How many times have you walked into a voiceover session and discovered that you have absolutely no idea what the client wants out of you?
What tone of voice should you use? The client described the desired intonation as “light blue” or “springtime”. What is that?!
How fast should the voiceover be? The client wants you to “Say it really fast, but sound slow”. Hmmm….
Or maybe the client requested you to sound like Morgan Freeman – except that you’re a young woman, not an elderly man.
"Could you try to sound enthusiastic but indifferent?" (This is an actual quote.)
Sometimes, it’s hard to take direction, because we either don’t understand it, or it’s not realistic. In fact, you may feel like the poor voice talent in the following hilarious video:
Thankfully, clients such as the one in the video are exceedingly rare. Clients who make us feel frustrated, don’t intend to do so. They simply have a hard time communicating their vision of what the voiceover should sound like – or their communication skills are fine, and our comprehension skills are limited. Either way, the client likely feels as frustrated as we do!
It’s your job to give the client what they want, and you don’t know or simply can’t give them what they want. So what can you do?
If the request is impossible for some reason – for example, fitting 50 words into 10 seconds; or recording at a much lower register than you are able to produce – politely advise the client that it can’t be done. Then try offering some solutions to the problem. For example, suggest ways to cut the 50 words down to 15; or ask the sound technician if it is possible to lower your voice in post-production without ruining the audio.
If you don’t understand the client’s request:
First, explain that you would really like to comply, but you are not 100% clear on what they mean. This shows that you care and want to be of maximum assistance.
Ask for a clarification. For example, if the client asked for a “springtime” tone, ask them if they meant young, full of life, just awakening, excited, alive, etc. Or if they want you to sound like Morgan Freeman, ask them what about Morgan Freeman would they like you to emulate: the speed at which he speaks, the emotion, the register of his voice, etc?
Ask the client for an example. Perhaps there is a specific YouTube video they had seen, which demonstrates the desired style? Or maybe the client can demonstrate for you?
If you have already recorded a few sentences which were not acceptable to the client, ask them exactly what they would like you to change in your performance. The pace? The tone of voice? Was your performance too dynamic (many “highs” and “lows”), and they want the recording to be “flatter”? Was your performance too flat, and they want it to be more dynamic? Do they want you to end more sentences “up” (American style)? Do they want you to end more sentences “down” (Israeli style)? Are there specific words they wanted you to emphasize, which you did not emphasize? Are there specific words you did emphasize, which they did not want you to emphasize?
Do NOT lose your patience or get angry at the client. The client is trying their best to convey their vision to you!
Above all, remember that the client selected you to perform the job based on your abilities. So long as you did not misrepresent your abilities when applying for the job, and you did the very best you could to record the voiceover according to the client’s direction, you can leave the voiceover session with your head held high.