Friday, September 23, 2016

Are voice acting lessons worth it?

At some point in every budding artist's preparation for the leap into professionalism should come one question: "Are lessons worth it?" If you're writing a book, you have to consider paying for an editor (a costly but effective endeavor). If you aim to voice act professionally, you'll have to consider formal education.

So is it worth it? Short answer: yes.

...So, uh, I guess the article's over. Thanks for reading. Subscribe, share, proclaim your love for me, keep marriage proposals to less than 150 characters.

But you came for a more detailed answer, I'm assuming. The answer really isn't as easy as "shell out money, git gud." There are important benefits to voice over lessons, some precautions to take, and a certain mindset you'll need to have.

Friday, September 2, 2016

LLA #1 - Let's Learn a Russian Accent

Welcome, finally, to Let's Learn a Russian Accent, the first installment in the Let's Learn Accents series. I opted to start with a Russian accent because I'm actually fairly familiar with it, and therefore perhaps my very first entry here won't result in me being laughed at and booed off the virtual stage for my failures.

For those of you just dropping in out of nowhere (hi!), Let's Learn Accents is sort of a collaborative journey where I pick an accent, study it, dissect it so everyone else can follow along, and then attempt it myself with audio proof so you can hear how I did. Again, I'm a bit more familiar with the accent in question this time around, but I will tackle accents I don't know at all in the future, so that will be an excellent time to observe and explain both where I can improve and how others can sound more genuine as well.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Interview with Branden Loera, voice actor at Funimation

Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing actor Branden Loera. We've crossed virtual paths before, having been in Zelda Universe's Wind Waker dub, and from everything else I've seen him do (which, admittedly, I have not seen much, but maybe that will change), he's definitely got the acting chops to back him up.

What made me want to interview him, though, is his involvement with Funimation, the company responsible for dubbing and distributing English versions of such anime as Dragon Ball Z, Fullmetal Alchemist, Attack on Titan, and pretty much every other anime you've ever liked. Of course, nondisclosure agreements go with voice acting like love does marriage and a horse does a carriage (if Frank Sinatra is to be believed), so we couldn't talk much about some of the work he's done with them. He's been working with them for a few months at least now, and given my burning curiosity to know more about his perspective, I think a lot of you may appreciate it, too. The interview itself - nine real questions, one for giggles at the end - is fairly lengthy, but more than worth it in my book.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Audacity for dummies (by a dummy), part 1: The very, very basics

Do you suck at editing audio? Me too, man! It's like we're soulmates or something!

Successful voice acting is a package deal that involves more than just the alluring "voice acting" part, so unfortunately, the little leeches known as "marketing" and "editing" (among other things) stick to the bottom of that fish's belly until they're symbiotic and therefore crucial to survival. To send in auditions (and sometimes work) from home, we at least need to know how to record our voices, clean them up a bit, and then send them on their merry ways to whoever needs them.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What's next for AVA?

AVA's dedicated purpose is to provide a place for voice actors, myself included, to learn and grow in new and exciting ways. However, I want it to be more than me just me talking at you and hoping you'll listen. I want to make it more interactive for my readers and more cooperative with my peers in the industry.

And I'm here today to discuss how that might happen. I have some plans for new and interesting things for AVA, not just articles, but new formats of learning and exploring. I want to share a couple of these ideas real quick:

Let's Learn Accents series: By pulling a variety of accents out of our rear ends, voice actors can nimbly adapt to a large number of interesting roles that our natural accents wouldn't necessarily allow for. I have a decent repertoire of accents at the ready, but this is an opportunity for BOTH of us to learn something new, as I will also be tackling accents I'm not intimately familiar with, and then you can either sing my praises as the Vox Adonis (trademark pending, and no, you can't steal the name for your RPG!) or point and laugh as I fail miserably.

The way this will work is, I'll pick an accent - you are free to recommend one to me - and study it for roughly a month, with the intention being to publish one Let's Learn Accents per month. When the time comes to publish the article, I will list first a disclaimer about the nature of faking an accent (because people will probably get mad at me if I don't), then list the number of points that make that accent unique from others. By memorizing and practicing those points, we can craft an accent that sounds genuine and believable. Finally, I will post a sound clip or a video of me doing that accent using what I learned, and it's up to you to tell me how much I sucked.

