VO and Tablets

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VO and Tablets

Many voice actors take a tablet into the booth to read and markup their copy.

But what if you could run your entire studio on a tablet?

Samsung S5E Tablet and Monitor: Joe's Dump

What you see in the above picture may be the future for home studios. At the bottom is a 10″ Android tablet. It’s connected to the top screen, a mouse, keyboard, external drive, microphones interface, mic and speakers.

It could run everything you need for a home recording studio. And it costs around $400.

In this test, I was running a Chrome browser with two tabs, a Google spreadsheet, a Microsoft Word document, and Lexis audio recording/editing software. Recording quality was the same as on my laptop.

So, what exactly makes this possible?

The tablet is a Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e – here are the specs:
OS: Android 9.0.
Display: 10.5in WQXGA Super AMOLED, 287ppi.
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 Octa-core processor (2×2.0 GHz & 6×1.7 GHz)
Memory: 4/6GB.
Storage: 64/128GB + microSD up to 512GB.
Cameras: 13Mp rear, 8Mp front.
Ports: USB3.1 (Type C)
Plus! Very thin and light: just 5.5 mm thick, and weighs only 399 g (0.88 lb)

The USB-C port is an OTG (On-The-Go) type. This means it allows USB devices, such as USB flash drives, digital cameras, mice or keyboards, to be attached. Also microphones and speakers and screens. No drivers to install, or software to update. All I did was plug in a USB-C hub and everything worked.

The processor has 8 cores, and is pretty fast. The new version of this tablet (the S5) is expected to be even faster.

Battery life is 14+ hours, but you can also have it plugged in while you’re using it.

The final piece of the puzzle is the windows like interface on the big screen. That comes from Samsung. It’s called “Dex”, and is one of 4 modes on this tablet:

  1. Normal Tablet Mode (one app takes up the whole screen)
  2. Split-screen Mode (two apps share the screen equally)
  3. Pop-up Mode (one app appears in a pop-up window; any second app appears behind it, full screen)
  4. Dex Mode (full window and icon interface)

When you put all of this together, you can easily see the potential… and where we all may be headed.

I used the setup exclusively over the weekend, just to see how easy it was. It’s definitely good enough for auditions, or for the central component of a travel rig. To run a full home studio, I’d probably want better recording/editing software available. It may already be out there…

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

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Weeding Your Voice Acting Garden

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Weeding Your Voice Acting Garden

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of our businesses. Or to spend time dreaming about a possible future career. But Voice Acting, like all businesses, requires regular maintenance to ensure we’re operating at peak proficiency, not being wasteful, and still on the path to success.

To that end, I think it’s important to “Weed Your Voice Acting Garden”. Taking a wider view of where you’re headed and what might be standing in the way can help make the long journey to a career easier and more enjoyable.

Here are some areas to consider…

Weeding Yourself:
A clear view of yourself, your abilities and limitations, can be invaluable in a business where you are the product. Asking a few trusted friends or family members may help to identify key areas of potential improvement.

  • Speech Impediments:
    These may range from a minor annoyance such as sibilance to more severe speech issues. Best to get the help of a doctor or professional speech therapist to address them early in your career path.
  • Accents or Regional Dialects:
    A natural accent can be an advantage for local ads and work, but if you’d like to expand your range, this is an area to work on.
  • Health Issues (Physical and Mental):
    You’ve got to be healthy to be at your best, so if you have known issues, seek out a professional who can best put you on the road to a more healthy life.
  • Finances and Housing:
    The basics have to be taken care of for you to be able to build a solid career – even if it means putting voice acting on hold while you build up a reserve.
  • Relationships:
    Our friends, family and loved ones are the support net we all need to thrive, so resolve any issues as best you can to ensure your emotional security while you’re hard at work.

Weeding Associations:
Our associations with other industry people, companies, and groups are a key element in any business. Making sure you’re associated with ones that advance rather than impede your career can make everything run more smoothly.

