The SOUND ADVICE Dictionary for Acting & Voice Over What You Need to Know to Have a Career in Voice Acting

The SOUND ADVICE Dictionary for
Acting & Voice Over:
What You Need to Know
to Have a Career in Voice Acting

By Kate McClanaghan


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“For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change.”

                                                           —Ingrid Bengis 



Going the Distance


At Sound Advice we’re often asked, “What’s it take to go the distance in this business?”

 There’s no single answer. There are four: pursue, persist, prepare, and promote.  These four components are absolutely vital to succeed at ANYTHING, let alone an acting or voice-over career. It’s your responsibility to ensure these elements are continually in play as they are required of you no matter how far along you may be—regardless of whether you are just beginning, or if you have been established and are aiming to raise your game to the next level. They are a constant.

Whatever you accomplish in this business, you’ll succeed only if you pursue it. Nothing will come to you, no matter how much talent you may have. Even with the benefit of nepotism, it’s ultimately up to you to run your career.  This is your business and no one else’s.  Own it. Opportunities are what you make of them.  

You have to set your sights on your immediate goals, and then persist at them, and often beyond what you might first consider a comfortable margin. Additionally, developing and then maintaining your skills requires persistent dedication.  This element only increases with success, not the other way around—contrary to what many novices may think.

So, if you find you’re easily frustrated or simply give up after a few months of training or even after only a year or two of promotion, then you may never honestly know for yourself what you could have created without real, long-term persistence

Preparation means continually developing your abilities, and along with ongoing promotion, this requires patience.  Allow yourself to continue to develop your skills.  Agility is not naturally intuitive and talent can atrophy with lack of use. It takes attention. Otherwise your skills won’t be sharp when called upon at a moment’s notice, and they will be tested. Without persistence you will serve only to undermine your own confidence.  Your confidence is directly related to your integrity as an artist. Regardless of your position, no matter how affluent you may be, no one can afford to lose his or her integrity. Even “natural talent” will degrade and weaken if not continually honed. 

To add to this, your success is contingent on continual and repeated promotion far more than anyone in this business has previously ever lead you to believe.  Consider it your staple from this point forward.  It’s up to you to drive attention to yourself through your very best promotional efforts. And with that thought in mind, as a rule: never set your sights on securing “just one audition,” or “one big break,” or “wait until the time is just right.”  If so, you will secure onlyONE audition, ONE break, and the time will never arrive because you never took the time to properly promote yourself. The time is right when you decide it is, so make that NOW.  Make a decision as to what you want in your life and work toward those goals.  In doing so you’ll accomplish far more than you ever imagined possible.

Every audition is a form of promotion, yet so many artists repel the idea of promotion that this could easily account for the scores of talented souls who have fallen into oblivion.  If you leave your career alone I promise nothing will happen.  It will slip through your fingers. 

No one who has ever scored an Oscar accepted it saying, “This was so easy.  I don’t know why you guys don’t all have one.  It was a piece of cake!”

Nope.  Anything worthwhile is accomplished from hard work and lots of it.  And a good deal of that work comes from consistent and constant promotion.  Consider it as much of your job as the performance itself.  This is how we make ourselves known and familiar.  Promotion comes with the territory and can’t be ignored if you intend to succeed as a working talent.

The fact remains that talent who persist at promotion, while honing their performance skills, will make themselves known and valuable. What they may lack performance-wise at the onset of their careers will strengthen and develop from experience, but not from a single coaching once every eight to ten months, or a half-hearted promotional blitz once or twice a year. The SOUND ADVICE Dictionary for Acting & Voice Over: What You Need to Know to Have a Career in Voice Acting was created to assist you in deciphering the entertainment industry’s nomenclature and offer you the greatest opportunity to navigate without a compass.

Those who become consummate professionals make it their business to run their own careers rather than leave it to chance. 

However, keep in mind from the moment you decide to commit completely to establish (or further) your career it will seem as if all the forces in the universe will set out to thwart you. Not because you shouldn’t be pursuing this field, but rather the complete and utter opposite.  It’s an occupational hazard that will test your mettle at every turn.  And while you may be a strong sprinter at the onset of your career, aim to go the distance.  It’s far more rewarding if you do. 

And even with a thorough road map to follow, as we’ve laid out for you here at Sound Advice, you’re the one who has to dedicate yourself to the task of getting it done.  Certainly your odds are far greater with us than without us, but it’s still work and you’re the one who has to do it.  No one will give it to you, or create it for you.  You can’t purchase it, but you can invest in yourself effectively and prepare to deliver what’s needed and wanted of you so you’re ready at a moment’s notice.  And that is extremely rewarding on many, many levels.  

So, when you find yourself losing patience, and no doubt everyone does in every small business from time to time, rather than dwell on being frustrated, put your attention into your pursuits, in your preparation, and in your promotion. There’s always something you could be doing RIGHT NOW to forward your goals.

In other words, just do it!  And procrastinate tomorrow.›





a-b-c                 When you a-b-c a line on a voice over session or shoot you’ll be expected to read the line apart from the rest of the delivery three times in a row on a single take, leaving a slight break between each read for editing purposes. You are expected to say the line with a slightly different inflection each time while remaining within the parameters of what’s being asked of you.

This is usually done when a line is flubbed or unvaried from take to take, or to allow the actor a fresh approach to a phrase, a sentence, or a section of a script.

Occasionally you are expected to match an existing take with an a-b-c, but generally the delivery works best if you aim to vary it slightly each time.

This is also known as a three-in-a-row or a three-wild.