Interviews: I am a curious individual, and I think it's important for voice actors to have a working knowledge and appreciation for the other aspects of the entertainment industry and related media. I would like to seek out and interview people of different walks of life - voice actors, audio engineers, game developers, animators, and perhaps even some more...tangentially-related professions and hobbies. I already have some figures I've zeroed in on, and I think we could all benefit from what we find.

Right now, interviews are going to be text only, as finding a way to efficiently record both me and the interviewee is proving to be a bit tricky. However, I would like to expand in the future and see if we can get text and audio at some point. Bear with me.

A quick list of planned articles:
- A short series on recording, editing, and exporting with Audacity for dummies (by a dummy)
- The usefulness of voice over lessons and what you get from them
- How to improve your voice acting before you start auditioning (not using them as your sole training)
- The art of narration: what I learned and how it differs from other types of voice over
- A series on how I got started voice acting
- And, you know, even more...

Have an idea for an article? If you've got an interesting perspective or piece of advice, I invite you to submit it so everyone can read it here. I'd love for AVA to become a place where everyone can freely share what they've learned and observed. That's really all I'm doing - I'm not a legend who's done this since time immemorial, I'm a trained but still young voice actor who wants to grow and help others grow with him. And to that end, I welcome the perspectives of others.

If you've got an article of your own you'd like to see posted here, you can email me at discussing what it's about, and I'll see what I can do to represent it here. Even if it's something you've just written previously (perhaps on your own blog or website), I can link back to it to share that perspective.

I always welcome constructive criticism. If you think something could stand to be improved about the blog layout, or one of my performances that I link to here, feel free to share it. (With tact, of course - telling me to die in a fire isn't going to look good on anyone.) To repeat, I'm not a pro who's been in the industry for decades, and I don't pretend to be one. I share what I've learned because I don't always hear those points being made, or perhaps not in the way I make them, but I still have a lot to learn, and if you can help me grow, I welcome your input.

Beyond your feedback and input, tell me also what you'd like to see in this site. I've shared a couple of ideas with you, and I do plan on writing further articles to expound on what I've observed so far, but let me know what sorts of things you think voice actors could use to grow, and perhaps we can work to make that happen here. Leave a comment, email me, send a carrier pigeon, whatever is necessary, and I'll see if I can accommodate.

I know there's no funny article this week, but I was hoping this could be audience participation time. What do you think of the idea of the Let's Learn Accents series, and what sort of accent would you like us to try first? Know anyone, or a certain profession, that you think could stand to be interviewed to learn their perspective? Any other cool ideas we can all use to grow together? Let me know so we can make this a better, more inclusive blog for everyone.

Friday, August 5, 2016

How to audition for online projects (part 2)

A few weeks ago I wrote about 7 tips to avoid accidentally sabotaging your own audition. Auditions for Zelda Universe's Twilight Princess dub opened about a week ago, and my goodness has fan support erupted into a geyser of joy. I voiced the narrator and Rito Chieftain for ZU's Wind Waker dub, and the entire month-long casting process for that didn't see as many auditions as this received in its first few days.

And it did become clear to me that there must be a Part 2 to the subject of auditioning online, because in the over 1,000 auditions submitted in not even a week, there are a lot of common mistakes being made that I didn't address. I recommend you read my prior article on the subject first because it hits the bigger points (and come on, don't you want to be all chronologically proper?), but please stick around for 7 more tips (plus a couple of refreshers) for auditioning online.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

9 tips for hiring a narrator on ACX

(First of all, I must confess this post was a day late. My apologies.)

If you're an avid audiobook listener, then you're probably aware that you can download audiobooks from places such as Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. But how do these audiobooks come together? From where are they birthed?