  • Agents:
    Are you happy with your agent(s)? You should feel open to having a conversation with them if there are any issues. If you have one or more who aren’t working out, it may be time to move on.
  • Websites:
    Keep your personal website updated (you do have one, right?), and be sure that any other sites where you are listed are sites you’d be proud to be associated with. Otherwise, reconsider which ones are best for you and your reputation, and jettison the rest.
  • Groups:
    Voice acting groups can be a great source of information, support and camaraderie. However, if they’re full of ads or negativity, it may be best to trim those from your memberships.
  • Demos:
    Just like your personal website (you do have one, right?), your demos need to be kept up to date and show you at your best. Consider dropping any that are no longer relevant, or getting some new ones made to replace the older tired ones.
  • Genres:
    There are a slew of genres in the voice acting world. Although you may be interested in many of them, it may be best to take a hard look at which are working for you and your voice. The others will still be there if you’d like to pursue them, but that can be more of a back burner project.

Weeding Training:
Regular training keeps us sharp, but how much is too much? Every career and person is different, but it’s good to review how much of our time and money is spent on training… and if you’re still getting value from the investments.

  • Coaches:
    Having coaches for different specialty areas can help you advance more quickly. Be sure which ones line up with your current career path. Consider taking a break from those who are either not working out for you, or don’t match what you’d like to improve.
  • Classes:
    Much like coaches, classes can be addictive. Be picky which you’d really like to spend money and time on. If they can help you improve, great. Otherwise, it might be best to skip them.
  • Workouts:
    I attend a weekly workout group (although I do skip around a bit). Some of my friends even attend a few per week. Even if they are not a drain on your finances, you may want to think about if they’re the best use of your time. Less is more, sometimes.
  • Conferences:
    (old man voice) “IN MY DAY WE ONLY HAD ONE VOICE CONFERENCE EVERY TEN YEARS!!! AND THERE WEREN’T ANY PRIZES OR GIFTY BAGS!!! AND WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!!!” (off old man soap box)
    I get it. Conferences have a lot of great things. Getting a sampling of training. Meeting others in the Voice Acting industry. Seeing the latest toys. They can be a real boost for your career (and ego). But too much of a good thing isn’t always good. Conferences can be really expensive – especially on an actor’s budget. Look carefully at what you’re getting before you buy the tickets to the conference… and the plane… and the hotel… and the dinner… and the…
  • Equipment:
    (seriously, dude… do you *really* need 12 microphones?)

Conclusion:
Taking time out of our busy schedule may seem counter-intuitive, but when you keep your Voice Acting Garden weed free, it may not only grow better, but give you more space to breathe in.

Being There Garden Quote: Joe's Dump

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Learning from Bad Voice Over

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Learning from Bad Voice Over

There’s a lot of bad voice over on TV.

But rather than just cursing at the screen, I decided to turn my pet peeves into a learning experience.

Below are a variety of terrible voice over performances, and the lesson that each can provide:

1) The EmPHAsis on the Wrong SylLAble (or Word)
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but a lot of this problem seems to happen in medical commercials. I’ve even seen some commercials that were re-cut because the problem was so glaring… only to have some other problem in the new version.
Here’s a few examples and why they’re wrong:

  • INcreased risk (this should have an even emphasis over the entire phrase: “increased risk”)
  • Routine lab MONITORING (“Lab Monitoring” is routine. The lab is not.)
  • Upper respiratory TRACT infection (similar to the prior. You have an “Upper-Respiratory-Tract”, and it has an infection.)
  • I have ASSmah (Not sure why you’d pronounce asthma this way. Just wrong.)
  • Gr-EASY (Greasy rhymes with “Fleecy”. It’s not pronounced like “easy”.)

Lesson: Be certain of your word pronunciation and phrase emphasis.

2) Amateur Hour
For many local businesses, politicians and public service spots, “real people” record the spots themselves. I get it. Money’s tight, and professionals are expensive. But they might be “Penny Wise, and Pound Foolish” in the long run.

