Self Directing for Voiceovers? What is it and how do you do it?

Actors and directors – it’s a winning combination
Directors bring out the best in actors, pushing them to go further, try new things, be better than they imagined, bring out the subtleties of the text.

In turn, actors can inspire directors, they can add something surprising that enables the director so see the work in a new way

Directed voiceover sessions can work the same way. As a voiceover artist with my own broadcast quality studio, I am very used to being directed via Source Connect, Sessionlink Pro, Cleanfeed, Zoom, phone etc etc
I really enjoy the chance to connect live and be at that very point where we work together to bring the vision of the client to life with the nuances of voice and performance. It’s always exciting and I always learn something.

I had a directed session earlier this week that the client wasn’t 100% sure what they wanted. They gave me a few references, the video the VO would work with and they asked me to try a range of things. I began to realise that actually they wanted something a bit different. So I gave them that and they were really surprised and pleased with the result. Happy client = happy Clare – every time!

So what happens when no one is there? It’s you and a script, maybe a clip of the video, hopefully you know what style and audience.. but that’s it.

You won’t have anyone telling you how to read it. Well, you do – but it’s you.
How do you know what is “right” when you self direct?

Self directed sessions are part and parcel of VO life. They are often a quick turnaround and usually, for me at least, they come from regular clients. They are a good indiction that as a voiceover artist, they trust you!

Right let’s look at the process. There will be a few knowns and a few unknowns in the self directed session.
The background information about where it will be seen, by who and when is really important. It will give you a good indiction of the tone of voice. Is it for experts or non experts? Are we trying to get people to buy? Or to learn or take action?
This is information you should have before you step into the booth.It’s kind of the bare minimum for a session and you should know this given that you will have negotiated the fee based on many of these factors!

Have you seen a snippet of video or material that your VO will be supporting?
It’s really handy to see some content, such as a clip of the video where the voice over will be. The style and pace of your read can often be gleaned from these. Is it upbeat, fast, slow, serious, emotional etc

Then we come to the script itself. You’ll need to read it – obviously – to understand what it is saying.
That might sound a bit obvious (yeah, thanks for that insight Clare!!) but more often than you’d expect, a script comes along that is quite hard to understand. It might be written for a very niche tech audience and it’s detailing the workings of a new machine.
I spend a bit of time getting to know what it is talking about as it makes a HUGE difference to the clarity of the read.
I once got given a script for something scientific. I read the script, many times actually, but still had no idea what it was talking about. I went over to google and watched a video all about the thing – I actually found myself sitting at my desk laughing out loud because I still didn’t understand what the machine was, or what it was doing!
I persisted and eventually I worked it out.

Understanding what this machine did made all the difference to the way I self directed my read. I now understood why it was an important bit of kit and how it would help the people I was “talking to” better do their job.
I could add meaning and I could align myself with the problem that required the solution.

In self direction terms, I can underline what matters
I can see the best places to breathe in order to make the sentences flow correctly.
I know what to “land”, what to emphasise and basically I can explain it to my audience in a genuine and human way because I get it too.

Once I’ve understood the script contents, I like to look over it again with slightly different eyes on (think Worzel Gummidge heads but voiceover artist and eyes..)
How it is spaced out on the page will indicate different sections.. sometimes these paragraphs indicate gear changes in the VO, the intention, the pace, the delivery style.

Make notes on the script to help you tell the story.

Ok, so you’ve done some prep, your voice is warmed up and ready to go. Let’s go for a take!

My first read through on mic is where I get my notes, brain and mouth working together. It’s this first read that I’ll discover any bits of the script that are tricky to say out loud (words that end with an “s” followed by a word that begins with an “s”can be fun. This first read is where I go over these lines and get them right. I always feel that the muscle memory thing works for me here.
Sometimes the punctuation needs to be amended to make it breathing friendly as well, again, this is for me is all first read through stuff.

Most importantly, I have no idea if anyone else does this.. I ALWAYS record these initial read throughs.
The reason being, when I am editing my chosen read (usually read 2 or 3) there may well be little bits in there I don’t like, or perhaps for some reason I read an “a” instead of a “the” then it’s very quick to pop back to the first or 2nd take and grab a correct version of this line and edit it in. Much quicker than re-recording and more often than not sounds 100% fine.

When you are editing self directed sessions, remember it is part of your job to make sure it’s totally correct. As my VO coach Nancy Wolfson likes to say “be low homework”. If a client has to come back to you to tell you that you got 1 word wrong it slows the process down for them, is time consuming for you and frankly – we have one job! Am I right?!

For more about the best way to edit a Voiceover recording have a read of this blog about editing backwards
When I check my finished recording I always read through the script aloud, along with “myself”. For some reason I find it easier to spot any mistakes that way.

When you’re happy – and not a moment before, save it in the format that the client requested and send it on it’s way!

If you have any questions about self directing please do drop me an email

Why not check out the range of voiceover services I offer while you’re here

If you’d like to book a session – self directed or otherwise, please do get in touch