Why voiceover is a superpower

by Leigh on January 13, 2018

VoxXpress ArtistYou may think that being a voiceover artist is basically being paid to read out loud. In fact I do rib my voiceover friends by saying just that. I mean it’s not rocket science!

Much as it pains me to admit it, the reality is a good voiceover artist is so much more than that. It’s often said that there are a million ways to read a sentence and a good artist will instinctually know which one of those millions of deliveries is the correct one. They will interpret a piece of direction and give a client exactly what they’re after, sometimes even when the client doesn’t  know themselves.

They’ll also often be able to make helpful suggestions to improve a script if the client is open to constructive input.

This is why a professional voiceover artist will always get to that perfect delivery very quickly. I remember being asked to use an actress who wasn’t a voice artist for a voiceover on a project some years ago. We did get the performance I was after in the end but it took several hours and I know the same job would have taken a professional artist about 10 minutes.

For these reasons, we vet all the artists that apply to VoxXpress and make sure only professional, experienced artists are part of our service. So you have the confidence of knowing any artist you book with us will deliver consistently and do everything they can to ensure you get the best out of your session.

This is very important to us, particularly as a lot of our clients aren’t experienced voiceover producer. That’s when the voiceover superpowers come into their own.

As a client you need a voiceover artist to look after you, which is precisely what our artists do.  We know this because on every job booked through VoxXpress, clients are invited to feedback on the artist and the session. None of our artists have ever received less than four stars. That’s feedback from real clients on real jobs and it speaks volumes.

Every so often I will hear voiceover artists say to me ‘I love your system but it is too prescriptive, there should be more flexibility with cost.’. When I ask why they say well, if a big client like say, Microsoft, books an online voice, the price should be different to a small local firm. It’s an understandable point of view and one that I can totally get but it goes against everything we stand for at VoxXpress.

Let me explain why. One of our USPs at VoxXpress is that our pricing is totally transparent. Once you have selected the correct project type from the drop down menu on either the home page or the search page, the price displayed is the price you pay. That’s it. Too many times as a video producer I have enquired about a voiceover and have been asked questions like ‘What’s you budget?’ and ‘Who’s the client?’. These questions should be irrelevant. If you go into a supermarket and want to buy a can of beans, when you go to pay, the assistant doesn’t ask you how much you were expecting to pay or how much money do you have in the bank. It is our philosophy that there is no reason why buying a voiceover shouldn’t be the same.

Shopping-trolley 2

We think buying a voiceover should be like buying a can of beans.

However, and this is a big however! If you go to the supermarket and you buy a catering size tin of beans you should pay more than someone who buys just one small can. The price should be related to usage, not how deep your pockets are.

I have done many online videos for big name blue chips that had views in the hundreds, likewise I’ve also produced videos for small one man bands that have had hundreds of thousands of views. In short the client’s size doesn’t define the size of the audience. Agreed, sometimes there is some correlation but it’s not a hard and fast rule and it’s certainly not the best way to measure it. Indeed when I spoke to Equity recently about this, their response was:

“Who the client is will be less important than how big the campaign is and the latter is what should determine the fee level. That having been said, the bigger companies usually do the bigger campaigns.”

Funny enough I have been told by colleagues that there are circumstances where big companies will try and use their size to actually knock down prices. Well we don’t stand for that either!

So, what is the solution? 99% of online projects reach views in the hundreds to hundreds of thousands but some videos hit the millions and it’s fair enough if a project hits that many viewers, the fee should reflect that. After a conversation about this with one of our artists recently, I came away thinking I don’t agree with the ‘company defines the fee’ idea but I do agree with ‘if a video is destined for multiple millions, the fee should reflect that’.

On consultation with Equity, as I suspected, there is no official guidance on online usage but what they did say is you can use the TVR model as a guide. TVRs are a way of measuring television audience and used to calculate television advertising voiceover rates.