(See matching, three-in-a-row, or three-wild.)

Currently the premier Web site where on-camera actors post their own headshots, résumés, reels, and voice-over demos to be considered for work. 

Actor’s Access is managed by you, the talent, and offers you access to numerous casting sources and projects registered on, especially for film and television projects. 

ACTRA            The acronym for the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists. This is the union that represents professionaltalent in Canada for radio, film, all television work, cable, and the Internet, much like SAG-AFTRA does in the States.

For an American to work in Canada, he must either have a work permit, belong to ACTRA, and/or belong to SAG-AFTRA. 

AD                     1. Assistant Director

On a film set, an AD is an Assistant Director, the person who expedites and coordinates a great many details for the director. Depending on the size of the budget there can be a first AD and a second AD. These are typically the people you report to on a set.

                        2. Art Director

In advertising, AD is the abbreviation for an Art Director. An art director defines what a commercial is going to look like for commercial TV and commercial print. Though AD’s are probably the least likely to handle casting for voice-over or on-camera jobs, they are the individuals who create the look and style.  They create the storyboards you may see at auditions (and occasionally for voice overs) to help illustrate the action and look of the commercial or campaign.

ADR                  This is an abbreviation for Automated Dialogue Recording or Automated Dialogue Replacement. ADR is also known as looping.

Once a commercial, television program, or film has been shot and edited, vocal tracks may be added either to replace poorly recorded vocals in a scene or to add a voice-over narrative to the image. In either case, the actor will have to go into the recording studio and view the already- edited film (or video) and apply a few takes of the voice-over to the picture, which will be played back simultaneously on a monitor in the recording booth. For large studio productions and big-budget projects, this work is generally done on an ADR stage, rather than in a booth using the same type of microphone used to record the production audio. The objective is to better match dialogue tracks. 

A good example of this would be what Meryl Streep’s character had to do to replace a fumbled line in her movie within a movie in Postcards From the Edge. 

ADR is recorded on a soundstage designed for just that purpose, which is acoustically engineered for recording dialogue in sync to picture.

(See looper, loop group, looping, walla.)

AEA                  Abbreviation for Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represents stage actors, known simply as Equity.

AFTRA            The acronym for American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

In 2012, union members voted to merge SAG with AFTRA forming one union, SAG-AFTRA.

SAG-AFTRA represents professional actors in recorded media in America for film, radio, national television, cable, new media, and Internet.

(One of the key reasons we wrote, The SOUND ADVICE Dictionary for Acting & Voice Over: What You Need to Know to Have a Career in Voice Acting and The Sound Advice Encyclopedia of Voice-over & the Business of Being a Working Talent was to keep talent informed as the recent changes and updates in the industry, including this major, very welcome change with our union.)

AVO                  (Pronounced “ay-vee-oh.”) This is the abbreviation for an Announce Voice-over. Often used as a pronoun, as in, “Are you the AVO?”

ad lib                 An ad lib refers to adding your own spontaneous lines and/or action to the piece that differs from the original script. The term comes from the phrase “adding liberties.”

To ad lib is to improvise, or to make up on the fly.

Ad libbing is often required, if not expected, of a talent on an audition and on a booking.

It’s always your job to make the material sound spontaneous without discarding the concept, but rather adding to it. 

(See improvisation.)

affect                  (verb) To put on something; as in “to affect a phrase”; to put a change on a word, phrase,   sentence, or delivery.  

                           (See spin.) 

agent                  According to SAG-AFTRA, “a talent agent solicits employment, submits talent for employment and/or negotiates compensation and terms of conditions of employment for the performer.”  

Union talent agents receive a 10 percent commission for their efforts and expertise, while nonunion agents typically receive 15 to 20 percent. An agent’s rate of pay is determined ONLY by the work you land on voice acting jobs, acting jobs and various productions.

Talent agents are licensed by the state in which they operate, much like realtors  regarding real estate state law.

air                      (verb) When a project airs, this means it’s being broadcast over television,   cable, radio, or over new medium (NM). 

Just because you booked and shot/recorded a job does NOT mean that piece will necessarily air.

On a union job, you’re always paid a session fee, in the event the project or spot does not air. This way you will have been paid regardless.  The best-case scenario is it does air, in order to offer you residual pay (known as residuals) that results in the bulk pay of a working talent.  

(See residuals.)

analog               Analog refers to the method of audio recording and processing used by reel-to-reel tape. It’s the precursor to digital recording and processing.

For recording, tape is not as versatile a medium as digital and requires more antiquated machinery. However, analog recordings have a favorable warmth, which mixing generally attempts to re-create. The celebrated sound quality of analog can be approximated digitally.

animatic            An animatic is a “video storyboard,” typically employing some minor animation, thus the name.

When testing or creating a demo for a commercial, which the ad industry does a great deal, an animatic is often employed to better illustrate what the actual commercial will ultimately look like once it’s shot.  It is a series of storyboarded images with some subtle movement added.

(See demo and photomatic.) 

arc                      In a script or development of a character in a story, there is generally a climax known as an arc at which point the story culminates to its height.        

The term arc is in reference to the plot thickening, whether that build or change be sweeping or minute. 

articulate          As a verb, to articulate is to define or express an idea. It’s also an adjective—an articulate speaker, for example. This refers to diction and the ability to speak clearly, easily, and effectively. Articulating an idea, a thought, a concept. 

atonal                An adjective describing a voice without tone, or without sound. This occurs occasionally to all of us when portions of the words or sounds you’re speaking are not fully audible. The result is an atonal quality.


Copyright © 2014 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.