Part 2: Genres in Voiceover.
Last week I started a 3 part series on Getting into Voiceover. Hopefully I didn’t scare you away! If you missed it, you can find it here: Is VO for me?
Before tackling how to actually get started (…I know I promised that last week!), I realized it’s good for newbies to know a bit about the industry itself and it’s various opportunities. Voiceover is comprised of many different genres, each with their own flavor (and superstars!). Here are the 10 main categories:
1. Commercials: Radio or TV ads. One of the most lucrative genres with the most amount of work. You should most likely start here. If you talk to any VO agent, they will tell you to start with commercials first, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are more commercials being produced daily than there are animated series, for instance; there are so many new opportunities everyday. Secondly, generally speaking they are looking for “real” voices, so no matter what your voice type or sound, you will be good for commercials. (The thing they don’t want these days is an old time announcer-y sound! It’s all about being real).
2. Trailers/Promos: Trailers of course are promotional pieces for films. Promos are essentially commercials for TV shows – they appear in between shows to promote what’s coming up. They can also be heard on the radio. This is an extremely competitive genre. Comparatively few spots for newbies, as most people who have those jobs, keep those jobs. Super lucrative as it tends to be on-going work. You have to have a voice that “cuts through” as they say – meaning a strong voice that will be heard over music and sound effects. Very male dominated. This is hopefully changing, but very slowly…most networks still only use male announcers unless it’s a female oriented network or show.
3. Games/Toys: Video games are a hugely growing industry. Must be great at doing multiple characters, and being good at different accents/dialects is a big plus. Acting chops are beneficial, as games now tend towards realism and usually include very dramatic high stakes situations. You also must have stamina – sessions can be long and very physically taxing. A sturdy instrument is a must, as there is usually a lot of screaming and dying to do. Toys are a niche industry that encompass talking dolls and games for youngsters. If you have a knack for doing kids voices, that’s a serious plus!
4. Animation: Again must be able to do multiple characters. This is the most competitive, smallest niche of the VO world. There are not too many of these jobs out there to begin with, and they tend to go to the same people because they are just so darn good! Why look elsewhere when you have someone with a proven track record that can do just about any character, voice, age that you can think of. Many animation people are also writers and or comedians. It helps to be really quick witted, to be able to ad-lib and be funny while staying real. Everyone wants these jobs. If this is your hearts desire, go for it. But work hard and develop your talents to the very top of your ability! It will take some time.
5. ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement)/Looping: The voices you hear in the background of movies and/or dialogue that needs to be replaced on a film. For background work, you have to be very well-versed in a wide variety of subjects to be able to successfully pull off talking realistically about whatever people would be talking about – for instance if the movie takes place in France in the 1800’s- you need to know what they’d be talking about, the phrases they would use, etc. This is a pretty difficult one to get into as well, as most people work in a loop group, or team of people, and the same teams are hired over and over again. This pays very well but I think you’d really have to have a knack for this kind of thing and a lot of focused direction to get into a successful working group. Another example in this genre is voice matching. It is often used for celebrity voices. For example, they don’t want to pay Julia Roberts to come back for the day (or she just won’t come) but something she says in the movie is garbled, so they hire someone who can sound like Julia to do a voice match.
6. Telephony: Phone trees, on hold messages, IVR (Interactive Voice Response): You usually need a polished and professional yet friendly sound for this. (Telephony is a strange secret love of mine; kind of a guilty pleasure, like Dancing with the Stars! It doesn’t pay the greatest, but for some reason I find it fun and super easy!)
7. Web Videos/New Media: “Explainer” or promotional videos that appear on a companies or person’s website, explaining a product or service. Also includes voices for new media games and apps. (You can see several examples of Explainer videos to the right of this post).
8. ELearning/Industrials: Narration for training and/or educational purposes.
9. In-show narration/Documentary narration: Narration that occurs during a tv show or a movie, furthering the plot and unfolding the story.
10. Audiobooks: The ultimate long-form. I’m going to devote a whole new post to this in the future because it’s basically a different industry (and approach) all together. Must have incredible stamina, vocal health and strength. Must love books and story-telling. Must be good at accents/dialects and research.
Ok, so now you know the genres, but where do you start? Join me next week for the last in my 3 part series of Getting Started in Voiceover. Be sure to sign up for my blog at the top of this page. And if you liked this post or found it helpful, please share it!
Hey Rachel – as always, I love your blog posts. Both Part 1 and Part 2 of this series are great. I’ve reposted all over the web because I think this is the realistic, kind and informative kick in the pants any new VO needs! Can’t wait to see the rest of the series. I’d suggest adding Toys as a category – that was my bread and butter when I lived in SF, and it seems to be its own entity…but maybe it’s just a subset of animation?
Great suggestion Amy! It didn’t seem like a big enough category to stand on it’s own but it should definitely be mentioned! I will amend the post and put it probably with the games actually. Thank you for the feedback!