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- A Child’s Creativity
- Dealing with Rejection
- eLearning logistics – how to create files in seconds
- Character Voiceover Tip: Build a library
- Character Voiceover Tips: Learning an Accent
Exceeded expectations. Lighting speed delivery.
"Jay was amazing to work with. Exceeded expectations. Lighting speed delivery. Easy to work with and a great communicator.
A couple of unique things about Jay. First, his demo reel shows a great selection of voice options to chose from... but none of them were exactly what we were looking for. However, when we told him what we wanted he was able to take our abstract ideas (about being educational, sincere, conversation etc) and transform those directions into EXACTLY what we had in mind.
So if you're thinking about hiring him... tell him what you want... give him a sample to read... I'm sure he can deliver what you want. We're very VERY impressed. Will use Jay's services many more times in the future. Secondly, he delivered our project within a day and made adjustments within the hour. Highly highly recommend."
- John Sweeney - Academy of Mine
"We are now big fans and I'll tell my colleagues about you as well!"
On receiving my read as Arnold Schwarzenegger Barbara had this to say:
"THIS IS GREAT!! Love it already, you are very talented, glad we found you! We are now big fans and I'll tell my colleagues about you as well!
-Barbara Schroeder, Answers Productions
Chasing my voiceover dreams
Dreams are made to be chased
“Whatever you want to be you already are, all you have to do, is do”
Hi everyone, no fancy intros this time, no character tips, just me talking to you in the hope I can inspire just one of you to follow your dreams. I want to tell you a little bit about my story and what I’ve learnt about pursuing dreams. I’ve been wanting to write this for some time and now finally it feels like the right time to do it. This video has almost nothing to do with voiceover and absolutely everything to do with chasing your dreams.
My story in a nutshell? 6 years ago I was a normal guy in an IT job, went to work and paid my bills now? I’m a full time voice actor sat here talking to you from my professional studio, something I never would have thought I’d be doing.
Ever since I was a kid I was a performer, growing up with the Simpsons and the awesome cartoons of the late 80’s and 90’s, I’d wander round the house making up voices and mimicking everything I heard on the TV. Fast forward to when I left college and despite continuing to pursue performing throughout my education doing Theatre, Musicals, being in a band I didn’t follow it when I left. Why? Because I wanted a secure job, I wanted to be sure I could pay my bills, I wanted to be able to have a nice car and a nice house and following my dream would have meant too unsure a future, heck I was the guy who at 16 had a spreadsheet tracking his income and expenditure, the idea of not having a monthly salary was terrifying to the point where I abandoned my dream and pursued IT.
Thing is……everything we’ve been told is a lie.
From birth we’re told that someone who earns £100k is better than someone who earns £10k, we’re told that someone who drives a BMW is better than someone that drives a Ford, we’re told that big boobs are better than small boobs, we’re told a six pack and pecs is better than a beer gut and you know what, it’s all nonsense and all it does is make most of us struggle through life trying to achieve an ideal that is often neither possible nor even desirable once you attain it because it’s an utterly hollow concept. We’re continually bombarded with imagery that teaches us money = success and that money is so intrinsically linked to happiness you couldn’t possibly have one without the other. There is a favourite philosopher of mine called Alan Watts, a British philosopher who specializes in translating and adapting eastern philosophies and one of him most well-known lectures incorporated the question “What would you do if money was no object?” I implore you all to think on that, think and figure out how money has constrained your dreams and passions into a prison and think, what would you do if money was no object.
I was in that prison 6 years ago, I had an IT job that in US dollars paid a six figure salary, I drove a BMW, I had a big 4 bed detached house, ok I’ve never had a six pack or pecs but I had everything else I thought I should have to be happy…and the truth? I was utterly miserable and why? Because ultimately none of that stuff will fulfill you, true fulfillment comes from being true to yourself and following your passions.
In a world that tells you what you should want and everything you should want to be, you can stand firm and state for yourself who you are and what you want that is an immensely courageous and worthwhile thing.
All the clichés apply here, life’s too short, get out your comfort zone, follow your dreams, they’re all true.
Different is always scary and it was for me, the fear of failure, the fear of disappointment, the fear of rejection, it all serves to hold you back but here’s the thing. Following your dream rarely changes your life overnight, nor does it mean abandoning everything you have and taking on massive risk. My life changed day by day, little by little over 6 years from the life I thought I wanted, to the life I do want. I’m not going to sit here and tell you there’s no risk in changing your life, of course there is, there can be no reward without risk, but the bigger risk is never changing your life, floating through life absent of fulfilling your true potential, losing out on a life where you felt at peace with who you are and your place in the world. No longer striving to attain a life that would always be out of reach.
