Inside the Recording Session

My friend Stevie of LA-Story asked me to do a post specifically about the recording session where we created the voice samples I shared in my post last week.

It was a really fun experience. I was fortunate that the school where I took classes is also a production studio. So we were able to do the recording in a familiar environment.
I had taken 5 classes at this point. The studio doesn’t like to have students produce a demo until they are a little more polished, as there is a big learning curve in the beginning. You would just end up needing a new demo in a few months.

So after 5 classes, I asked my teacher if I was ready. I needed to take a break from classes as my project management “day job” was getting really busy. And I felt that I wanted to do the recording while I was still in practice after all the classes. Luckily, he said I was ready!

We did the recording as 3 appointments. For the first appointment, he met with me and gave me the scripts I would use. We fine-tuned the choice of scripts based on what would work best for my voice and what I was comfortable with. For example, one script was an audiobook script for a romance novel. I was just really embarrassed reading that, so he said never mind! Obviously I wouldn’t be comfortable reading romance audiobooks. In several cases he gave me a choice between 2 scripts of a certain type and let me pick which one I preferred.

It was nice working with one of my regular teachers on this, as he is familiar with my voice and style. So he had picked good scripts for me in advance and then let me customize it. He had me read the scripts aloud and gave me some acting pointers. Then I was allowed to take the scripts home to practice and come back –I think it was the next day.

The day of the recording session, I made sure to show up early. Time literally is money at a recording studio and it’s disrespectful to make them wait for you.  He had arranged for a sound engineer to come work with us. I was surprised that I only did about 2 takes per script. In a few cases, they used the first take. The very first script we did about 7 times though! I guess I was nervous.

They sat in one room with a glass wall separating us – I was recording in another room that faced them. I had a special microphone on a stand and also a script stand and light.  I wore headphones to block out external noise and they could also talk to me through the headphones. After each recording, they would play back it back and decide if they wanted me to do another take. They fine-tuned a couple of items – for one script they had me record just the tagline “Acura” by itself again, for example. In another they had me add a southern accent. We took a couple of short breaks but we finished a little early.

It was really comfortable having my teacher produce the demo since I already knew him and had good communication with him – that saved a lot of time. I did have the opportunity to read at other studios as part of the classes I took, but it was just easier in this environment.

After the recording, we had one last meeting to discuss “sweetening” the recording. This meeting was to identify anything that might need to be fixed. At this point they had already added music and sound effects.  Because I am still new to VO, I did hear some things that weren’t perfect. But he said it was just fine. He didn’t think we needed to fix anything.

He also consulted with me about custom art work for the CD that would be produced (I received 50 copies). He asked about my hobbies and interests and we settled on a Film Noir theme for the art. He included a scene from The Black Dahlia in my scripts also to link to the Film Noir theme.  Keep in mind there is a fee to produce these demos and it depends on the studio.  Since I was a student, I received a good deal – about $1,500 USD (the cost may be different now since I recorded this a few months ago). 

We met a final time and I picked up the box of discs. The artwork looked really nice and I was really happy with the sound of the recording. I will feel good about passing these out in auditions! My super nice friend Kamran modified 3 versions of the tracks into different sizes so I could email and post to the Web.

So…the next step is to get photos and an agent! I will post more about how to get started doing Voice-Over in my next post, for those that might be interested in doing this as a career.

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