Auditions can feel daunting when you’re starting out your voice acting or voice-over career. They’re intimidating! Especially when they come from reputable sources like established voice-over agents and casting directors. Fortunately, I’ve been around the block a few times so I’m going to share 3 tips to help you record professional-sounding auditions that will keep your listener’s attention.
How Do I Audition When There Are Multiple Characters?
If you’re auditioning for animation or video games (and even some radio commercials), you’ll notice that your script sometimes includes other characters’ lines. A question I’m often asked is: “Do I need to record the other characters’ lines?”
When we record auditions on camera for film and TV, we usually work with a reader who reads the other characters’ lines for us. While we never see the reader on camera, their lines will be audible in the final audition. But for VO auditions, we don’t use a reader, because the other characters’ lines aren’t needed.
So no, you don’t need to perform any other character’s lines than your own. In other words, your audition should only contain the lines for your character. That said, if it helps you perform better while recording, go ahead and read them. Read them silently or out loud—whatever works for you. In the end, it won’t matter because you’ll be cutting out any lines that aren’t yours from your final edit (just delete!).
Since your audition isn’t a live performance, don’t worry about how much time there is between lines while you’re performing. Read the other characters lines, answer your lines, and read back and forth till you’re done. Then go back and edit out the extra spaces and lines.
Timing Is Everything
Speaking of editing out the space, how much should you leave between lines? You don’t want your lines to be jammed together back-to-back with no space. Leave some space between each of your responses. Think of it as giving the listener a moment to appreciate each line, to think “Oh, nice reaction! I like that expression.” I like to leave about one second between lines—not too fast, and not too slow.
If it’s a typical commercial audition with an announcer and no other characters, the client may specify how long the commercial should last. If this is the case, be very mindful of the timing: If the commercial is 30 seconds, your audition should be very close to 30 seconds, but never more than 30 seconds. It could be 29 or 29.5, or 30 seconds—but not 27, and not 31. You need to get that timing right. The same applies if it’s a 15 second spot. Your audition should come in at 14 to 15 seconds—preferably, just a hair below 15. Not 13, and don’t even think about 17 or 18!
Getting the right timing is crucial. It gives the producer or client an accurate idea of what you sound like reading at the commercial’s intended pace.
This Sounds Bananas
Sometimes, they’ll give you too much text to fit into 30 seconds. When this happens, do your best to make it sound as good as possible within that timeframe. Don’t worry if there’s too much content, that’s not your responsibility. Your job is to match your pace to the time available without going over. However, if the result sounds totally frantic, you can record the script at a more natural pace and offer that as an alternate take (see my blog about why you should record two takes of most of your VO auditions). If the slower pace sounds eons better, you can even put that one first in the audition audio file. This will let the client hear what their script sounds like when you have time to say the words.
The opposite can happen too. You may have very little text that needs to fill a 15 or 30-second spot. In this case, record a take at a much slower pace, but don’t exaggerate by dragging your words out in a way that sounds unnatural. To compensate for the extra time, you can increase the space between your lines. The total time should be the same as above—make it 29 to 30 seconds, or 14 to 15 seconds. If this proves impossible, just read at a slow, but natural pace. Here again, you can do a second read more naturally (without worrying about time) and offer that up as an alternate take. In some cases, the spot isn’t meant to have many words so it will be valuable to have both options.
To sum up, you can craft professional sounding auditions by editing out everything but your character’s lines and by being precise about timing.
Now would be a great time to check out my article on slating your name for VO auditions. It’s another important part of auditioning that new voice actors and voice-over artists often have questions about.
If you have any questions or comments about recording second takes, please leave them in the comment section. I’ll do my best to answer them as cleverly as I can!