Why Announcers' Voices Sound So Much Different Than They Used To

Illustration for article titled Why Announcers Voices Sound So Much Different Than They Used To

When you imagine the life of a voiceover actor, you probably think of hushed radio booths, a team of sound engineers, and ridiculously large microphones. But the job of a modern voiceover actor looks very different, and this helps explain why that "announcer's voice" we've come to expect keeps changing.


In response to a question about insider information that, while common knowledge inside of a field, is rarely discussed outside of it, commenter allium gave us this peak behind the curtain of the voiceover booth. For starters, today's voiceover actors are likely moonlighting as their own sound engineers, and the kinds of voices they're aiming for are also changing:

From the world of voiceover:

1) 90% of your working time is spent marketing yourself and auditioning for new work - unless you're a big name like Frank Welker or Jennifer Hale. Then it drops to 80%.

2) Being able to do funny voices is nice, but consistency and acting chops are better.

3) A thousand-dollar microphone is nice, but external insulation and internal treatment for your booth (to keep out external noise and prevent your own voice from echoing) is better.

4) A fun video game or animation job that gets you a couple of hundred bucks per hour of work is good, but a 12-part e-Learning module stretched out over most of a year while the producers write the script is better. Content that has to be regularly updated and/or has residuals has a price above rubies.

5) Nowadays, almost all auditions (and a lot of actual content) are recorded at an voice actor's home studio, the definition of which ranges from "a purpose-built outbuilding" to "a walk-in closet lined with blankets". I've gone to a "professional" studio (gold records on the wall, big glass window between you and the sound engineer, etc.) to record a piece exactly once in my short but personally meaningful VO career.

6) Technology and the Internet have drastically lowered the bar for producing and acquiring voice work. This means that you can get a lot of work through so-called "pay-to-play" sites without having an agent or joining the union, but at the same time the average rate per job has gone down as a lot of less-than-fully trained people have entered the market. It also means that voice actors often have to be their own sound engineer, agent, web page designer, marketing guru, and accountant. Note also that "lowered the bar" does not mean "cheap"; even with a golden throat, you'll need to invest in equipment, training, and one or more professionally produced demos to be able to compete.

7) Despite the march of technology, a lot of production houses still insist on using ISDN to record content - for them it's a familiar decades-old standard technology, lets them get the audio immediately instead of waiting for you to email or FTP them a copy, and isn't affected by most Internet outages. Unfortunately, getting a new ISDN line can run thousands of dollars, and that's assuming your local phone carrier even connects them any more. Consequentially, owners of ISDN-equipped studios get a lot of money from VO people who need one for a particular job.

8) The stereotypical "announcer guy" voice (Don Pardo, Fred Melamed's "Voiceover Guy" in The Crazy Ones, etc.) hasn't been in vogue for quite a while. That doesn't mean that type of voice can't get work; it's just that requests for "a voice like the guy in the Apple iPad commercials" appear more often.

9) The money/time ratio for recording audiobooks is pretty lousy.

10) There is a certain ineffable charm in voicing a talking pigeon at 3 am in your jammies.

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Netflix has a good VO documentary. Produced by Bender..... I mean John DiMaggio... (Or Dr. Drakken. Or Wakka.... Or Joker from the Red Hood movie. Or. or .or or....... man he does a lot)

Netflix link for those who have it: http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/800085…