A Professional Concern: the Patchwork Voice Actor
If you’re working with a professional UK voice-over artist, or if you are one, there are certain terms that you need to learn and be comfortable with to make sure jobs go smoothly.
One is the “BSF”, which means Basic Session Fee or Basic Studio Fee (i.e. the artist’s labour to record for an hour in a studio).
Another is the “usage”, which means the fee for how many people are going to hear the voice-over’s message.
And a third one is “pick-ups”, which are extra lines that are recorded if a script is changed later.
But there’s also a fourth term that you might like to bear in mind when working with a UK voice-over artist or voice actor.
And that is: “patchwork voice acting”, or the “patchwork voice actor”.
What is a Patchwork Voice Actor?
A “patchwork voice actor” or “patchwork voice-over artist” is a voice actor who’s unable read a script, without mistakes, in one go.
They also tend to struggle with bringing out the demands of a script, including things like vocal inflections, tone, energy and so on.
And because they struggle with these things, they also have difficulty reading to time, which means fitting the script into, say, 30 seconds.
So not only is a patchwork voice actor unable to deliver in one go; but they’re also unable to deliver on time.
It’s a bit like going internet shopping and clicking on ‘guaranteed next-day delivery’, only to get your items late, in separate deliveries, and with the contents squashed.
Not a great service, eh? And hardly professional.
How much does a patchwork voice actor cost?
I’ve worked as a professional UK voice-over artist more than 30 years – and I have to say that patchy delivery in the studio goes against everything I believe in.
Some people might say: “well, what’s the problem? These days, you can record the best bits and quickly stitch them together. So what? Things don’t have to be perfect like they were when voice actors were recording to tape”.
Well, that might be partly true, but what if the patchwork voice actor’s finished recording is not only made up of lines of text, but individual words or even syllables?
What if the recording took twice as long, took the producer twice as long to edit, and cost the client twice as much?
What if the client wasn’t exactly thrilled with the clunk and crunch of the different takes that had been stuck together?
What if the client was gritting their teeth during the recording session, wondering if they’d made the right decision with the voice?
What if the client was so disappointed with the overall experience that they scrapped the project and gave the work to another company?
And what if the client never worked with the original company or voice actor again?
Hmm… suddenly, the patchwork voice actor is making everyone look bad – not just them.
Patching things up
This got me wondering where these patchwork performers come from – and who else they’ve worked with.
Well, I soon found out.
The other day, I worked with a new customer on a voice-over project.
At the beginning of the recording session, I was asked if I wanted to record the script “line by line” – to supposedly help my “breathing”.
Of course, I had to politely decline the offer, because, well, after 30+ years of voicing, I knew pretty darn well how to creatively interpret a script, breathe in the right places, and do it all to time.
So I recorded my first take.
“Tanya…” said the voice at the end of the line.
“Yes”, I replied.
“That was bang on 30 seconds”.
That’s great, I thought to myself. It was meant to be!
What a confusing recording session. Why was this person so surprised that I could read the script to time? And why did they ask if I wanted to do it “line by line”?
There can only be one answer to these questions, really, and that is: it should be normal for a professional UK voice actor or voice-over artist to interpret scripts alone and/or with direction, and to be able to read to time.
To continue the story, I recently recommended one of my Richcraft voice-over coaching graduates for a job that required two voices: male and female. I’m pleased to say that he performed his parts perfectly. His counterpart (who was not a graduate of mine and was supposed to be an established professional voice) wasn’t so lucky, though. Her takes, I am told, took two hours – and were literally patched together into the final commercial.
Patchwork voice-over demos and voice-over showreels
If you’re looking to work with a voice-over artist, you should be aware that this kind of patchy work can also be found in voice-over demos and showreels.
For those not in the know, a voice-over demo or a voice-over showreel is a compilation of audio clips of an artist’s actual paid work, or recordings that have been professionally produced using scripts designed to show off their talents.
However they’re put together, they should be able to demonstrate what a voice-over artist can do in a professional setting.
What they shouldn’t be, of course, is a patchwork of patchy performances. So if an artist can’t reel their off scripts in one go, with good dramatic interpretation, and to time, and if they have other weaknesses in their voice like soft Rs or sibilant S sounds, then really, they should not be recording a showreel with the aim of getting professional work. They’re not ready and would be better off spending their showreel budget on extra vocal lessons.
So to all clients, agents, casting directors, producers, and students – please, take it from me: be mindful of being, or working with, a patchwork voice actor. Yes, audio can be easily stitched together these days, but a voice-over’s ability to nail a handful of takes will always ensure that projects pass off smoothly and are delivered on time and on budget.
Yours, because I want the best for you and your business,
International Voice-over Artist