2.4 - That's Voice Over Narration Tips!


Voiceover Talent and Host of the "DIY Narrrator" podcast, Josh Risser, joins me to share some tips for getting the voice over narration that you need, regardless of your skill level. Josh shares pointers for absolute beginners and for those who might know a thing or two but still want to improve. He also gives advice on how to source VO talent for your A-list projects that require a higher production value.


Connect with Josh on Linkedin.


Check out more VO narration tips on the "DIY Narrator" podcast.

 

The following transcript was auto-generated and may contain typos or spelling errors.


Leslie Early

Okay, today I am super excited to be joined by voice over talent, Josh Risser, he is the host of the DIY Narrator podcast. And today he is here to talk to me about the benefits of investing in upping your voice over narration game, which I think is pretty cool, because you know not I mean, we're all out here trying to do our best, but I feel like we can all probably get better at this. So thank you so much, Josh, for joining me.


Josh Risser

Hey, thanks for having me on. Leslie. I appreciate it.


Leslie Early

Awesome. So, um, quick plug. New microphone season two, I have a new microphone, and it is the one that you recommended in the PACT meeting from several months ago, if you even remember that. Yeah. Yeah, so I was like, Oh, that mic. Sounds great. I'm gonna get that one.


Josh Risser

The Samson? Samson. Yeah. That makes them like, it's so great. I should have been on it, too. We could have both been on the Samson. That mic is so great. Especially for like the space you're in. Like, I hear your voice very clear. And not a lot of the room, which is really cool. That's what you want from like, a low treated space and a cheap mic. That mic is dirt cheap.


Leslie Early

Yeah. And so yeah, actually, it's funny you say that, because usually I'm in my closet recording, but due to some technical errors today, I had to come into my office. So I will see how it sounds in the post when I when I added it.


Josh Risser

You might be pleasantly surprised.


Leslie Early

Awesome. I hope so. So um, so yeah, that's how I know you. And that was a great presentation you did. And I've heard you on different podcasts and you have your own podcast and but our listeners may not be as familiar. So if you want to take a couple minutes to introduce yourself and talk a little bit about you.


Josh Risser

Sure. My Voiceover journey actually started when I was training in a call center. So I was a call center trainer for tech support and customer service and sales. And we had to launch this was 2008 2009. So the elearning world was sort of primitive still, but we had Adobe Captivate was Adobe Captivate. Yeah. And, yeah, I had to create some elearning. This was like the first one we were going to release. I didn't want a lot of text on the screen because it was displaying some web tool that we had was basically an internal wiki. And I was like, I need to put some narration on this. And so I just did it off the cuff on my computer based microphone in a bad sounding loud training room under a van like it was, it was horrible. But then it was like, that was actually kind of fun. And the people on the floor thought it was good. And they liked the difference, especially since they're usually used to classroom training. And, and yeah, then I moved on to some software development and did some explainers for a company. We did some videos talking about what we did. And realized again, like this is this is kind of fun. I happen to have the equipment because I've been in a band and I was recording my band in the basement. And so I had the gear, I knew how to record and edit. So it just kind of fell on me. And then I started just investigating and coaching and learning more.


Leslie Early

Yeah, well actually answered the second part of that question, which I was going to ask. It's like, how did you go from being a voiceover artists to an elearning voiceover artists, but actually, you started there. So that's really cool.


Josh Risser

It was kind of it's kind of full circle, because elearning is most of what I do these days. I do some commercial too. But yeah, elearning is is where I'm at.


Leslie Early

It's interesting that that's your journey, because that's kind of what I'm assuming some of the listeners journeys are like, as well. I mean, for myself, I know, whenever I'm working on a project, I sort of do my own voiceover just because I'm readily available or Alaska colleague, you know, if they are available if I need like a second, a second voice second character. And not to say that we are great voice actors. But, you know, you just have to be practical. Yeah. So I'm curious. You know, a lot of us may find ourselves in this situation. So if there's a lot of my listeners are also brand new to instructional design and elearning so we I have a lot of people listening who are former teachers who are just getting into the field. So do you have any tips for people? Let's start with the absolute beginners like what are some tips for them so that they can feel comfortable at least dipping their toes in and saying, I guess I'll try and do this on my own first.


