Well, I am fully recovered from vacation this week and ready to continue the series I started a few weeks back. This week we explore the idea that “Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD”.
It’s a big idea
Yeah, I recognize this is a voice over and acting blog, and while this topic certainly has relation to those endeavors, as I begin to write it, I am discovering that it is a MUCH bigger topic than just those two areas. So, excuse me if I stray away from them from time to time.
So MANY ideas
Are you a writer? Ever written a regular blog? No? Well, let me tell you that the two most difficult things related to blogging are:
- Coming up with what you hope are interesting topics.
- Assembling your thoughts on those topics in a way that makes sense and doesn’t wander too much.
And there I go…
Wandering already. See how tough this is?
It is an age-old idea, but one that needs to be talked about. There are just certain things that, although it is possible to do them, are not something you SHOULD do. I mean, just because you CAN smoke while you fill up your car with highly combustible fuel, SHOULD you? (SPOILER ALERT: NO). You COULD walk into the reception area of your local police department sporting you shiny new Glock 9 handgun in an open carry (or even concealed carry) holster, but is that really a good idea? Again, no.
A lot of things…
There are so many things that it is possible to do that are just not a good idea that it’s overwhelming to think about. Shouting fire in a crowded theater (no, it is not actually illegal to do this)? Making bomb jokes at the TSA checkpoint in your local airport (yes, it IS actually illegal to do this)? Bad ideas. Standing on the wrong side of the wall at the Grand Canyon so you can get a good picture? Not the smartest idea. The world is FULL of things that you CAN do but that really wind up being pretty bad ideas. Many of us learned this as teenagers (yeah, me included) and are probably fortunate to still be around today to read (or write!) this post.
OK, enough procrastinating…
OK, I’m done talking about nonsense, let’s get to the meat of the matter. In both voice over and acting there are things (like with other areas of life) that are POSSIBLE, but not very smart. What follows is a partial list of those things I’ve gleaned over the last couple years. Some of these (and I won’t tell you which ones) I’ve learned painfully through experience, and others by watching (or reading about) others learn them painfully.
There are a number of things related to voice over that are possible but not really a good idea. Again, this is a partial list and I’m SURE my fellow voice artists can list many more, but I try to keep this blog at around 1500 words, so it doesn’t become TLDR. If you don’t know what TLDR means, ask your kids. Honestly, if you have other things you think I missed, related to VO and acting or not, I’d LOVE to hear about them in the comments.
The selection of microphones these days is astronomical. I think one of the questions MOST often asked in online VO forums by new or aspiring voice talent is: Which microphone should I use? The short answer is (really) whichever microphone makes your voice sound the best within your price range. But there are some that are JUST not professional sounding. Yes, you can record voice over scripts with your cell phone. No, you should not record voice over scripts with your cell phone (unless you are doing that to practice pacing and delivery and the quality doesn’t matter).
More on microphones
If you are interested, I have an entire blog post that talks about choosing a microphone for your VO business. If you would like more detail, take a detour there for a few minutes. At the end of the day, what seems to work best for most people is a large diaphragm condenser microphone, and they come in ALL price points. Now, to be honest, a microphone choice is personal, and what works for one person may or may NOT work for another. In general, a cheap USB mic you can pick up at Best Buy is not a good choice. Just because you CAN record on a cheap microphone, doesn’t mean you SHOULD (not if you plan on earning a living this way).
Like a microphone, you have a LOT of options where to set up and record your voice overs. And like the microphone the number of opinions on the matter seem to be completely personal. You can record in your untreated office, you can record in your walk in closet full of clothes, you can record in a blanket or pillow fort. Sometimes, you even HAVE to record in a less than optimal space. But at the end of the day, just because you CAN record in an untreated space, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Here comes the hate
Like I said, your recording space is a personal thing. At the end of the day recording in a less than well treated space, when circumstances don’t dictate the need (like recording in a hotel room on travel, when a pillow fort is the best you can do) is just not a good idea. At best, it complicates your post production processing and at worst it renders your audio unsalvageable which translates to unprofessional and means you won’t book the gig. So don’t shoot me, but just because you CAN record in a “poor” space, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
The list for acting is similar in many ways to the list for voice over. There are so MANY things you CAN do as an actor that ultimately sabotage your chances and are just not a good idea. In this day and age auditioning for acting roles has moved to a virtual space. Rare are the in-person auditions from pre-COVID, so actors are now responsible for recording themselves and “producing” a professional audition video.
Believe it or not, an actor’s self-tape audition can be done well with a cell phone camera IF it is one of the newer phones with a 4K camera. In this instance, because you can (and assuming you don’t have money to spend on a more professional camera) you SHOULD use your cell phone to record self-tape auditions. Make sure your settings meet the spec required, and that you are filming in landscape (horizontal) instead of portrait (vertical). So, while this blog is about what NOT to do even though you can, here is one that is perfectly acceptable. Having said that, make sure you are using the best camera you own to capture your self tape! Oh, and make SURE you have whatever you are using mounted on a nice, stable tripod.
You CAN use your overhead (or natural) lighting to film an audition, but you really shouldn’t. Typical overhead indoor lighting has an orange tint to it, natural sunlight has a blue tint, and having only that single source of lighting will add a lot of shadows to your face and background that will be distracting. You want casting directors and producers to be able to see your eyes and focus on that…so you don’t want to have any distractions. Just because you CAN film with your homes overhead lighting or the sun’s natural light, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. You shouldn’t.
Like lighting, the background you are filming in front of is pretty important. While you CAN film your auditions in your home without a solid background, you definitely should not. Like with lighting, all of the things lying around your home behind you are just going to be a distraction to the people viewing your video, and may just get you unselected no matter how good your performance is. Most sources I have found suggest a solid background, usually a light or slate blue color. Stay away from white (It washes out the video) if you can, and unless you are a whiz with editing, don’t use chromatic green either. Just because you CAN film with your home’s “natural” background, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Again, you shouldn’t.
For both VO and acting, make sure you have, and know how to use, professional quality editing software. For VO, you will be capturing your audio in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and probably editing it in that software as well. I talk about DAW’s in an earlier blog post, so if you want to learn a bit more about them take a look there. Suffice it to say you’ll want to use the best software you can afford to edit both your VO and audition tapes. The software that comes bundled with your computer may do in a pinch, but if you want to provide professional level material you need to get good software. Just because you CAN use the bundled software that came with your machine, doesn’t mean you SHOULD!
For you budding actors out there, just because I mentioned it, below are a few suggestions for the equipment I use for filming self-tape auditions. Since I have covered VO equipment extensively in this blog, I am only including video related equipment here.
Lighting: This is the setup I have, and it works well for me. I’m not saying, “BUY THIS ONE”, but I want to give you a rough idea of the type of setup you’ll want. Generally light both sides of your face to reduce shadows and the background from both sides to reduce shadows and give you separation contrast.
Background: While the lighting setup above comes with a cloth background, I found that to be difficult to maintain. The fabric wrinkles, and those wrinkles create shadows that are distracting. Instead, I use the frame and hang a large roll of photo paper from it.
Tripod: I tried several tripods before landing on this one. It is adjustable, stable, and pretty versatile. The ones before this didn’t have the same number of adjustable bits, and even more importantly were not as stable. Basically, they shook whenever I moved.
Well, I’ve gone over!
There is probably a LOT more I could say on this topic but I busted my self imposed 1500 word limit by at least 300 words this week, sorry for the TLDR post this time. But at the end of the day remember that: Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it!