When “real people” (ie. Amateurs) speak on camera, they’re often not the same as in real life. The microphone and camera can be intimidating if you’re not used to them. This tends to bring out odd qualities in folks. Primarily, it’s a flatter tone, lower energy (or worse: pushed excitement).

Here’s a couple examples:

  • ENtroducing (the word is “INtroducing”)
  • I could lift mah son… high over my head… again (no need for all those odd pauses)
  • I COULD LEAVE AGAIN!!! (too much excitement. And it’s “Live” not “Leave”. Watch that accent)
  • The best smahl in mah lahhff. (Accent. Again. It’s “The best smile in my life”)
  • Even fahr guys dat don like ta cahk! (fake excitement. Should be “for guys that don’t like to cook”)

Lesson: You can actually pick up some excellent accents and regionalisms from watching “real people”… just be sure you don’t pick up their low energy or fake excitement.

3) Product Misplacement
The most important thing in most commercials is the company or product name. Yet in some, they are mispronounced. Odd how that can make it past so many approval layers, and yet… There it is.

In some cases, it may be due to having different pronunciations in different countries. Car brands Hyundai and Jaguar are prime example.

Other brands may have names that are unfamiliar or spelled in odd ways such as Xfinity or Ghirardelli.

Lesson: Take the time to research the correct pronunciations when you audition. If there are still doubts, ask your agent. And in sessions, listen carefully and defer to the client’s pronunciation.

4) Vile Vocals
It’s like fingernails on a chalk board… Vocal Fry. Bad Singing. Missing letters (“buh-uh” instead of “button”). Slurred speech. Mumbling. Over-Articulation.

Few of us get coaching when we first learn to speak. Just learning a language can be a monumental task for a child. However, when you choose to speak as a part of your career, it needs to be one of your priorities.

Lesson: Proper diction is essential to good voice over work. Consult with a speech coach and address any issues that may hamper your future success.

5) Wanna Be Voices
Cartoons were a big part of my childhood. Anime characters also have a very loyal fan base. I’d watch, laugh, memorize and imitate the voices. Lots of kids do that. It’s fun, and sometimes you can get a laugh from your friends, or when you’re older, the people at a party.

However, it’s a gigantic step from having fun imitating voices to a career in voice over.

With cheap microphones and easy access to editing software, it’s become very common for people to make their own videos for YouTube (read: YouActor), and think that that’s the way to break into Cartoons and Anime.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m definitely not talking about audio drama. I’m with several stellar groups, and there are many fine actors who contribute their time and talents to create compelling stories. But they have put in the effort to be trained on stage, or have taken classes or been coached.

Lesson: We all start somewhere. For many people, that may be imitating voices they admire. But a voice over career takes a lot more than just mimicry. Do yourselves a favor and get training in acting, improv and singing. Perform for live audiences. Get direction and coaching. If you wanna get the jobs, you gotta put in the work.

 
So, the next time you hear some really bad VO, step back and take the time to see why it bothers you. It may alter the way you approach your own auditions and performances.

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Persistence

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Persistence by Joe's Dump

Persistence:
We Aspire to it in Ourselves,
Admire it in Our Friends,
and Abhor it in Our Foes.

But when is it appropriate?

As the saying goes, nothing feels better than when you stop banging your head against the wall.

Sometimes, knowing when to quit can be just as important as knowing when to push on in spite of the odds.

Only you can make the decision on if you should persevere or throw in the towel. Take the advice of trusted loved ones, friends and mentors into account. If they’re all saying the same thing, maybe it’s time to listen.

If you’re stubborn like me, that can be the hardest part.

Besides, that wall will always be there. Maybe just a bit of a break to clear your head…

Adapt, Adopt and Improve,
Joe

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Do Your F-ing Job!

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Do Your F-ing Job!

*** Warning: This is an official rant. If you were looking for something non-ranty, please click elsewhere… You have been warned! ***

Maybe it’s too much time on hold with customer service.

