So you want to voice act? Well, amateur voice acting can be fun, rewarding and remarkably cathartic (depending on the material).
Voice acting, at its core, is about acting but using only your voice. It is about creating a completely believable character by using your voice in a variety of ways. It is commonly used in radio drama and cartoons, though television and the movies are not strangers to the use of voice acting1.
Amateur voice actors, therefore, are those who act with their voice to create believable characters for the sheer fun of it, rather than for pay.
If you have not already joined a community, some of those currently around include: The Voice Acting Alliance, Flava, Darker Projects, Newgrounds and The Voice Acting Club. At these communities, you can audition for projects, post up your own work and socialise with other amateur voice actors.
Some of the types of works you might come across are:
Fandubs: These are usually video clips - occasionally, entire episodes - from various animé series, or cutscenes, full-motion videos from video games which have had the original voices, music and sound effects removed. New voices (provided by the amateur voice actors) are then added, along with music and sound effects2. Examples include Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, Inuyasha and the Final Fantasy series.
Radioplays: These are productions which rely solely on audio to tell a story. They generally come under two categories - fanworks and original. Fanwork covers those radioplays which are based on books, video games, animé, manga, television series, etc. Examples include Harry Potter, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Final Fantasy X. Original radioplays are those with scripts created completely from the author's imagination, and are not based on currently existing work.
Flash Animations: Again, these can come under the two categories of fanwork and original. These are cartoons created using Adobe's Macromedia Flash software.
In order to get started you will need a microphone, the appropriate software, and your voice.
You can buy microphones at any good electronics shop. Comet, PC World, Maplin and Radioshack3 are among those shops which carry them. An expensive condenser microphone and its accoutrements are nice, but not necessary. Many amateur voice actors use desktop microphones. Some also extol the virtues of USB microphones for their noise reduction features and clarity.
It is also suggested that you have a set of headphones available.
Although there are many programs which serve similar functions, the following three pieces of software are tried, tested and work extremely well for any amateur voice actor:
Goldwave: This is currently only available in a trial version, but it does a pretty good job. All the features are functional, however it counts how many 'moves' (ie, your actions) you make per session, and if you go over the limit, it pops up a box to alert you to this fact. It is not recommended that you attempt to use this program to mix a radioplay owing to the lack of multitrack. However it can be done.
Adobe Audition (formerly 'Cool Edit Pro'): Useful for whatever you wish to work on, whether it's mixing or recording. The noise reduction feature takes some getting used to. Adobe has seemingly added extra features to make it just that little bit cooler.
Recording Your First Clip
Once you've set up your microphone, software and LAME Encoder, open up Audacity. Go to Project and locate New Stereo Track. Press on that and it will open a new track for you. Click on the circle and leave a few seconds of silence, then speak into the microphone. Say anything you want. A funny shape should appear in the track. That's your voice. If you want to stop, click on the square. Now click the triangle, and you will hear your voice.
There might be some fuzz in the background. So close the audio track by pressing the x button. To overcome the fuzz, simply record a few seconds of silence, then stop and highlight the waveform. In the Effect menu, there's an option called Noise Removal. Select that, then click on Get Noise Profile. This could take a few seconds, and will need to be done whenever you use Audacity.
Now record yourself speaking. Once you're done, highlight the recording and use the Noise Removal feature. Do you notice there's a scrollbar labelled, Less ...More? Use that sliding bar and previewbutton to test the quality. Preferably, it should be as fuzz free as possible, but it should not be distorted. Once you've got that happy medium, click OK, and the noise reduction will be applied. Save in MP3 format with a name you will remember.
Once you have your microphone and software set up, open Goldwave. Go to the Filemenu, and click on New...(or click the New button on the toolbar). This will give you a set of options. Input the following:
- Channels: 2 (Stereo)
- Sampling Rate: 44100hz
- Preset Quality Settings: CD Quality
- Duration: 1:00.000 (1 minute)
A window will appear with two channels. Look at the toolbar. There's a button with a red circle on it. Press it. This will start the recording. I would suggest keeping a few seconds of silence at the start before you begin. Then, just say whatever crazy thing you like5.
Once you've completed your recording, it's time to noise reduce. The Effect menu is where our noise reduction feature is hiding, so let's go for that menu. Hover over Filter, and you'll find Noise Reduction... Select that. It will automatically sample your recording. Just click OK, and Goldwave will noise reduce. Hopefully, your recording will crystal clear with no fuzz and no distortion. Save it as MP3, preferably 128kbps at 44100hz. Give it a name that you will recognise later. All done!
