Voicing To a Time Clock
Tips to Cook Your Recipe Precisely to Time!
A Three-Part Series for New & Experienced Talent on Timing
Part 1 of 3
You may not realize it, but nearly everything you do in the world of Voice Acting requires timing. This is one part of your craft you will have to nail down. In the beginning I wouldn’t focus so much on voicing to time, but as you progress as a talent it’s super important you know how to make adjustments.
Those of you who have been in the industry for some time already have a built in visual clock and you can look at copy and have a good idea if it will fit to time. We as talent have to come up with clever ways to make things fit, even in circumstances where it seems impossible. Sometimes this will force the client to do some rewriting of the copy but for many clients this a daunting task, and as you advance as a talent you will be able to help the clients find solutions that make it work. This all comes with experience and trial and error—but I’d like to help you with some tips that might get you through until you have enough experience to learn it on your own. I will also do my best to help those of you who are experienced find other clever ways that you might not have discovered yet.
Timing copy comes in most genres of Voice. In this article series, I will break down some of the most common forms of voicing and how timing affects each one:
Commercials – ALL commercials aired on TV or radio are 100% time driven. These two forms of media rely 100% on time so they can be a well oiled machine! If a commercial is out even a second, it can affect the entire programming schedule. You must get good at 29.5 for a 30 second spot (so as close to the time as possible). The commercial industry is changing in its timing requirements as web based commercials have very flexible times, however they still require that talent to voice precisely to the time they have purchased.
Tips: I first sit with the copy at my desk and voice it comfortably to my stop watch or clock on my computer. This tells me whether I need to speed up or slow down, and it helps me decide my characters emotions. Eg: are they in a hurry, are they very patient etc. When there is too much copy (which is usually the case in medium to low budget projects) then I try to match the character they want but perhaps I have to make my character in a hurry. I give you a good example of that in my Debinar on Timing copy – found here on the VoiceActorTraining.com website. When the copy is too little for the time allotted, then I have to get even cleverer. If it’s TV it makes sense as the visuals will help fill the gaps of time/dead air, but if it’s radio, you can’t slow down so much that you sound mentally challenged. You have to find purpose to taking moments of thought. If it’s such a little amount of copy that it just isn’t working, you may need to ask the client to add some copy. If it’s too much copy, and you just can’t make it work, then you may have to ask for the clients help in taking out copy. You can’t just go ahead and cut copy. Every edit needs to be approved by the client (and they may have to answer to several other clients).
There is a way to visually see how much copy will work for your voice speed and you have to keep in mind that you speak at a different voice speed than others. It’s important for you to get to know the format you need to guess your voice speed so you know whether you can do the spot in the allotted time just by looking at it. Commonly, commercials are written out in ALL CAPS – Double Space – Times New Roman Font 12 pt. This helps you keep a standard so you can get to know what works and what doesn’t. You can change this standard to suit your needs, but it’s a great place to start. There are also copy timer applications and information on various sites that can help you, but most cost money indirectly or directly so I suggest you find a writing format that helps you see it for yourself. Get to know your voicing speed and your limits within it. If you aren’t good at speed reading, don’t audition for that kind of thing. Some of us can do it with ease, while others have a really hard time with it. Know your limit and read within it (I wonder if I can trademark that phrase LOL). I also have no problem slowing down and using acting techniques like human qualities/nuances to help fill the gaps, but that can be difficult at times too.
My voice speed is approximately 160 words per minute. That’s a nice natural pace for me. I can voice super fast. I am also really clear when I voice fast and that helps me book more speedy reads. However, being known for speed reads has disadvantages, especially if the spots you do are all speed reads. Some clients send out a lot of speed reads because they pay so much to air their spots, they think they get their monies worth by putting in everything they can fit into 30 seconds.
I will show you in the next article (Part 2) how to use your voice speed to help you calculate how long the projected project will be and how timing affects other industries such as narration, animation, dubbing and more.
Until Next time
All my best
VO Chef Deb (aka Deb Munro)