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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.

The Bullhorn | Meet Director Joel Kapity

Meet Bottle Rocket Media Director Joel Kapity

There is no shortage of creative talent at Bottle Rocket Media these days – emphasized by the onboarding of longtime Chicago-based director, Joel Kapity, who has been telling stories through the lens since childhood. A love for the human experience guides his creative sensibilities, while his fearless outlook helps him accomplish what others deem “impossible.” 

Here’s what Joel had to say about his rise as a successful storyteller:

What got you into directing? 

As a kid, I was always the guy with a camera. While others were hanging out, doing what kids do, I would be shooting little shorts with whomever I could wrangle on any given night.  

What about the craft moves you?

I think I’m terrible at a lot of things—directing is not one of them. There is no other job that comes more naturally or brings me more joy. One of my favorite aspects is working with professional actors to bring a story to life. As a director, I have a very specific task of pulling emotions out of others, and I love playing with framing, lighting and camera moves to help draw the audience further into the worlds of the characters.

How did you hook up with Bottle Rocket Media? What drew you to the company?

At my last studio, I was given the opportunity to direct a commercial with Bottle Rocket Media staff as my crew. It was a great experience. During the shoot, I had some solid conversations with Dan and Brett, and felt very in tune with their passion to produce great video content. It was a genuine connection. Bottle Rocket Media and I shared the same creative thoughts and direction—very refreshing. My gut feeling was that I could produce some truly incredible content with this studio.

What unique elements do you bring to the portfolio?

My most unique slash powerful element as a director is my love for people, and how that translates to my commercial work – whether it’s a tv spot, a feature film or social media content. The material I am most proud of almost always involves storylines driven by human relationships.

Also, big ideas with small budgets don’t scare me. I honestly believe I can accomplish what others deem “impossible.” 

How does your style lend itself to brand videos?

Shock and awe. I am obsessed with creating cinematic visuals to support brand awareness in new and exciting ways. For every project, I try to think about that one extra visual effect, shot or action that creates a video people will remember—one that stands out in a flooded market.

What can we look forward to from you in 2019?

So far, 2019 has been jam-packed with creating content for different brands every week and there are no signs of slowing down. I’m currently finishing my third film, I AM YOUR KEEPER, while working on several big client videos for Bottle Rocket Media.  

What industry techniques/technology/methods are you most excited about right now?

I am really excited about all the cameras and lighting tools we didn’t have 20 years ago – when I was still cutting my teeth as a director. A couple of months ago, I directed a Phantom high-speed camera commercial shoot with two of the best hockey players in the world—I was blown away by what we were able to capture. High-speed cameras can bring such an incredible value to a project that no other piece of equipment can. I’m also obsessed with the use of robotic arms in production, which is becoming extremely popular for capturing food and sports commercial imagery.   

What is one of your proudest accomplishments? Why? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

Directing and producing my second film, Dreams. It consumed my life for three years, three to six days a week, and roughly 15-20 hours a day. The movie involved a huge cast, with thousands of extras, and a limited budget. It’s a film I’d wanted to make for about 10 years and it ultimately involved flying in actors from all over the country. Considering the huge job at hand every day on set, it was definitely the most complex thing I have directed to date. 

Any words of wisdom?

Don’t listen to others who tell you what to be or what to do.

The best decisions I have made in my life were the ones that didn’t make sense to others. When you feel like being a part of something, just do it. Don’t think about the money or what you think you deserve. When you are a part of a project you love, you will perfect your craft. And that always leads to something bigger and better. Don’t wait to have what you think you need. If you are truly meant to do something, take a leap of faith and people will follow you.

Favorite movie and why:

One of my favorite movies is Crash. As far as films that tell multiple stories go, this was one of the best.