Well, the detailed answer would take about another 20,000 or so words to fully explain, and by then your eyes will have glazed over, so let's take it to ACX instead. "ACX" stands for "Audiobook Creation Exchange," and it's a site where you can turn words into audiobooks with the help of "Producers," the official term for narrators there. It's not the only way you can get it done (suffice to say for now that there is no standard way to get it done), but it's probably one of the simplest and most informative.

This is less of a tutorial for how to get a Producer hired and your book read aloud, and more just a list of pointers for those who are already familiar with the process. It won't guarantee you success, but it will save you and me (and those like me) some headaches.

Friday, July 15, 2016

How to audition for online projects (7 tips)

The world had better watch out, because you're the best voice actor since Haberkorn and you've got the chops to prove it! You begin slinging around auditions like a monkey slings its poo. Everybody gets to have a piece of you! Three weeks, tops, and the voice over industry will bend its collective knee to you!

Except then you realize all those auditions you flung around aren't turning into jobs, and the voice over industry is instead staring awkwardly at you out of the corner of its collective eye. Is it at all possible you did something wrong?

Well first, understand - rarely will you actually get what you auditioned for. That's not unusual. It is entirely possible, however, to decrease your chances of getting cast by sabotaging your own auditions, and furthermore, you may be surprised just how many hopeful voice actors are doing it.

I think this is the point where I turn dramatically to the camera, wide-eyed, and gasp, "Could YOU be doing it, too!?"

Friday, July 8, 2016

5 reasons you shouldn't (and 3 big reasons you should) be a voice actor

Ever gone to a job fair? Everyone and their cousin wants you to have a job just like theirs. "Great benefits!" "Flexible hours!" "Wear capes to work!" (I've never really been to a job fair.)

However, voice acting is one of the only professions I've seen where so many of its members tell you to stay away. Why in the world would they do that? Why would voice actors, who worked long and hard to get where they are, tell other people not to become voice actors?

The truth is a bit more complicated than that, but it boils down to two things: one, acting in general is a really difficult profession, and two, most people spend lots of time, effort, and money thinking they want to be a voice actor, only to realize too late they don't like what it entails.

Let's take a moment to evaluate five reasons you "shouldn't" be a voice actor, and three big reasons you should be. It's worth it to identify why you're truly pursuing this goal, and if your motivations will reward you in the end. Let's start with the negative and end with the positive:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Creating a cheap home studio for voice acting - how I made mine

So you're ready to get this voice acting thing on the road - online or professional, it matters not in this story. You get a script, plunk down in front of your mic, record your angelic voice, hit Stop, play the audio back, and then break out into a cold sweat as you hear what sounds like three more of you speaking at once into a snowstorm while Jerry the Village Idiot runs screaming down the street.

In a moment, you realize you need a better recording space.

In this week's article, I want to talk about your physical environment and how it can make you sound better or worse. If you're worrying about me losing you with science-y mumbo-jumbo, don't worry, that confuses me too, so we'll adhere strictly to layman's terms.

Friday, June 24, 2016

How expensive is it to start voice acting?

Last week I wrote about three things to consider before venturing down the path of the career VO, and one of those things was money. I received a little feedback on that particular section of the article, so it begs the question: how much does it really cost to get started in voice over? What's the minimum required? What are your investments? Would it be any cheaper or more expensive for you?

I mentioned that I spent between $3,000-$4,000 just getting off the ground, but my needs were also significantly more in-depth than a lot of starting VAs. Through my observations, there are two main areas you need to think about in order to get your rough estimate, those being:

- #1: Will your recording space be audition quality or broadcoast quality?

- #2: Do you need voice over/acting training, and how much?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Knights in Time: Knight Blindness - A Romance That Transcends the Barrier of Time

Do you like romance, audiobooks, me, and/or author Chris Karlsen? Why not combine all four by listening to Knights in Time: Knight Blindness, a romance novel written by Chris Karlsen and now available in audiobook form, featuring narration by yours truly?

While it is book 3 in a series, no knowledge of the prior novels is required to enjoy the story.