Here’s the other thing we’re taught, we’re taught that failure is a bad thing. Even the word, failure has negative connotations, that failure couldn’t ever be a useful thing, failure couldn’t ever form part of a larger success story. Here’s the thing, you will never succeed without failing, ever!
The minute you take a single step to start living the life you want you are a success and you are never a failure until you stop trying. No matter the setbacks, no matter the problems, if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other you will never be a failure. The only way to ever truly fail at something is to never try.
The other part here is that you need to take a conscious choice, you need to choose to follow your dream and it needs to be a dream you love because it’s going to be hard, you are going to be tested and you’re going to want to give up. A favourite saying of mine from Jim Rone is that “Life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change” and the thing is, humans aren’t built to change. Our minds and our bodies love the status quo, no matter how damaging that might be and it will fight to maintain it. Your biggest enemy in any life change be it relationships, jobs, diets is going to be yourself and you need to be prepared to understand that and fight that when your mind is telling you to give up and go back to what you know.
A question I would ask you to ask of yourselves is “What is stopping you?” This was a question my wife asked me two years ago when I’d been pursuing voiceover but never given it my all. When I stopped to think of the answer I discovered I didn’t have a genuine answer, all I had were excuses and now two years later here I am recording this talk. As soon as you accept that anything is possible any reason why you can’t do it is an excuse.
I want to leave you with one final thing, these are the last words spoken to me by my Uncle Mike, a man who I greatly admired, he said “Keep on the Up and Up” and that’s all you need to do. Today, right now, take the first step toward your dream, google something, email someone, tweet someone, watch a video, do something, anything and then….. just keep on the up and up.
Character Voiceover Tips: Ad-Libbing
Ad Lib in Character
So part of being able to have a character voiceover sound genuine is to ensure it sounds natural, when someone is “putting on” a character voice you can hear it a mile away and it immediately breaks the illusion and the character is no longer believable because you can “hear past” the character.
It’s important to remember that when you’re creating character voices, you’re actually creating characters which you can then modify and tweak to fit the story and character you might be auditioning for.
One way to make your characters sound more natural is to ad-lib in the character voice, by doing this and not working from a script you are forced to think as the character and the speech should immediately become more natural. Give your characters a back story if you find that helps, give them a history and some life story! If you then find you can’t sustain the voice or that you don’t know what to say then you know you need to work on the voice and character more. Any voice you have should be the end point, not the beginning point of creating a character.
Check out the video below to see this is action!
The new studio is open for business!
9 months is a long time in voiceover
9 months of planning and 9 weeks of build time and my new voiceover studio is finally open for business!
A fully equipped, professional soundproofed voiceover studio had been on my list of goals since I started in voice over so it’s a very overwhelming feeling to finally be sat in one 6 years later. There is something about seeing a dream physically manifest itself right in front of your eyes that’s different to less physically tangible achievements. Being able to run my hand over the walls of the new studio fills me with an almost overwhelming series of emotions; pride, happiness, excitement, nervousness, trepidation all at once!
First I’ll cover the technical details before I wax lyrical about the psychological benefits of having a dedicated voiceover space!
To construct this studio I worked with two companies, EQ Acoustics and their building contractors CM Contracts. I cannot commend EQ Acoustics and their team highly enough, they were professional, knowledgeable beyond question, perfectionists, dedicated and took a genuine pride in their work. If you are looking to get a studio built there is simply no-one better! Before my project the team had just finished fitting out the new studios at the University of West London which runs the biggest sound design course in Europe. Like every other of my business decisions I wanted to work with the best I could find for my budget. If you want to work with them (and you should!) you can contact EQ Acoustics at firstname.lastname@example.org
The building is made from many layers, as is the key to stopping as much sound as possible. The picture below shows the composition of the floors and wall:
The other tricky part of any voiceover studio is putting massive holes in it like I did for a window and a door (ok, the door is probably a necessity). For this we used two doors, the first being a 40kg solid oak door and the interior door being a heavily re-enforced fire door with acoustic dampening material attached, this weighs almost another 40kg. For the windows a similar technique is applied, first an exterior double glazed window, then an enormous air gap (also key to sound proofing) followed by an interior pane at an angle to deflect the sound.
In addition to this there is also spectrum paneling on the ceiling, this helps flatten the sound of the main room and act as another layer of absorption, the panels pictured below are used in the BBC and Dolby studios as well as other high profile voiceover studios.
