Written by Terry Berland @berlandcasting for Backstage Industry Expert Advice.
As a casting director I speak directly to the ad agency creative team that choose the talent to book the job. This creative team decides on the type of read they are looking for, which is given to you in the form of direction. All really good voice-over artists knows that the choice of tone in every word is important.
The most valuable message I can give you is to look beyond the written direction, but trust that all the answers to how to make the best choices can be found in the script itself.
Look at the following four elements to make distinct choices and enhance your reads.
1. Look at the visuals of the spot.
If you are fortunate enough to be given visuals, really look at them. They will help you understand the general tone of the spot. Here are some sample visuals to get you thinking:
- A tight shot: This indicates a more intimate read.
- White picket fences: Friendly, reassuring and calm.
- Rolling hills: Folksy, calm and reassuring.
- Bright colors and quick shots: Bright and upbeat.
- Puppies, children, family and friendship scenes: Warm and joyful.
- Military: Inspirational and bold.
2. Look at the written descriptions between the VO words.
Many times you will not be given actual visuals, but verbal descriptions instead. It is as important to read all the descriptions as it is to look at the visuals. You will find the same hints in the written words as in the visuals.
3 . Pay attention to the product.
Fast food reads are upbeat and bright with quicker tempos.
An expensive restaurant with dim lights would indicate a place to linger and calls for reads that are slower, with softer tones.
Luxury cars and lush interiors indicate a more intimate read.
Speeding cars signal a stronger, focused read with drive.
Retail stores with bright positive colors and bouncy music call for a bright and friendly read.
Financial institutions call for a read that is trustworthy and reassuring.
Shampoo, cosmetics and anything that makes you more attractive or more appealing have a more “cosmetic” tone, which you would achieve by reading your words with a softer and rounder tone.
4. Find cue words in the script.
Certain words should guide you towards a choice. Some cue words include: “trust”, “confident”, “assured”, “safe” “take action now”, “go now”, “limited time” and “hero”.
There are many more types of visuals, cue words and types of products out there. Become aware, learn and practice. There is nothing haphazard about the choice of voice that is made for each commercial. After all, your voice is supporting the visuals and branding the message.
If you want to sharpen up on your voice-over technique, follow this link to Terry Berland’s Voice-Over workshops.