Anyone involved in producing animation and video games will tell you that having a number of character voices at your command makes you a lot more interesting and marketable to them. They can use you in one or two solid recording sessions and get three or four characters out of the way thanks to your chameleon-like ability. Since many agencies and talent bill at double the hourly rate for the first hour, you’re actually saving them both money and time as well as potential scheduling headaches. Obviously you want to be one of those go-to voiceover talents, but exactly what kind of voices should you be concentrating on? You may do an amazing east Indian accent and make all your friends laugh with great joy, but really how much call is there for that in the world of animation and video games?
Not much I’m afraid. Neither is being able to say “D’oh” like Homer Simpson or talking like an old English charwoman, especially if you’re a guy. These are all wonderful voices and you should keep them in your arsenal to surprise and amaze your friends, acquaintances and family, but as far as marketable voices let’s get down to business. First of all, you can only do what your voice is capable of doing. You should never attempt voicing any characters that put undue stress on your vocal chords. Any voice that makes you strain, cough or become horse is not for you. Also much of what they’re looking for is not so much a particular voice, but rather unbelievable emotionally fleshed- out character brought to life through attitude and your strong acting choices.
Now having said that, let’s look at what works for video games.
For guys, if your voice can handle it, you’re going to want to be able to do a “tough as nails military hero type”. Gruff, stern, maybe having a gravely or throaty quality. Then there’s the evil foe. He should be cold, menacing, and emotionless with occasional outbursts of bile.
You can also put in your bag of tricks a useful high-spirited, somewhat naïve lad, a brat, a braggart, a mad scientist, a doofus, a regular everyday guy and of course, you never know when dialects will come in handy. British, German, French, New York-ish, Southern, Western, California. Believe me the list goes on and on but this gives you a good place to start.
For women it’s surprisingly similar. You would benefit by being able to voice a tough military type, a self-confidence smart-as-a-whip agent type, an ancient mystic, an evil sorceress, an airhead, a brat, a miss all that preppy, a fairy queen, an energetic heart of gold heroin and of course, all of the same dialects mentioned earlier.
One unique area that women should consider adding because they often get cast for it, and this goes for both video games and animation, is that kids voices both boys and girls. A woman’s vocal range can often mimic that other child in a way that very few men’s voices can. So definitely work on this type of voice if you’re able as its a very marketable commodity.
The world of animation, I’m talking about movies and television now, is in a way much less defined. Animation will ask you to go all over the place, sometimes into uncharted territory. Here in toon-land, you will often find voice choices going against type. A bunny rabbit with a voice of a New York thug, a cop with a high whiny voice. A rule of thumb that I observe is stay away from character voices that are too close to those of already famous animated characters. They don’t want another Stewie or Lisa Simpson. They’re always looking for something fresh, something that comes bubbling up from the wellspring of your own creativity. They’re looking for this fresh, new take on a character because they want to own it first. So play around with every kind of voice you’re capable of before settling on a couple to audition with for each animated character
Oh, and one more thing. It would serve both women and men well if they worked on an announcer type character. More in the over-the-top category of parody than realism.
Alright so this is a beginning point. It’s a place for your imagination to take over and remember that each character is never only a voice. Each character lives, breathes, has a history, opinions, a way he or she walks and acts physically.
Imagine if you will a world of your own creation. A world of wondrous and strange imaginary characters. A world deep inside the animations zone.
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