Finally I have then have my original voiceover booth in the studio which adds another layer of sound reduction and importantly gives me a specifically treated area for a nice flat sound to be treated as per the clients need.
All in all the result is extremely impressive, check out this video below to show just how well sound is kept in and out of the studio.
The building has a dedicated electrics feed from the house as well as hardwired internet access on a 155Mbps line and also wireless internet access!
Now on to the less tangible benefits! Having a creative space dedicated to your craft is quite simply, liberating. The freedom to explore your voice without interruption is priceless, as is the ability to schedule client recordings without ever having to worry if it’s going to be interrupted by noisy neighbours or leaf blowers. There is also the feeling of professionalism that comes with having your own studio, it fills you with confidence, something that’s extremely important if you want to survive in the voiceover industry, which can be hard at times!
I encourage all of you to create your own space at home that reflects your personality, your hobbies, and your sources of inspiration. I know not everyone can have a voiceover studio at the bottom of their garden but even if it’s just a cupboard, take a space and make it your own.
So, what was the price tag for this I hear you ask? Well, it’s not cheap! To clear the site and get everything built to the finished product was £45,000 (that doesn’t include any of the equipment inside). Yes, it’s a lot but it’s also a very high spec studio, you can do a lot with less and to be honest if you’d told me 6 years ago, hell, even 2 years ago that I’d be sat here now I would have laughed it off.
It’s cliched I know but shoot for the moon and you may just land in a studio 😉
Why worry is a waste of time…
How much do you think we know about the world we live in? 10%? 5%? I bet the answer is probably somewhere closer to 0.01% and yet when something negative happens we can all too often only see what’s in front of our face and forget the other 99.99% of things happening in the world.
To that end I’m going to share the story of how I landed my current UK agent, Excellent Talent (who I might add are both Excellent in name and nature!) to show an example of the fact that we never really know how things will play out and that when faced with a seemingly negative outcome, you can never know if it will actually turn in to a huge positive.
I attended an Acting for Animation networking event hosted by the VoiceOver Network organisation in the UK, I’ve attended a few of these evenings in the past and it consists of a panel discussion with some leading industry figures followed by a few hours of networking.
I was on the hunt for a big UK agent and quite often the VoiceOver Network event draws in representatives from the big agencies and sure enough there was one there that night. I plucked up the courage and wandered over to the agent and started the best pitch I could do. I talked about LA, the clients I’d worked with, the in-roads I’d made and my plans for the future. Thankfully the agent was really impressed and actually quizzed me on why I needed an agent, she asked that I forward her all my demos in a few weeks as the agency was currently moving offices.
Great! I thought, I’d hit it off with the agent, they were interested and wanted to hear my stuff, time well spent. So two weeks went by and of course I diligently sent in all of my material along with my CV and some more information about me.
That’s when the negative reared its head, the agent I had spent the evening talking to (we’ll call her Agent A) was actually leaving the agency and they weren’t going to be taking any more people on to the books.
Obviously I was gutted, I had spent time and money getting to the networking event, spent time with the agent to create the opportunity and all of it seemed to be for nought and I thought I was back to square one. Little did I know in a month or so it was all going to play out very differently and yet more threads were going to weave their way in to the story!
A few weeks later I was invited out to dinner by Nancy Wolfson (my coach from LA, check her out here – http://braintracksaudio.com/). She was over in the UK to attend the VoX Voiceover conference and was taking some of her UK students out to dinner (the lovely lady that she is). At that dinner I met another VO artist (Amelia Tyler, she’s amazing check her out here – http://www.ameliatyler.com/) who was with an agency I had had my sights set on almost from the beginning of my career. The dinner was lovely and Amelia and I got on well, I saw her again at VoX and after that I asked her if she’d mind referring me in to Excellent Talent. She was happy to oblige and sent in the referral, now here’s where that negative I was so bummed about a few months before comes back. The agency Agent A had moved to? You guessed it, none other than Excellent Talent! So when my referral from Amelia came in, the agent I’d spoken to a few months back added her recommendation to the referral as well and as they say, the rest is history!
A relatively simple story but with a powerful message, when something seemingly negative happens try not to view it as the final page in that story because you never know what’s going to happen in the next chapter!
ADR and Game of Throats…
Over the recent months I have begun to explore a new area of voiceover which is Automated Dialogue Replacement or ADR. ADR is the process in which sound from original recordings is re-recorded in a studio after filming and is commonly used across TV and film to either replace lines that weren’t recorded on the day or, more commonly, to add background noise and additional sounds to flesh out the mix. If you ever get a chance to listen to a scene pre-ADR you’d be amazed at the difference it makes and yet ADR is very a “behind the scenes” gig as no-one will ever know it’s you. There is also ADR work for re-voicing characters from a foreign language or voice matching a celebrity voice to re-do a line here or there rather than get the A-lister back in but the bulk is most often “crowd work”.