Medieval English knight Stephen Palmer, battling French knight Roger Marchand in the battle of Poitiers, finds himself inexplicably warped to the modern era, but a moment's mistake costs him his vision. Blind and confused, Stephen is forced to adjust to contemporary France and England, now allies, and relies on his tutor, Esme, to introduce him to this new world. His knightly chivalry and her peppy charisma begin to allure one another. However, they are unaware that Marchand has also been whisked to the modern day, and he may not view England and France's newfound alliance with such favor.

On top of the intriguing romance, the book is also surprisingly informative and well-researched regarding its historical themes, thanks to an author who has been around the world and studied medieval history so extensively the mere thought of it makes my head threaten to pop. Do you know what a chanfron is? Neither did I before narrating this. Not only is Knight Blindness an engaging read (or listen, as it were), you can actually learn a fair bit about European history.

Note some strong sexual themes and some language in the book.

You can find the audiobook on Audible here. An iTunes version is also available here.

And for more updates on what I've been up to, including audiobooks, subscribe by email and you'll be alerted when there's something new here. It only takes a moment, and worst case scenario, you can unsubscribe just as quickly.

See you on the next update!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Be Prepared - 3 Things You Should Know Before Starting Your Voice Acting Career

Voice acting is a wonderful profession, and for some (like myself), the only career path they feel they can embark on without going stir-crazy. There's joy in bringing characters, worlds, and stories to life, or being a driving reason for potential consumers to investigate a product. I wouldn't be committed to this lifestyle if I didn't genuinely enjoy it.

But here's some food for thought: if you go to any job fair, everyone there wants you to have their job. Right? Whether it's law or nursing or whatever, everyone there says their job is the best thing since the invention of peanut butter. Voice acting, on the other hand, is one of the only professions I've seen where even the industry giants (perhaps especially so) tell you you should probably do a 180 and go marching right the other way. They love their careers to crumbs, yet they dissuade so many others from joining them.

They're not being paranoid or selfish - they're acknowledging a grim reality that voice acting really isn't a career for everyone. It's a long, hard, often poverty-filled road with a payoff you can't see, and not everyone likes the voice over process as much as they thought they would.

Nevertheless, many want to try their hand at it anyway. And because it's such a hard profession (or even hobby) to make something out of, there are things you need to acknowledge and accept before making any sort of commitment. So before you even start thinking about demos or auditioning, here are some things you need to consider.

An Introduction to AVA

What is AVA?
The initials stand for "Addicted to Voice Acting." It comes from voice actor and writer James Burton, who can straight-up go into mild withdrawal symptoms if he doesn't act for too long. He's also the one writing this, so perhaps he should drop the pretense and stop referring to myself in the third-person. Better?

A voice over career is an arduous, confusing, ongoing ordeal. I'm someone who's a few steps ahead of the starting line, but still very much a random, unknown dude figuring this stuff out as I go. I created AVA to share what I've observed along the way, in addition to reaching out to others to hear new perspectives and learn more about this strange, intriguing art form.

Who is James Burton?
As aforementioned, a voice actor, upcoming novelist, and evidently a blogger. I spent the first eight years of my life in Georgia before moving with my family to the Illiana area, homeschooled all the way. I developed an incredibly nerdy imagination and a fascination with the fantastical, which began to manifest itself more and more as a desire to give voice to characters and stories for a living. My main voice over gigs these days are audiobooks, online projects, and the odd video game here and there.

Who is AVA meant for?
Naturally, everyone is welcome, but AVA is geared specifically for those just starting in the voice over industry, or who are curious about getting into it. I share what I've learned in my journey so far, and I welcome the observations of others in the industry, so it's a great place to learn, grow, and meet new people.

What can we expect from AVA?
The current format is to have one article a week, focusing on tips, personal experiences, or observations on the voice over industry, but you can also expect polls, surveys, and even interviews with others involved in the industry. Interviewees include other voice actors, sound engineers, game developers, etc..

Let's learn and grow together in this fascinating profession. All it takes is one subscription by email (which you can sign up for near the top-right of the page) to stay up-to-date. If you have any thoughts, experiences, or blogs/websites of your own to share, lay 'em on me, and let's get connected. See you next week, yeah?