To Breathe or Not To Breathe-in Jobs and Auditions

Girl blowing flowerI am a firm believer that speeding up auditions equals more auditions turned in equals more jobs.  And this efficiency means mo’ money per hour of auditioning.  When I read an audition there is often a sentence or two that I “pick up” so there is usually some quick editing involved in creating the final audition.

I also like to clean the beginning and the end with silence.  So no rattling paper sound or me mumbling “man this copy really sucks…”  But then the question arises “should I take out the breaths?”  The answer is no… and yes.

Let’s Look at Jobs First

There are two types of files you might submit if you are recording a job.  The first type is raw files.  These are the files exactly as you recorded them-with no edits.  You ship everything you created off to the client and let them sort through it to pick the best takes and clean up breaths, mouth noise, etc.  A request for these types of files is usually made if the client has directed the session using a phone patch.  You do various takes until the client is happy and then you send it all so they can sort through and pick the best of the best.  Obviously you don’t worry about breaths in the files.

The other type of job requires finished, edited files.  These are far more common.  When the client wants finished files, you sort through the takes and create one composite file of the performance.  You eliminate breaths, lips smacks, long pauses, etc. to create a file that flows naturally and can be used “as is”.  I have found that if I don’t take out the breaths in the finished file, the client will use it “as is” and the breaths will be in the final performance! Yuk!

The Audition is Not the Job!

The problem with extensive editing is that it requires extensive time!  It can take 4-5 times the length of the audition to edit it!  So if you can read it in 3 minutes, it may take 15 minutes to clean it up!  This time that would be better spent on the next audition.  And you can do four times the number of auditions in the same time frame!

What Clients Want to Hear

Clients listen for three things in an audition–probably in this order:

  • Recording Quality–You should assure that your recordings are broadcast quality.  The client assumes the job recording will reflect the audition recording.  Get your system right and then you can forget about it.
  • Attitude of the Audition–Each spot has a specification or “spec” that describes the vibe the client wants in the spot.  Authority? Conversational? Edgy? Reassuring?  Nail this attitude!  If James Earl Jones doesn’t “get” the attitude right, he’s not going to get the job.
  • Your Vocal Quality–This is God-given so you can’t control that.  You are what you are. Be yourself.

Notice I didn’t mention breaths.  Online casting clients may only listen to 8 seconds of your read to separate the “likes” from the “don’t likes”.  I doubt you’ll breath in the first 8 seconds.  If they listen further, they’re already in love so breaths won’t matter.

So don’t waste time editing breaths.

Some Exceptions to the Rule

There are some exceptions to this rule:

  • Initial Breaths–I clean the space between my slate and the first word of the audition so I don’t have a giant sucking sound where the audition begins. And also the first couple of breaths in an audition.
  • Loooooong Phrases–In business copy is is possible to have very long sentences where you have to arbitrarily decide where to breath in the middle of the sentence.  A big fat breath can disturb the flow of these sentences.  Take the breath out and tuck it together.
  • High End Auditions–I’ll spend more time creating auditions for high end jobs–jobs that pay $750 and up.  On these I think you have an edge if you give the client a polished, finished example of what the end product will sound like.
  • Very Short Reads— If I’m reading a slogan with just a handful of words I’ll do two things.  First, I’ll do “wild spots”– that is, three reads of the slogan with each read different.  And I’ll take out all the breaths.  This is so short it won’t take much time.

Never Take Out Emotional Breaths

*sigh* We often use our breathing to express emotion with sighs of sadness or gasps of amazement.  These are parts of the performance so leave them in!

And Breath Quietly

Don’t abuse the privilege!  Learn to breath quietly.  Through your mouth and quickly.  Quiet breaths are like no breaths at all.

Win the Numbers Game

In the end, auditioning is a numbers game.  So if you have limited time to audition, you want to pump out as many auditions as you can in that time.  Spend your time on creating a quality performance that enhances the meaning of the copy.  Remember more auditions equals more jobs.

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5 Responses to To Breathe or Not To Breathe-in Jobs and Auditions

  1. Brian says:

    This topic left me breathless. I always appreciate your perspicacity in the VO world and techniques to help us vocal hoi polloi compete with the bone crushing competition out there. Thank you.

  2. jd martin says:

    Hey this one was a great advice section on breathing. I appreciate it and I don’t see where any one else wouldn’t. I often wonder about editing the breaths. Don’t want to edit everything, I suppose,it won’t sound natural anymore. Loses it’s human affect and qualities the client is looking for. Thanks A.C. keep the advice coming!!

  3. Keith says:

    Good article. Mike placement helps eliminate breath noises, too.
    I like the tip on mouth breathing, much quieter than nose.
    Recently did a radio spot that had a lot of words in a 30 sec spot.
    Taking the breaths out help tighten up the spot to keep it on time.

    • Keith, Great advice. In jobs you can take breaths out and usually reduce the space between phrases to about 2/3 what is was. Nudge the phrases together until is sounds too abrupt and then relax it a tiny bit. In auditions I may take the breaths out to achieve the correct time (hmmm that sounds like another article…) but only if its worth the money.

  4. angela says:

    I enjoyed this post, I am loving the phrases and making that word pop, I am rereading all my scripts and scoping that one word to make the script live and believable as you are teaching in class. I like the mouth breathing method when I read these scripts over again I am trying to do a soft breathe, thank you Mr. Williams for your time and more tips on your blog.

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