Josh Risser

Yeah. My first recommendation is definitely don't over invest in equipment is you can spend 1000s on like microphones and interfaces and headphones and maybe buying software and all of that can be had for a lot less like you'd like you Got that Samsung Q2U is great. Like you said, you record in a closet, sometimes excellent place to record, especially just keep all your clothes in there, partner shirts a little bit, set up your microphone, maybe have your script printed out or on your phone or on an iPad or something, like, do what you can with what you've got, even like wearing air pods for headphones, right now, they have good little microphones on them, especially AirPod. Pros, you can get away with a lot early on, especially if you're just doing internal and maybe it's just a few minutes of narration, you know, there's people aren't going to be super critical, because they're going to be listening on little earbuds, they're not going to be listening on high quality studio monitors. So you're not going to have the critical year that you might with like a casting director, which is when you need the booth and the more expensive mic and better equipment to hear yourself, you know, so, first step, don't over invest. The second step is don't put on your radio voice. I so many people they get in front of the microphone, and they're just like, welcome to my elearning. And they just lay into it. And you're like, yeah, just pick a person that you know, picture them in your mind and just tell them what you've got to say. It can be tough sometimes because the scripts or some of the some of the scripts I've gotten are just like a copy paste of a standard operating procedures manual or, or a technical manual, and you're just reading it. And that's, that's gonna be tough. Or it comes through legal, and there's no changing it, if it comes through legal, it's got to be worded as is. But you do your best to explain it to a friend and add, you know, a little nuance that you might have, don't worry so much about being super precise in your pronunciation. And just just be a person, you know, be a person talking to a person.


Leslie Early

I'm definitely guilty of that. I'm definitely guilty of slipping into like, I wouldn't call it my robot voice or my radio voice I find I slip into like, an A flight attendant voice. Yeah, like the exits are here, here. And here.


Josh Risser

Yeah, you're very like, gotta make sure you get everything in and deliver it. One thing I notice, when you have, you can get like, legal contract voice. Have you ever sat down with someone like closing at a house or closing house or something and someone's reading off lines of a contract. And they get where they end every line in the same way. So they're like, Thank you for joining my elearning. This will be what you'll learn today. And now we'll go ahead and learn this. And then we'll move on to that. And then at the end, you have to do this and everything. Like they're just like just saying the lines because they know they've got to say the lines you don't Yeah, or what the lines are saying. And that's easy for people to fall into. Just don't worry about so much the words, worry about the intent behind the words like why are you saying the line? And if you can't figure that out, maybe that line doesn't need to be there. Yeah, part of it?


Leslie Early

Yeah, I do think that the script actually does, does, like you said, like, you can't get around some of the language. But writing in a really simple, simple language, I think is my best trick to keep myself sounding as natural as I possibly can. But I still am a flight attendant most of the time.


Josh Risser

It can be tough. And it's it's also tough when, like, how often do you narrate something, like, it's such a small fraction of your job, really, like you've gotten, honestly, you probably got better things to do with your time then read scripts. And so when you spend like one afternoon, every couple of weeks doing some narration and editing, you're not really going to learn how to break yourself out of those habits. Right? So it takes it takes a lot of practice. And so you got to give yourself some grace. And just understand like, because I'm doing it myself and we're saving the company money or time or whatever the reason is, that might be the result you end up with and that's fine if it results in the outcomes you need. Right


Leslie Early

right. Yeah and so I yeah the the microphone you I'll mention it again. It's a Samson. Shoe to you do to you. I was looking for the box in my bookshelf here. Yes, this is a great one. It's less than $100 It's USB, so you don't need an audio interface, which I really like it's plug and play. Yeah, and you can plug your headphones right into it or use other headphones but


Josh Risser

yeah, you can monitor directly. What's also cool about the Qt view is it's USB and XLR. So if later you do a podcast where maybe there's a couple of you in a room and you get an interface and you've got you can plug two mics in at the same time both XLR and just get the benefits of that expansion you know later down the line which you don't get if you buy like the Yeti where it's just like the Snowball or or blue or the Blue Yeti or whatever because you you just get USB. I haven't tried but it's got to be weird having like three USB mics plugged into this In computer like I don't know how well that'll work. I I know there's a limit to how much power you can draw.


Leslie Early

I hadn't even thought about that. Yeah, that I never use it for XLR. So I never think about it. But yes, now that you mentioned it, that is a great deal of versatility. Yeah, so, okay, so that's our best advice for the absolute beginner. But what about people? Like, for instance, I'm really just putting myself here, because this is, this is how I would describe myself, I can do what I do. The mic that I have, and all all record straight into storyline sometimes, or sometimes I'll do you know, a third party like Camtasia or GarageBand, first and do some light mixing. But that's as far as I go. Would you have any advice for people who are sort of like, yeah, I can do it myself. But I wish I could do it a little better. Or I wish I could increase my production value a little bit more, you know, maybe you got a bigger client than normal coming down the pipe and you want to make it a little bit more shiny. Do you have any advice for that? Those people?