Maybe it’s too much time in traffic with incompetent drivers.

Maybe it’s unqualified people in public office.

Whatever it is, I really just want people to Do Your F-ing Job!

Seriously, how hard is it?

If you’re sitting in the front of a line of cars at a red light, your job is to go when the light turns green. If you’re anywhere else in the line, your job is to go when the car in front of you moves. Do Your F-ing Job!

If you’re working in government, your job is to represent the needs and wants of your constituents, and to keep the country as your top priority. Do Your F-ing Job!

If you’re a customer service person, your job is have a deep understanding of the subject your’re supposed to be helping with, and to answer promptly and courteously. Do Your F-ing Job!

If you’re an actor, your job is to know your character, script and to show up on time and be professional. Do Your F-ing Job!

Writers… Write! Plumbers… Plumb! Painters… Paint! Creatives… Create!

I’m convinced the world would be a much better place and we’d all be happier if only You and I would…

Do Your F-ing Job!

(steps off soapbox. decompresses from rant.)

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Talent and Training vs Tools

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Talent and Training vs Tools

I’ve seen way too many newbies to the world of Voice Acting ask the following questions:

  • “Which microphone should I buy?”
  • “Do I need ISDN?”
  • “What’s the best porta-booth?”
  • “How can I make my first VO demo?”
  • “Who knows a good agency looking for new talent?”

Arrrrggghhh!!!

First things first: Know the capabilities and limits of your own talents.

Second things second: Get the training need to fully utilize all your skills.

Before you spend a dime on tools, booths, mics, mixers, demos, etc… Put in the work needed to be an excellent Voice Actor. Theatre. Improv. Singing. Coaches, classes and even conferences.

Many people find that the answers to many questions will reveal themselves if you’re​ on the right path.

Shortcuts are extremely rare. Take the time to build a solid foundation and you’ll greatly increase your odds of success.

Measure Twice, Cut Once.

Joe

PS: here are all the answers…

  • The one that works best for your voice and space.
  • No.
  • Pillow fort, or rental car.
  • Hire a pro… Only when you’re ready.
  • All agencies want new talent, if you have something they need.

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Talent, Effort, and Desire

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Talent, Effort, and Desire

A successful business in the arts requires all three. But how much of each? And how can you tell if you’re on the right path to succeed?

Let’s start with an analogy: Imagine your career is a car.
The engine is your talent.
The fuel is your effort.
And the steering wheel is your desire.

Talent: Your Career’s Engine

The engine of your career is your raw talent. We’re each born with a certain amount, but that can be improved some through training. Just as the engine moves the car forward, so does your talent help move your career. Some may move faster, some may be stronger, and others able to shift better. Knowing the capabilities and the limitations of your own talent can help you to better utilize it to its fullest potential.

Effort: Your Career’s Fuel

Talent alone isn’t enough, though. Just as a car needs fuel to run, your career needs effort to succeed. In some cases, effort can even augment other qualities you may lack. Persistence and hard work can accomplish a lot on their own. However, it is equally important to know when your effort isn’t paying off. More fuel won’t make the car go faster, or run better. Pause. Take a step back occasionally to assess how your doing, and if you’re working way too hard.

Desire: Your Career’s Steering

The final ingredient needed for the car is a way to steer it in the direction you’d like to go. Knowing what you want at each stage of your career, and being honest about your desires, will assure you’re headed down the right road. Without the steering, you may end up somewhere, or you might just land in the ditch.

Talent, effort, and desire: to succeed, you’ll need all three. The combination is unique to each of us, and finding the best balance is often a difficult challenge.

Good luck!

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Creativity Farm

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Creativity Farm

Animation, music, business, poetry and utter nonsense…

How do I come up with a new Joe’s Dump post most every Monday?

I use a Creativity Farm!
Joe's Dump Creativity Farm!

Whenever I have an idea for Joe’s Dump, I jot down a short title and a few notes in a Google doc. These are the “Seeds” on my farm.

