Aliso Creek Voice Over Workshop Classes
Animation Voice Over Jobs
an overview of voice over work
When many people think of voice over work they immediately think of the voices that they've heard on the radio and radio commercials. If you're a bit more observant then you've noticed that the voice you hear on television commercials is often not "on camera."
In fact the "announcer voice" has been recorded separately and added to the commercial at the end, after all the on-camera action has been filmed and edited. As a matter of fact, this is where the term "voice over" comes from: the narrative "voice that is added "over" the film or video. But beyond these fundamental uses of an announcer or narrator there are now many requirements for those disembodied voice over folks.
narration, commercials, and animation jobs
Nowadays it seems like everything is talking to us. The technology to add voices to a wide variety of presentations and products has created a vast market for the folks that supply the voices--and there's gold in them thar hills.
But where are the hills? Looking at the voice over market, it can broadly be divided into three big categories: narration, commercials and animation. Let's look at each one to see the kinds of work available.
animation voice over
The first thing everyone thinks about when you hear the word "animation" is the Disney feature films. Other studios have also entered the animation game. Universal, Warner Brothers, Dreamworks and Nickleodeon supply features as well.
But there's a lot more to animation and "character voices" than cartoons on the big screen. Today character voices are used in direct-to-dvd features, video games, character commercials, radio plays, board games, networkand cable TV cartoons, toys, internet flash animation... the list goes on and on. Here's a look at some those markets for talent with a knack for funny voices.
feature film animation
Although you can't run right out and be in the next big Disney or Dreamworks there are quite a few feature films by smaller studios that do use non-celebrity talent. And many films that started out as theatrical releases have sequels that go direct to video. The Universal series "Land Before Time" is up to Land Before Time XII. Another type of series is Japanese Anime. Most anime is a series so if you're cast in a role in one movie you might do many more. There are also many student films and shorts that you can voice to gain experience and credits.
With the success of Huckleberry Hound and the Scooby Doo back in the day and The Simpsons and Family Guy in present times, television animation has come into it's own. There are several different types of this format however.
First, there's the traditional Saturday Morning cartoons. You know, you lay on th floor with your bowl of cereal and watch one after another until a crummy football comes on. The list of these is legendary: Transformers, My Little Pony, the Smurfs, Pound Puppies, Ghostbusters... ahh yes those were the days.
Akin to these are the weekday afternoon cartoons. These almost disappeared until computer technology helped Disney and Warner Bros revive the art. Think of Duck Tales, Dark Wing Duck, Batman, Gargoyles. As cable advanced several channels appeared that featured cartoons. Nickleodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network for the kids and Adult Swim and Spike for the adults.
But the crowning acheivement has been the revitalization of network animation spearheaded by the Simpsons, followed by Futurama, King of the Hill, Family Guy and others. Surprisingly many of the regular voices on these shows are rank and file animation voice over talents, not celebs.
There's a wide range of possible jobs in TV animation. Most of the work is voiced in Los Angeles, home of Universal, Disney, Warner Bros. Dreamworks, Nickleodeon, Film Roman, Cartoon Network, Dic, Klasky Csupo and many smaller development studios.
video game animation
As the technology of 3-D animation was perfected it was integrated into video games. The advancing power of the game machines allowed the creation of amazingly realistic video game characters and more importantly the use of recorded dialogue using voice actors.
The video game market is now actually larger than the motion picture industry! With these developments a new style of acting was created: voice acting for video games. The skill required is to act out many unrelated lines as well as the grunts and groans required to do battle.
Often video games are spin-offs from recent films such as Goldeneye or The Incredibles. Roles for these spin-offs often require "voice matching": the ability to mimic the voice of the actor that was in the feature film. The use of CGI (computer generated imagery) has also looped back into use in feature films. These CGI characters require voicing as well.
radio and television character voices
Character voices are also used in television commercials that use either traditional or 3-D animation. Old favorites like Tony the Tiger or the Pillsbury Doughboy and the ubiquitous Raid Bugs are early examples. With the use of 3-D animation toasters and dishwashers can now move and talk. And radio uses character voices in the classic "partner read" theater-of-the -mind commercials: George Washington talking to Martha Washing about the Presidents Day Sale for example.
internet animation voice overs
A whole new universe of animation is opening up on the internet. A technology called Flash Animation is used to create low bandwidth scalable resolution cartoons. This technology is most often seen in the greeting cards that have animated characters. In addition the internet has opened many venues for animated shorts such as Atom Films, You Tube and Live Video. Not a lot of money in this yet but a great way to get experience and credits.
so how do I get work in animation?
There's a saying in the animation business that you need thirty voices and you'll actually use three. It means that you need many voices. You say you do a pirate and a robot? EVERYONE does a pirat and a robot! You can do a Southern Dialect? So can every school kid. So work on developing lots of different voices and dialects.
And give these voices names and personalities. Pay attention to Homer's personality and how he reacts to the other characters. Remember animation performance is voice acting. So work on portraying emotions and attitudes with your voice. Keep track of your characters on a character list.
so how do I get work in animation?
You should take animation voice over classes until you and your instructors feel that you are skilled enough to compete in your area. Then you need to create a professional animation demo. The voice-over demo and your character list are the calling cards in the world of animation.
Once you have a top-notch demo you should send it to production companies and advertising agencies in your area. You should also enclose a cover letter introducing yourself and a resume of any voice-over experience that you have. If you have no experience just leave the resume out--it won't be missed.
Your demo can be on CD or emailed in MP3 format. (I never send an unsolicited email with a demo attached--that's considered bad etiquette and... call, write or email them first!) Usually if they ask for an MP3 I'll send a CD as well by snail-mail. People are notorious about tossing emails but they'll hold on to a CD forever.
If you don't live near Los Angeles or New York, concentrate on characters for radio and television commercials and work on the internet. Only when you are making a living in your area should you consider moving to L.A. Los Angeles is the center of animation voice over in the U.S. but it is VERY COMPETITIVE.
Even if you are exceptional it may take you years to establish yourself in Los Angeles. Remember we have hundreds of people here who all do hundreds of voices. It takes great talent to convince a casting director to consider one more.
You can also locate characterwork through either of the two online voice over job posting sites: voice123.com and voices.com. Both services are free to try out but require a fee to truly utilize. You'll get many leads for voice over jobs to audition for each week and the jobs have quite fair pay rates.
To do this you need a voice over home recording studio. You'll do most of your auditions and much of your work from home. The good news is that you can compete all over the world for jobs.
Do I need to be in the unions or get an agent?
Well, yes and no! Most of the local and regional radio, television and internet jobs are non-union. They are also jobs that you can locate yourself either online or in your area. The larger jobs of animation for national network or cable shows will require an agent to locate audition for you.
Start with the smaller jobs and build your skills and your credits. Then think about obtaining an agent to chase the big jobs.
There are worlds of opportunities out there for a well-trained voice over talent. So don't limit your thinking. Explore animation, commercials and narration and have an exciting and varied career!