In Cool Edit Pro
So, once again, you have your microphone and software set up. Double click the Cool Edit Pro icon to open it. You will see a multitrack window. On each track are three buttons - red, yellow and green. Press the red button on Track 1. Now, this track has been selected for recording. Press the record button, and again allow a few seconds of silence before you speak into the microphone. Once you are done, press the stop button.
Double click your recording (or press the waveform button6), and you will find yourself in a screen with two channels and your recording in these two channels. Select a few seconds of silence in your recording and then go to the Effects menu. You will find that Noise Reduction has a menu all of its own. Hover over it to find Noise Reduction... and then select this option.
A new box will open with two graph windows. Leave the bottom one (More... Less) as is. You want the main graph window (Noise Profile). Click on Get Profile from Selection. This will only take a few seconds. You can also save your profile if you wish, but Cool Edit will remember that setting.
If you look at the sliding bar beneath these two graphs (Noise Reduction Level), you will see three levels - green, yellow and red. Green is low, yellow is medium and red is high. Ideally, you should be aiming for the red and yellow lines on your graph to be as close to the green line as possible, since that means that your line will be crystal clear with no distortion. Test it with the preview button. When you're happy with it, click OK.
Now select the entire waveform and return to Noise Reduction. Click OK, and Cool Edit Pro will begin the process of noise reduction. Depending on the length of your file, this could take some time.
Now that you have completed this task, save it (File> Save As...) with a filename that you will remember. Extra options regarding quality can be found in the save window's Options... section.
Congratulations. You have just successfully recorded and noise reduced your first clip.
Your first project
So, are you ready to audition for your first project? Yes? Good.
Firstly, find a project that interests you. If you're not interested in the subject matter, chances are you won't enjoy it.
Second, ensure you read the whole of the description of the project. This includes the producer's blurbs, plotlines, character audition lines and the guidelines.
Once you have chosen a character to audition for, record your lines for them. It is advised that once you have finished recording and noise reducing, you save each line separately.
It is also advised that your lines are in a folder that can be zipped using a program such as WinZip.
Please be sure to follow the guidelines that the producer has given you. They're there for a reason. Usually to make the producer's life easier, though it can also give you an advantage in getting cast. Guidelines usually include what format your files should be in; how they are to be named; what should be in your zip file; where to send your auditions; and by what date your auditions should be in.
- Record your lines in 44100hz 96+kbps MP3 format.
- Save the lines as yourname_charactername_#number.
- Put your auditions into a zip file labelled yourname_charactername.
- Please also include a text file with your name, email address and names of the characters that you are auditioning for.
- Send your lines by email to so-and-so at anonymousaddress dot com.
- Auditions will close at midnight on #day of month, #year.
Once you have sent your auditions in, be patient. You will not always hear back from the producer as to whether they have received your auditions or not. Some may use their forum threads to list those whose auditions they have received. It also may take some time to whittle down a cast if the producer has received a lot of auditions.
On being a cast member
Providing you have been cast and the producer has sent the script to you, be sure to follow whatever instructions you have been given. Hand your lines in by the deadline. If you have a problem with doing this, let the producer know - most of them don't bite.
The world of real voice acting
As in many of the professions centred on the performing arts, there are many very well known voice actors. For example:
- Quinton Flynn (Isaaru in Final Fantasy X and X-2, and Iruka in Naruto).
- Monica Rial (Minamo Kurosawa in Azumanga Daiohand Fiore in Chrono Crusade).
- Tara Strong (Rikku in Final Fantasy X and X-2and Dil Pickles in Rugrats).
- Joe Dougherty (Porky Pig).
- Mark Hamill (the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and Harris in Bruno the Kid).
- James Arnold Taylor (Tidus and Shuyin in Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 respectively).
Hard Work and Determination
Within the voice acting community, it has been known for some amateur voice actors to 'go pro' - that is, they take their skills one step further and voice act for pay.
For the most part, these voice actors achieved these jobs through hard work and determination. They did not 'get noticed'. Rather, they tried out for roles, sent in demo tapes and so on. They also did not give up.
Some amateur voice actors who have 'gone pro' are: Lila Atherley, Lucien Dodge and Christina Vee.
Now that you have a microphone, the correct software and the appropriate skills, you are ready to voice act.
The key in any voice acting community is hard work. Please remember that if you do not succeed in your first attempts, do not give up. Keep practicing and keep working.
Good luck and have fun.