As an example if an episode of Coronation Street has a scene in the Rovers Return all the noise you hear from people in the background casually ordering a pint or talking about the football last night is more than likely not the extra’s speaking but a small group of people that did it in a studio after filming!
ADR is an extremely unique field of voiceover and requires some very unique skills, I was fortunate enough to train in ADR at the Louis Elman Academy which is run by Louis Elman, one of the most prolific and experienced ADR director’s around and since then I have been booked for ADR gigs which, if it’s the sort of thing you enjoy, can be great fun.
So what is a typical ADR session like and what skills do you need?
Most often an ADR gig will consist of a group of around 5 – 10 people, you stand in front of a cinema screen where the scene you are providing ADR for is shown and a mic will be placed in the centre (usually but there are other techniques) to record the audio. There will then be various techniques that are used to create the sound mix and each requires a different skill from the actor.
A lot of the work will be group work (so all of you recording at once), this requires you to be able to work in a team, which is pretty uncommon for people who spend a large amount of time working alone. You need to be able to play off each other, hear where there is a gap and fill it and also learn when to be quiet so as not to unbalance the natural mix. Here it’s also important to be open to moving around the group, changing your voice tone, speech pattern etc. all to layer up the audio even more to help make it sound like more people than there is.
You then have individual work, often referred to as “free and clears”. This is when you as an individual will record something on your own (with everyone else sat watching!), it’s usually a specific line like “pint of bitter please Betty” or “here’s your change love”. This is something that might also be done in smaller groups of two or three of you. The free and clears are then used to layer the audio even more and to have the odd line spike up out of the general chatter to make it all sound more natural. Here it can be really challenging as in more dramatic scenes you may be given a line of someone on screen but have very few words with which to get the required emotion in.
There will also be times where you will fill in for particular actors on screen, you may for example be told that you are the “3rd gladiator on the right” and would then have to watch that character and provide all the appropriate sounds for what happens to him on screen. It’s important to note here that this won’t be scripted and you may only get one chance to watch the scene first before recording so you really have to be on your toes!
Last but by no means least there is the shouting… Shouting can form a large part of ADR work as often they’ll need the sound of a large battle from the voices of just 10 people! Here again various techniques are used to layer the sound but you need to be able to shout and shout well. Even more importantly you need to know how to shout without ruining your voice which is a skill in of itself. I have done ADR for Game of Thrones which is affectionately referred to as Game of Throats given the toll it can take (if you’ve not watched Game of Thrones, lots of battles, lots of death, lots of screaming). Here again you have even less to work with in terms of conveying emotion and interestingly the physicality of the voice. You may for example be asked to “give us a sound for this guy falling off here” so in just a few short seconds you need to scream, sound like you’re falling and possibly make a noise as you hit the floor. Similarly you may get “can I get a scream for the guy getting an arrow in the neck”, you can’t just scream, you have to scream in a way that the audience would know that it’s the guy with the arrow in the neck that’s screaming, so gurgles, sputters etc.
It’s a wide and varied gig which absolutely keeps you on your toes, so here’s my tips for skills to foster to work in ADR:
- Get trained
- There are some particular technical skills and knowledge you need to flourish at an ADR session
- Learn to improvise
- ADR is often totally unscripted, you’ll need to be able to come up with lines that fit off the top of your head with little to no time to prepare
- Learn to work in a team
- The key to a natural mix is to learn to work with other voices and tailor yours accordingly
- Be aware of the physicality
- If the character jumps, you jump (albeit quietly!), if they turn their head as they get hit, you turn yours (whilst staying on mic!)
- Learn to shout without trashing your voice
- This is very important as you might be shouting for a whole day, plenty of warm fluids during the session as well
- Learn accents
- The more accents you can do the more useful you can be for castings, for example a lot of the Game of Thrones ADR needs northern UK voices
- Be early!
- Never be late to an ADR session, there will be a lot of audio to get through and lots of people waiting on you if you’re late
- Be fearless
- In can be very daunting standing in the middle of a lot of other voice actors (usually very experienced) and improvising but go for it and volunteer for things that come up. Ultimately make sure you are giving the audio director what he needs!
ADR really is a great, fun, voiceover experience and if you find it suits your talents I guarantee you’re in for some fun in the studio!
If you’re interested feel free to get in touch, as always I’m happy to answer any questions.