I made a video on the subject
  • Watch it here.

    Discussion encouraged.

  • Great job!   Very good points and tips..and such a smooth velvety voice!  It's like butter in my ears...
  • I'd say a few things about the entire 'acting' part of this.  It really is more about acting than anything.  You can have all the best equipment and dodads in the words, but if you can't act then yer outta luck.  It's something that takes some time to develop.  Doing 'voices' is one thing...it's easy enough to mimic well known lines from some character, but giving life to entire lines of unique dialogue is another matter.   Myself I've always been a pretty keen mimic and able to do 'voices' since I was a kid but only until I started doing the Heroes narration did acting really come into it.  

    This is easy to see from my early chapters compared against the latest ones.  Early on I thought I was doing just fine at the time but going back and listening to things they sound so flat it makes me cringe.  This happens with just about every role.  Go back and watch first or early episodes of The Simpsons, Futurama, Family guy etc. and it is very easy to see the difference.  It takes time to 'get into' a character and make it your own.    

    You're spot on about the whole gesturing that goes on.  When I do voices my arms and body posture change with the character.   Here's a good video that shows this pretty well, the VAs from Futurama in the studio:

  • Aye, great video. The only bit I feel like adding is stressing how important it is to do a "character study" before working on a play: understanding who your character is, where he comes from, what's his personality etc. so you can determine how he's supposed to talk and sound at all times. It's a detail that often gets refined in time like EN noted, but top tier productions (like the excellent We're alive) establish their creative direction already from the start.

    Also, a link to Nowacking's tips on voice acting, which are always an interesting read: http://nowacking.tumblr.com/post/42768221351/voice-acting-and-you-and-stuff
  • Getting into a character is a process and I think it depends on how much you have to study before hand like Aanok is saying.  For things like cartoons that are 'new', as in the shows I mentioned before, the VAs had nothing to research, it was all new from the start.   This carries over somewhat to Narrations as well.  To use Heroes for another example there were 25+ chapters out when I started recording...but even with reading ahead and knowing the character you don't fall into the 'role' for a while.  My take on Hired now is much different from when I started.   From a voice perspective not much has changed...but how she speaks, intonations, etc. has pretty drastically.  Now I fall into her voice without even thinking about it...at inconvenient times
  • I suppose you guys have a point with all this character studying business.

    ...I don't know though, I tend not to worry about it much myself and focus more on the situation. It seems to me that focusing too much on a given characteristic may lead to that whole monotony thing I mentioned.

    Also how did you embed that YouTu- *faceplalm*

    Embed code, duh! I'm such an idiot.

  • You definitely should focus on the situation as well, in fact that's the point: having even more information on your whereabouts. It shouldn't lead to monotony, quite the contrary, it should help add character to the performance and make it more lively while keeping things consistent. Very often it's not immediate understanding how a line should be intoned (the shorter the worse, right?); knowing why, when, where and who is saying it can be a deal breaker. Is your character a fidgety nerd? A proud nobleman? A rough bandit?
    And it becomes even more important if you're asked for some improvisation, although that's admittedly a fairly rare occasion.

    Of course, what works for somebody might not for somebody else, but I find it good practice on general principle.
  • Oh yeah, you have to have the situation the character is in as well.  I take what is going on to account in how I voice a character, to the extent of adding FX even.  Are they out of breath, are they yelling at someone far away, are they hyped up on goofballs etc. et al.
  • Goodgood.

    Hey by the way, something specific to audiobooks that I see is people slipping into a dull tone when narrating. In my opinion, the Narrator doesn't have to be dull and detached all the time. I'd personally like to see more people put more emotion into the narration as well.

    Surely others agree with me, hm?

  • You know, to be honest it's the whole audiobook format that I don't get too much. Let me clarify by making a (silly) distinction between an audiobook and a dramatic reading, though.
    I see a dramatic reading as a performance delivered like a theater piece, with proper shifts in intonation and speed, characterization etc, resulting in something that is very engrossing but also demands full attention and can be a bit tiring. On the other hand, I'd call an audiobook a recording made in a more flowing tone, with less accents and intensity, meant to be listened to in a more leisurely way.
    The distinction is silly in that, if you take the literal meaning of "audiobook" as "a recording of a book read out aloud", then a dramatic reading is a subset of it, not a separate category.
    At any rate, both require much skill, the audiobook possibly even more so as, like you say, it does present the pitfall of falling into a drone and a good audiobook has a very narrow sweetspot of intensity vs. dullness to find.
    Still, I don't really get the appeal of it. I'd much rather read on my own than have someone just neutrally recite a text to me. Of course it's a different medium for different occasions: you can't (or at least shouldn't...) read while you're walking down the street. But I'd take a good dramatic reading or, even better, a good audio drama over ten audiobooks.

    Went on a bit of a ramble, there. tl;dr: I very much agree.
  • Well, you're kind of talking apples to apples here.  Audiobooks, at least in this day and age, ARE dramatic readings...and I know my Audiobooks!  I've been a Audible.com platinum subscriber since 2003 and have over 250 books in my 'library' . Narrators vary, some are better than others, but nobody just flat reads a book and it's really more about being an actor.  They act out the parts, use different voices and accents etc..   There are some bad narrators, and that can really ruin an Audiobook, but they are rare (They don't last long in the industry I suspect) but there are some that are just amazing.  John Lee is my all time favorite and he's Narrated some of my favorite series (Peter Hamilton's Common Wealth Saga, Alistair Reynolds Revelation Space series.) They mans voice is like butter in the ears.  When narrating my new project I try to narrate like he does...I wish I could steal his voice... 
  • That is true and I do admit to rather limited knowledge in the field. It's quite evident, though, that there are degrees in the amount of dramatization one can put in an audio production.
    Say, compare these two audiobooks:

    These are two good examples of what I mean. Both are very appreciable (as much as Ellison is way better at narration than dialogue, good Lord), the former I'd classify as an audiobook, the latter as a dramatic reading.
    I'd pick the second in the blink of an eye, excessive as it is. The more emphasis the merrier and too much wins over too little any time, imho.
  • Ahh, Scott Brick!  I like him, he's narrated a bunch of stuff I've listened to.  It's kind of unfair to compare him with Ellison...Ellison is reading his own work!  That's kinda cheating :)   But that is Scott Bricks way to Narration...as I said it varies. Brick has this kind of airy, ethereal way of speaking most of the time but it usually suits the work he's narrating.  And I understand what you mean, Ellisons narration has more, for lack of a better word, "life" and I agree that would be the better of the two narrations.   I try to aim for that style as well...to put myself into the character and say/act like they would in those circumstances.