Tech Anxiety

If you’re like most actors, you’re more talent than techie. And when it comes to voiceover that can present a conflict if you’re unable to record a simple audition from home, or connect with a client from your humble booth during a booking.

Currently, the quality of the audio from your (home recorded) auditions is what clients now anticipate the final audio of their productions will sound like as well. Prior to the pandemic, recording a quick audition from your smartphone from the front seat of your car was passable on occasion, because once you book the job the recording session would be done from a professional recording studio, even if the client is based out of town. Not anymore.

Today, your auditions need to sound “broadcast ready”, otherwise that lack of audio quality may undermine whether you land the job at all. This is especially the case if the producer has to rely on recording you from your home recording set up, however humble.

If that makes you nervous, rest easy. There’s hope. This is an easier fix than you might have ever imagined.

For what it’s worth, just because someone asks you whether you can record and edit (and basically produce) their project after they found you through a pay-to-play (P2P) voice-over casting site, or through a friend, or what have you—doesn’t mean they expect these services from you. Especially for FREE! They’re simply asking because they likely don’t know how the whole process works, and they’re relying on you to guide them. (Not that you’re all that experienced or even equipped to offer production guidance. It’s a bit like the tires training the driver how to drive.)

Of course, we understand you aim to please, and their initial production questions can be overwhelming, especially as you are just starting out. It’s vitally important to understand that your fear of losing the gig if you don’t answer ‘yes’ to everything a potential client asks of you will surely lead to a major professional misstep if the demands or expectations are beyond your abilities and skill set. You’ll be in over your head very quickly and only end up shooting yourself in the professional foot if you commit yourself beyond your technical capabilities. Besides you’re ONLY getting paid to voice the project, not produce it. So, stay in your lane.

If you’re a voice actor with limited recording abilities, the one sure way to completely eliminate ‘tech anxiety’ is to simply under-promise and OVER-deliver! It’s business 101, and will eliminate promising what you can’t deliver.

The same applies when committing a spouse, friend, neighbor or family member to managing your production for you, even if they promised you on a stack of Bibles that they’d, “Always be there for you! No matter what,” is another common novice mistake that rarely, if ever, pans out. Relying on any one other than yourself to simply record and offer some basic edits on your daily auditions (that arrive at a moments notice) is an accident waiting to happen. It can cost you the professional reputation you’re attempting to establish and promote.

Likely one of the greatest obstacles all small business owners struggle with is when (and who) to delegate projects beyond their scope to that won’t negatively blow back on them. In other words, when in doubt be sure to leave it to the professionals.

Rest assured, in most cases you’re simply required to be the best possible voice talent, and not a recording engineer. Yet, mastering simple ‘slice and dice’ skills to edit your auditions has never been simpler with today’s recording/editing software, but that’s a far cry from offering professional production abilities. There’s already a learning curve to master here in recording and editing your auditions, but only on a practical, utilitarian level. It still takes practice. But, unburden yourself.

Concentrate on recording and editing of your daily auditions for your self to save money and time. It’ll become second nature sooner than you think… provided you offered objective direction from the start.

Our head of production, Jeff Finney, offers custom-tailored guidance here at Actors’ SOUND ADVICE suited to your specific technical abilities (or lack thereof) in order for you to set up and establish a reliable, home recording space. So, before you run out and purchase a mic (that’s often either too much or too little for your voiceover needs), determine the quietest place you can comfortable stand to record your projects in.

Today, suffice it to say, if you hope to be taken seriously as a voiceover and work with any regularity, you need the following key elements in place:

1. You have to be trained.

Without the ability to self-direct as well as take direction with mastery and agility it’s highly doubtful you’ll be an asset to the production.

Since the pandemic, training with skillful experts in this field via Zoom has never been simpler. And Zoom isn’t just for coaching. It has completely replaced the now antiquated, digital ‘phone patch’, so this option is expected of you on future recording sessions with production clients as well.