Josh Risser

Yeah, especially for, like freelance out there. A lot of freelance IDs will be, you know, you never know, when you might land like a double a client, you know, like there are there's a lot of them that need, stuff turned around fast. And they work with a stable of freelancers. And so yeah, the first thing I might suggest is to work your way away from recording right into like Camtasia, or storyline, and start getting comfortable in a DAW or a DA, like, Audacity is fine. It's free. I use Reaper, which is nice. It's a reaper is a little more expensive. I mean, it's 250 bucks, if you make more than 20,000 a year, which is, it's pretty fair deal for software these days, especially how robust it is.


Leslie Early

It's just it's a one time 250.


Josh Risser

Yeah, it's a one time 250 Well, it's one time $250 For a, I think two versions of release. So you get like version six, and seven. And then when version eight comes out, you got to re up, which is you but then you pay an upgrade, which is like 130. So it's, it's actually still pretty affordable. And that's two years down the line. So but getting getting in one of those, it just affords you the ability to add some other stuff to it, because then you'll start getting into maybe you've got this weird ping sound that you can hear when you talk and you can kind of EQ that out. And there's some more powerful plugins to remove, like mouth clicks, and maybe to remove some background noise that they just all kind of exist in an ecosystem that's outside of that. And that alone, kind of understanding how to use a DA and how to export and then drop it into storyline Camtasia will, will just kind of move you up to the next level. So that's definitely one one big one to think about. The next one, I would say you could still get away with that q2, you just fine. So I wouldn't quite upgrade your mic. But getting a nicer set of studio headphones that fall on the $100 $150 range, then you you'd be surprised at what you can hear in a slightly more expensive set of headphones versus, you know, $20 set all the sudden, like you're starting to hear weird stuff in the background and like weird clicks in your mouth that you swear weren't there before. And they are all there. The fidelity for headphones is just so much better. And so if someone happens to be listening on slightly better headphones, the quality that you're going to get because you were aware of it is going to be better than it would otherwise. Okay. You can still record in that closet though. There are commercials on the radio and TV that you're hearing right now that are recorded in someone's closet or in a hotel room under a big heavy comforter. Like you can get away with it. What you really want is knocking down the echo in your room. And that's that's what that does is it keeps your voice from echoing back to the mic if you want you can build a booth I worked out of a booth that was made from PVC pipe that I just got it like Home Depot or Lowe's maybe 50 bucks worth and some clamped on moving blankets. Just to knock down that echo.


Leslie Early

Wow. Yeah, pretty creative. I hadn't heard that one before. I've seen work so like build real booth but like that.


Josh Risser

Yeah, that's what I mean. Now like I've since like when my daughter was going to be born I was like I need something that recording all the time. Because obviously that booth though it knocks down the Echo, which is sound treatment, it doesn't isolate you from the world, right? You can still hear stuff. So I was like oh my daughter is gonna be born. Her bedroom is you know, almost right above my my studio space and So if she's upset about something, and I have to record something, you know, and hopefully my wife is managing it, she's more than capable. I'm not leaving her up there by herself, then, then I just need to record I can do that. Yeah. So I built a booth that has solid walls and a solid door. And it gets really hot in here, but it is so much better. Yeah,


Leslie Early

I bet. Awesome. Well, okay, so we've hit sort of the the mid level as I refer to myself, um, but me, I mean, you're a professional voiceover artists. So I'm assuming you are being contracted to do this for other freelancers, or for big businesses who need professional voiceover on their projects. So what would be your advice to someone like, for instance, if I was like, Oh, this is definitely something either sheer volume of what I need to produce, like, I can't handle this all by myself, or I just want that quality, that professional quality that I know that I probably wouldn't be able to achieve myself. So I need to contract somebody like a professional such as yourself. So what advice do you have for you know, sort of finding those people, vetting those people and making sure you know that you're getting what you need? I mean, for lack of a better way for saying it, but yeah.


