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In the studio

Congratulations! You have booked your job! This normally happens on the strength of your demo, the popularity of your sound, and a recommendation from your agent. Nine times out of ten you won’t receive a script prior to the recording and that can make you feel like there is nothing you can do to prepare. However, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you are ready to go. On the way to the gig, you should pick up a newspaper and read aloud. I also use signposts to read from on my way into the studio and I practice using the accents I know I will be recording in. You could also do a voice warm up at home or in the car on the way in. If you are on the train this is more difficult but not impossible to do some breathing work and articulation work.

Eat a really good solid breakfast before you go in. If your recording is a full day or a half day, you will need to have eggs or oatmeal or something sizeable like a protein shake and have some healthy snacks like nuts in your bag. There is nothing worse than having stomach gurgles on your morning session because you will always have stomach gurgles on your afternoon session anyway.

What should I wear to a voice over?

Sounds like a silly question – your pyjamas of course. NO! Dress for comfort for sure, but please don’t wear your PJs or your gym gear. You are expected to turn up looking like you would for a regular audition or call back – looking neat and clean and professional. I always base it on the type of client I am working for. If you know it is a corporate gig, then definitely make sure you look the part. This is less about how you look and more about the impression you leave that your brand fits the client. Please don’t wear jewelry – especially bells, clinking necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. If you wear studs, the headphones will often squash the back of the stud into the skin behind your ear distracting you. If you wear hoops, you will find they will clink and link with the cords of the headphones and might make sound. I have memories of wearing hoops and having them tie knots in the electrical cords. It was quite the comedy!

Wear shoes that are as close to silent as possible. Oh, and no high heels. The last thing you want is the clicking of heels or the squeaking of your shoes, and you don’t know if you will get a chair or not for your recording.

Wear layers. It is common to arrive to a studio that feels like Antarctica, so make sure you have layers available to stay warm in the studio, as it will add to tension in your body if you are cold. However, sometimes there is no air conditioning or it is broken and if, like me, you stupidly wear a jumper for an eight hour audio book recording with no T-shirt under it in winter, you will quickly discover that you should have had a singlet underneath. Nothing like sweating for eight hours, rolling your trousers up to your knees, and pushing your jumper back to your elbows because it is 37 degrees in the booth. If you forget this piece of advice, I can guarantee you will only make the mistake once!

What goes in your voice over bag?

I was recently asked this question and think actually, it is probably quite helpful to know. My bag always has a a large bottle of water that I have half-finished on the way to studio, a spare Opal/Oyster card with cash on it as a back up (nothing worse than missing a train because of a queue), a banana, a granny smith apple, a few herbal tea bags, a pencil, a pen, my iPhone with the address of the booking saved into the maps in advance . . . and screenshot it! Learnt that the hard way when I had no data but luckily found a bus stop with a map on it and remembered the address.

When you arrive at the studio, you will often be asked if you would like tea, coffee, water, or even a snack if it is a high end studio. I recommend to accept only the water, as often they need you very quickly and all of a sudden and you won’t have time for a tea/coffee or a snack. It depends on the studio, but most recording booths will allow you to have water next to you. As a courtesy, you should always ask. I have never seen any food in the recording booth of any studio, however, sometimes you will see food and coffee in the engineer’s room, but rules vary from studio to studio. The most important thing is that you do not have any food or drink near any of the equipment.

Voiceover Studio

A Note on Coffee . . . . Coffee is very dehydrating and if you are a lover of it, then try to have it with no milk, and after you have eaten. Coffee on an empty stomach will give you the gurgles during your session, and you will be wondering why. It also makes you race with your dialogue, so make sure you eat first, so that your blood vessels aren’t pumping caffeine quicker than oxygen and serotonin.

Once you are in the studio:

  • Keep still near the mic
  • Keep your mouth facing the mic
  • No flipping of pages and rustling of paper
  • Check on pronunciations of product names
  • Check on pronunciations of people’s names to be sure
  • Check on how they would like their dates, numbers, and currencies to be read aloud, e.g. Will you be saying “Nineteen dollars and ninety-nine cents?” Or “Nineteen Ninety-Nine?”
  • Have two to three pages of dialogue out in front of you on the stand/lectern/table if they have one

Most importantly, write the names of everyone you meet on the top right hand side of your script as soon as you hear them – engineer, receptionist, client, marketing manager.

The quicker you can do this job, the better for everyone! Mistakes do happen, so it comes down to efficiency and keeping yourself positive after a mistake. When you make a mistake, leave a handle (a gap) for the edit and backtrack, immediately going back (without complaining, swearing, or apologising too much) to the nearest sentence start so you get a clean take. Good luck!

Felicity Jurd is a teacher trained graduate of Atlantic Theater Company (NY) and also studied at LAMDA and atyp. She has recently returned to Australia after nine years working on set, on stage, and in sound studios in London.  Felicity is on staff at many colleges including Actors Centre Australia (ACA), International Screen Academy (ISA), and NIDA. A native Aussie, she made her television debut in JNP’s Land of Hope (1984) and her ABC Radio debut in Cyclone Tracey (1986). She has made many screen appearances in film and television including roles in A Country Practice, Home & Away, and the award winning UK film Green Means Stop. She has appeared in numerous theatre productions in New York, London, and Sydney.