2. Professionally produced voiceover demos.

Experienced producers determine your professional value by the quality of your voiceover demos. It’s abundantly obvious to them, from listening to your tracks, whether you are a professional or not. Your demos require professional direction and production that offer you the benefit of distance; allowing you to concentrate your efforts solely on being the voice talent instead of the Jack-of-all-trades master of none. Demos follow professional standards to best serve the voiceover by servicing the needs of the producer.

3. A quiet space to effectively record auditions and sessions alike.

In most cases since the pandemic, talent agents are generally working remotely, so if you can’t record your auditions from home you won’t be able to work. Certainly some higher-end recording studios are now open again, albeit intermittently, but not necessarily to individual voice talent. Many smaller, homegrown studios that have managed to survive are also open again for the most part… for a price. However, most weren’t all that clean and healthy places to work from to begin with. Point is you’re expected to be self-sufficient and have a reliable home recording setup. Voiceovers today are generally recording from a humble set up in or in front of their bedroom closets, which works quite nicely in most cases.

4. Reliable computer and stable Internet service.

Without these two elements to rely on, no one will be able to rely on you. Even receiving coaching via Zoom is out of the question without a proper computer and decent Internet service. So, if your computer is on its last leg, you’ll need to upgrade if you ever hope to concentrate your attention on your performance again.

5. A proper mic, interface, headphones, pop filter, music stand, mic stand, music stand light and acoustical tiles (aka Auralex) as needed.

We offer an updated list of these items with direct links to them from our initial Orientation and Career Reboot materials, along with where to find them for the best rates. The costs on these items may vary, but the need for each remains standardly significant. Upgrades on microphones and pre-amps will vary from time to time.

6. Either Twisted Wave (if you have a Mac) or Audacity Audio Editing Software (if you have a PC).

These two forms of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) are software needed to record, edit and produce audio files. Either one of these two recording and editing options have never been simpler to use, and are almost immediately intuitive—even for the technically challenged.

7. Dropbox, or some other simple cloud option.

You probably already have something in place to store your most valuable files, photos, music and such in addition to your computer. If not, set up is quick and painless, and allows you to save a bulk of your recordings on a cloud, rather than eating up space on your computer.

8. SourceConnect Standard from Source Elements

No need to run out and purchase SourceConnect until you book a project from a client that requires this professional ‘patching’ option. Jeff suggests at that time you’ll enlist their initial free trail for the first week (or two). Beyond that, you can purchase this remote recording option that allows you to digitally connect (studio-to-studio) with creative clients around the world as if they’re in the same room with you. Clients and talent agents now expect (and in many instances, require) every voiceover offer all of these vital tools in order to work in voiceover today. The upside is you can hold off on this specific expense (approx. $700) until it’s truly necessary, when the opportunity presents itself.

Technical challenges will most certainly come up as they do in so many productions. Avoid adding to them by panicking. Don’t assume the technical mishap is solely on your end. If you find you have a persistent technical issue, never rule out a simple reboot. It’s amazing how many issues quickly fade away after that. If you’re in a recording session when it occurs, suggest your client do the same for the best results.

Beyond that, promising more than you’re able to deliver out of desperation, rather than out of actual expertise, generally results in eroding client confidence in you, as well as confidence in your self. Besides your attention will be split, rather than concentrating on your performance, which is why you were hired in the first place.

You’ll eliminate much of your tech anxiety altogether by concentrating on continually improving your performance. You’re better off managing the expectations of your potential clients from the start by leaving production demands to the professionals: producers.

Besides, generally speaking, you’re not getting paid to record, mix and edit the project. In fact, it’s doubtful you’re getting paid enough to cover the production demands necessary to provide the level of quality your potential client is likely anticipating. Stay in your lane. You’re not getting paid to produce.

Fight the urge to do everything for nothing simply because you’re “just starting out and want to get the ball rolling”. Aiming to produce the project ultimately places you in direct competition with those most likely to hire you, instead of being the best possible voiceover you can be.

To sum up, if you’re not all that techie, master what’s required of you in order to remain accessible to the work, to record the best possible auditions and to concentrate on being the very best voice actor you can be. Remaining professional from the start is always expected of you, and translates to confidently forwarding your voiceover career, first and foremost.

Copyright © 2021 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.

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