Josh Risser

Yeah, totally. I mean, it's, it's scary. Whenever you start treading the waters and trying to find a freelancer of any type, really, I mean, I've tried to work with people for like website design and logo creation. And it's always like, Am I really making the right choice? How do I know? The nice thing is, you can always, always ask a voice talent for an audition, anytime an audition and a quote, they should be able to give you a standard quote that you can then do a rough calculation on on your end, without involving them to figure out like, what's this project going to cost me? Right? Like, I have 10,000 words. I know it's going to be 20 cents a word. I know it's gonna cost me this much money. I don't want to do a math right now. It's going to be embarrassed. Yeah. Yeah. But, but yeah, I mean, you'll have you'll have that and then oh, I have 100 files, they charge me $1 per file, split, or whatever their number happens to be. And, and there you have it, and then then you ask for an audition, you send them some of your script, you know, maybe for an elearning one, you should probably spend 30 to 45 seconds, because you want to hear that it's consistent for more than, you know, a 15 second commercial,


Leslie Early

and make sure they're not slipping into that receptionist, ya know, flight attendant voice,


Josh Risser

Or their robot voice or their legal voice. Yeah, or radio DJ. And, and make sure what you get back is, is what you think would be a fit for the project? You. I mean, I would, it would, it would be death to inbox, but you could just post on LinkedIn, hey, I'm looking for voice talent for an elearning project, and you will get swarmed. And then you'll be able to weed them out by going, I need this audition. And I need to quote, and then they should be able to say, Oh, I work per minute. So it's going to be this much dollars per minute or per finished minute or it's going to be this much per word. And then here's my audition, and the audition should then sound like their final product. And if there's weird stuff in there that you don't like or bad editing, or, you know, this person just sounds like they're reading. Then you just know to toss it. Or if you think someone's close, you're like, Oh, you're good fit but I wish you were more energetic. Totally give them that redirection and ask them for another take. I mean, you are the you are the client. This is like your sample. And a voiceovers job is not recording voiceovers voiceovers job is auditioning, I, my job is to audition and hopefully, land some projects are


Leslie Early

so similar to other actors out there.


Josh Risser

I was just talking to a friend about that the other day, and he's like, so what do you do all day. And I'm like, man, it is a weird, weird life to just sit in my booth and just audition for stuff and never hear anything back from 99% of the projects. You know, occasionally I like I did some, some auditions for commercial the other day and I was listening to the radio driving home from something and I'm like, I know this script. I totally auditioned for this. And I now hear why I didn't land it because this person is nailing like the character and I wasn't even there. Like yeah, you can you can just hear that kind of stuff. So it's just, it's weird, but they should be used to being they should be used to two things. They should be used to being asked for an audition and being given direction. And if they can't follow direction, and they won't give you an audition. Stay away. Yeah, don't waste your time. They're gonna be tough to work with.


Leslie Early

Yeah, those are a couple of red flags I can imagine. And I hope people who are listening I mean, I'm sorry that you are never hearing back from any of these things that you audition for. But I hope people out there who are listening who do solicit voiceover talent for auditions to at least give a fly at least it should not just go. So


Josh Risser

I should provide some clarity. A lot of the auditions I do are through, like agencies for commercials and stuff. And those ones, there's hundreds of people auditioning and so but anytime someone has asked me for like an elearning audition, and a quote, I've always heard back oh


Leslie Early

I was like, wow, people are terrible.


Josh Risser

Yeah. No, in the other world of casting directors and commercial and TV stuff like you. You're lucky if you're listening. Yeah, probably. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Leslie Early

Well, yeah. So this has been super helpful. Josh, I know, this was like, very short and sweet. And we like, barely scratched the surface of like, your expertise on all of this. But I think for who our listeners are, I think it's probably given a lot of clarity on the trajectory, or the spectrum of voiceover possibilities. So I really appreciate your time.


Josh Risser

Hey, thank you so much for having me on. I hope they glean something useful. There's gotta be something in there, right?


Leslie Early

Like, yes, yes. And you're just super awesome. So regardless, I'm sure they enjoyed it. Thanks. If people have more questions, because I like I said, Josh knows a lot about this stuff. So if people do have more questions, or if they like the sound of your voice, and they're like, hey, that's the guy we want on our project. Where can people connect with you?


Josh Risser

Well, you can see any my voiceover work over at Josh russert.com. Last name is spelled ri s s er. Or if you want to hear the podcast and get more tips like this, I don't produce a ton of episodes these days, I've done like 30 Some, and I feel like I've kind of hit a wall on what I can talk about so low, but there's a lot of stuff about performance and environment and scripts and editing over at DIY narrator.com. It's like Do It Yourself Narrator hopefully, you can learn more if you're interested in diving deeper into some of the subjects we talked about.


Leslie Early

Definitely, like I said, I know this was like barely just the tip of the iceberg of what you actually know. So I'm glad you mentioned that. Um, all right. Well, again, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and I hope you have a good rest of your evening tonight.


Josh Risser

Thanks for listening. You too.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai