The Voice of an Angel — or something like it

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This week we’ve been searching for a voice over artist. We’re putting Lily Does Sweden out as an audiobook, so audiobook narrator required. We’re going ACX.

ACX, for those of you that don’t know, is the Audio Creation Exchange. They are a partner of Audible.com and a wing of Amazon. ACX connects publishers (or authors) to VO talent.

Anyone can sign up as a narrator and apply for a project by submitting an audition — feel free to audition, the script is on ACX — but authors and publishers can also use ACX to invite narrators to audition too.

ACX has over 10,000 voices to sample. They have a sorting system to cut down the crush, but don’t get your hopes up.

  1. Many ACX demo reels are of poor sound quality. We eliminated over 100 people because we thought they didn’t have the technical know how to produce an audiobook based on their poor quality reel.
  2. Good quality VO reels, but it’s several commercials strung together. This type of reel tells you nothing about how well a VO artist can narrate a book. So they don’t get chosen.
  3. One or two good reels, but the work doesn’t demonstrate a wide range of abilities. The reels don’t display the sort of voice or style you’re looking for, so you have to assume they can’t do what you need. That’s more talent passed over.

We narrowed our invite list down to 21 voices — all female.

From there we did a second round of listening (combined with looking at their various websites to find out more about each potential candidate — sometimes there are more demo reels on an artist’s website). We weeded out nine people completely this way. Problems included:

  • Too young/old sounding (no reel demonstrating they could do any other vocal age).
  • Too girlie-sounding (no reel demonstrating any other vocal style),
  • good voice, but no comic ability or poor reading of text.
  • good voice, but no demo reel showing they could do comedy,
  • great voice, but stopped taking projects,
  • great voice and comic timing, but poor with accents, gendered voices, etc.
  • great voice, but doubtful they’d do the content based on their website information.

We of the 11 left, we invited a couple people to audition right away because they seemed ideal in every way.

Then we sorted through the list a third time.

  • Two people we really liked we set aside because everyone agreed they both had an obvious regional accents (NY and Midwest) in every reel they did. That wasn’t a bad thing, it was just the wrong regional accent for our project and they had no reel to prove they could shed the accent. Many people don’t realize they have an accent.
  • One person was put aside because, although she had loads of VO experience and a perfect voice, she delivered every line like a radio announcer and had no reel to prove she could do otherwise.

We then had seven people left and you’d probably be surprised by who they are. Among the top VO artists were a Latina from the Deep South, a white American from Germany, an African American from New York, a Canadian, and a Japanese American from California. They were all of various ages too!

Lily Does Sweden has many parts, but all very White and mostly adults over 30. However, a great VO artist isn’t locked into his or her natural ethnic, regional or even gendered accent. That’s why they are great VO artists.

In fact, we realized very quickly that finding the right person is a matter of simply closing your eyes and really listening. And that’s your Valentine’s Day tip! Now, go and listen for your Angel.

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Published in: on February 14, 2013 at 12:50 AM  Leave a Comment  
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