I use a Google doc because it lets me edit my ideas on my phone, tablet or computer. When the muse inspires, I’m ready.

Next, I cultivate the Seeds by choosing a promising one and giving it my time and focus. This is like sunlight and water. The promising Seeds then grow into mature Plants, ready for posting to the blog!

Of course, along the way, some weeding must also be done. Not all ideas will bear fruit.

Once I’ve posted the finished crop, it’s moved to another Google doc for archive.

Here are just a few samples from my current batch of Seeds (who knows which will grow?):

  • A rap song about Jimmy Durante
  • Fake movie trailers
  • A noir novella set in Cleveland
  • Poetry for pets
  • Designs for a personal hovercraft
  • Learning Tuvan throat-singing

If you’ve got the time and inclination, maybe you can start your own Creativity Farm!

What do you do to keep your creativity flowing?

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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VO Workout

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VO Workout

VO Workout Banner

How staying fit can help you in your voiceover career.

When most of us hear the term “VO Workout”, we imagine a group of fellow voice actors gathering to read copy and get feedback. But there’s another kind of workout you should be adding to boost your VO career.

Keeping physically fit, mentally healthy, and getting proper nutrition all contribute to our bodies, minds and spirits working at peak levels. All of these factors can affect the sound of your voice, mood of your delivery, and how you interact with other people in the biz. Breathing, core strength, mobility, relaxation – all can come from maintaining good health. Below are some of the key factors I consider every day…
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Singing For VO

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Singing for Voice Over

Singing offers a lot of tangible advantages to anyone in Voice Acting.
For those of you who sing, I know I’m preaching to the choir! (rim shot)

But how long has it been since you’ve had a refresher?
And if you’re in VO and don’t sing, why not?

Although I’ve been in many musicals, sung with choral groups, and even performed musical improv, it had been a few years since I really sang.

Time for a tune-up!
I recently started taking lessons with a new teacher, and it’s given me a renewed sense of confidence in my vocal abilities.

Here are just a few of the areas singing can help with:

  • Tone:
    The pitch of your voice… high, medium, low (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone Bass)
  • Breathing:
    Proper breathing allows you to better control your sound.
  • Timing:
    Learning musical rhythm can help in setting your pace for both segments of the copy and for the overall read.
  • Vocal Placement:
    Chest voice, Head voice, Throat, etc. Placement is especially useful in creating characters and accents.
  • Core Support and Strengthening:
    A strong core is related to your breathing, and can give you more power and energy in your voice.
  • Volume Control:
    Knowing when to sing soft is just as important as being able to belt out a tune. Having a solid control of your volume takes practice.
  • Conveying Emotion:
    Even in a language you may not understand, songs can elicit a great deal of emotion. Learning how to deliver that to your audience is directly applicable to VO work.
  • Communication of Ideas:
    Clear communication is another win for any voice work. Knowing how to form your words and phrases so that they convey ideas is the core of it all.

My friend Marc Cashman even has a chapter in his book “V-Oh! Tips, Tricks, Tools and Techniques to Start and Sustain Your Voiceover Career” dedicated to the concept of “Finding the Music in Copy”. Here’s a short excerpt:

“Copy or text is musical. It has ebb and flow and different keys. It has sharps, flats, rests, words that are held, chopped off, high or low, soft or loud, all the same emphasis or wild ups and downs, with dynamics and crescendos. Copy reads (or plays) like a story/song, with a beginning, middle and end.”

(Marc’s book is available on Amazon, or click here to order an autographed copy)

Sometimes, I’ll even sing the copy just to get a different feel for the way it flows.

Do you sing? If so, how long has it been since you performed or had lessons? It might be time for a refresher to tune-up your instrument!

To close, here’s a number that I’ve been working on.
It’s called “I Won’t Send Roses” from the musical “Mack and Mabel” – Enjoy!

      I Won't Send Roses (Joe J Thomas)

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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