unnecessary visuals and words, and adding a voice, we streamlined and simplified the video to make it more digestible for an audience.
In the end, I love voiceover for the way it supports video through certain emotions that text alone can’t provide. I think that’s pretty powerful.
Ready to put a voice to your brand? Click here to find out how Bottle Rocket Media can help.