So that’s what we’ve done. Our basic online project type now is the equivalent of 3 TVRs. That gets you 1.5 million views which is more than most videos will ever reach. But if you are the Wix.com of this world and hitting multiple millions of views – partly by paid plays – you fall into the higher categories. We’re hopeful this will also mean our artists won’t inflate their basic online rates to cover the occasional big campaign because they now know if there are more than 1.5 million views, the project falls into a different project type.

And the great thing about online video is – turns out you can measure views really easily! Just look at some videos on Youtube and you’ll see exactly how many people have watched them!

Hopefully everyone – artists and clients alike- will feel this is a fair model and it will finally put pay to the ‘client defines the fee’ conversation.

VoxXpress ArtistI produce a lot of ‘talking heads’ documentaries where the narrative is largely made up of interviews. In an ideal world your interviewees would tell the whole story. However, how many times have we said ‘put the question in the answer’ only to hear just the opposite when the cameras are running?

It’s human nature not to repeat the question. Many of us will go back and ask our interviewee to repeat the answer with context but there are times – for example if you’re short of time or the subject is sensitive – where you just don’t want to interrupt the flow. This is where voice over is your friend – indeed your lifeboat.

If used properly, voice over can get you out of trouble. For example, if you ask an interviewee:

“When did you first discover you liked collecting stamps?”

what you’d like them to say is:

“I first discovered I liked collecting stamps when I was 8 and I saw the variety of colours on different stamp designs.”

In the real world, what they might say is:

“when I was 8 and I saw the variety of colours on different stamp designs.”

Not ideal, but this is where your secret weapon, the voiceover, comes in. If you use a VO line like:

“John first discovered he liked collecting stamps when he was quite young….”

You can then launch into:

“I was 8 and I saw the variety of colours on different stamp designs.”

Hey presto! It’s a simple trick but it has got me out of lots of trouble and hopefully you’ll find it useful too.


Why clients aren’t searching for an artist.

by Leigh on November 10, 2016

Scenes_3-4-6One of the things that makes us unusual as a voiceover site is our background. Rather than voiceovers we come from a video production background. That means we have a different approach to how we believe our customers want to use the site.

Whilst most artists assume the more different styles they cram into their audio clips the better, we believe less is more. The reason is, customers are not looking for an artist. It sounds wrong doesn’t it!? It’s true though. Customers are looking for a performance and the two are totally different. Some of our artists are extremely diverse and can produce clips that sound like they came from different people. What our clients want is to be able to find the one clip from that artist that is what they are after. That is why we have set up the site the way we have.

So when you are searching for ‘calm’ or ‘sexy’ or ‘upbeat’ we will present you with clips that represent those adjectives rather than clips that have everything in them that you then have to wade through to find those performances. It’s a subtle difference but one we think makes our service that much more easy to find what you’re after.

conference callWe now live in a world where technologies such as Skype, Source connect and ISDN allow voiceover sessions to be monitored remotely at a very high quality. So why is it that at VoxXpress, although we can facilitate these technologies, if the client and artist want to use them, our normal mode of operation is to set up a conference call on a standard telephone line?

Why do we do this? Because sometimes old technology can be good technology and in our experience robustness is more important than quality when it comes to monitoring. Remember, the quality of the actual file you download will be full broadcast spec, this is just for checking performance and pronunciation.

These other technologies can be wonderful but you are reliant on a good quality internet connection and a smooth running computer at both ends. If that connection fails or some other software on your computer decides to slow down either machine at any point during a session, you have a big problem. Also you are assuming both the client and artist have these technologies. A lot of our clients don’t have the desire to invest the money and time in such technology.

Many more people have access to a telephone line than a fast internet connection which means a large percentage of the population on the planet can dial in. The result is a robust, very accessible system that allows not only our direct clients to dial in and supervise a session, but their clients where ever they are in the world to dial in too.

This has the knock on benefit of enabling instant feedback from the ultimate client where ever they are which in turn leads to dramatically less re-records after the session. It’s a different way of working and in our opinion a better way of working.

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