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EarCasting is Australia's first dedicated voice casting service.

Much like your on-camera casting consultants, our talent scouts will cast the net far and wide to find fresh and distinctive voices.

They'll gather voice references, track down celebrities, record demos, negotiate fees and coordinate recording sessions.

We also offer a voice directing service with our award-winning audio directors.

Contact jessie@eardrum.com.au for a quote on your next production.

EarCasting compilation reel;

Voice-over Hel(vetica)

By Ralph van Dijk
First Published in Australian Creative magazine

For an industry obsessed with originality, cut through and brand identity, why are so many of our ads saddled with bland, predictable, me-too-voice-overs? They're the audio equivalent to Helvetica bold and they're everywhere. OK, I admit that as radio specialists, Eardrum's obsession with voices verges on unhealthy. But TV ads deserve the same love.

You spend days writing and honing the script, agonize over the director, brief casting agents to find that specific character, and commission composers to score the emotion. The shoot is intense, the hours in post are draining and when all this effort is about to culminate in a creative crescendo, you bung on the voice you spent 5 minutes casting and only slightly longer recording.

When you cast the voice that comes top of mind, you can bet your sub-fee you've chosen someone that comes top of most people's mind.

So it's hardly suprising when we hear the same voice on multiple ads in a single break. And when you consider that the voice is the vehicle that usually introduces and represents the brand, it's no wonder consumers get confused.

Does My Brand Sound Big In This?

Most companies have strict visual guidelines for their brand, but only a rare few give any thought to how their brand SOUNDS.

If you cast a distinctive 'brand voice', in time they will act as very effective audio shorthand. This can then be exploited across an ever-increasing array of electronic customer touch points like online, on-hold, and in-store.

As soon as you hear Mark Mitchell's voice, you know he's going to talk about Commercial Radio Australia. The quirky Irish accent of the iiNet presenter has also served the brand well.

They may take longer to record and they may not have a 'deep, smooth, velvety voice', but their imperfections are the subconsious signals that tell the viewer that the person talking exists beyond the ad. And if they believe the person is real, they're more likely to believe what they're saying.

As the line between advertising and programming blurs, it's never been more important for the voices in our ads to sound authentic. Actors know how to achieve this. They make the words come alive, as opposed to just making them audible. As the French dramatist Jean Giraudoux said, "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made".

WHERE TO CAST THE NET

It seems that 90% of TV and radio voice work is done by 5% of the available talent. Many of them have a distinctive advertising cadence that they struggle to shake off. Their demo reels infuriate me. You get five seconds of their natural voice , followed by two minutes of OTT announcer reads and a selection of 'hilarious' accents. Oh the fun they must have with their answering machine.

I'd recommend checking their acting CV. If you see credits for TV, stage and cinema you'll know they they're experienced actors who can take direction.

We've also found casting gold in unexpected places like amateur theatre, and comedy clubs. Plus the countless number of non-actors I've collected from restaurants, football games and prison (it's a long story). They don't have voice over reels so we audition on the phone or get them to pop in to do a demo. A recent campaign featured a drag queen, a little person, a Columbian waitress, a Chinese med-student, with one trained actor to hold it all together. These unusual textures ensure the ad jumps out and grabs you by the eardrums.

Most agencies don't have time to uncover these nuggets, so they ask the studio for help. The studios won't want to risk recommending anyone they've not worked with so they draw from their database of reliable voice over pros.

Casting the net far and wide is time consuming and risky. But I believe that without the possibility of failure, you don’t have the chance for success and cut through.

There are many skills required to sound natural - breathing, timing, rhythm, mic technique. These are all crafts of acting.

But some great actors think that when they do voice work, they need to sound like an ad. They're chatting normally in reception, but get them behind a mic and they switch. Suddenly they're over exuberant, super smiley and speak with immaculate diction and perfect vowel movement. In other words, unlike anyone you ever hear in real life.

I then have to spend 15 minutes exorcising them from their demonic inflections.

CELEBRITY VOICES

There was a day when well-known actors wouldn't stoop to read a voice over. When they heard how much their comrades were earning, they swallowed their pride and cleared their throat.

British comedy duo Armstrong and Miller referred to their voice work as 'the ATM'. Before Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean, Smash) got anywhere near the big screen, his gig as a brand voice for MasterCard had allowed him to purchase several properties, including one in the South of France.

The standard voice rates aren’t good enough to entice the cream of Australia’s acting talent, so you have to offer double or triple. You won’t find them on regular voice-over reels but the extra investment in time and money is worth every penny.

International celebrities will often agree to voice Australian campaigns, as it won’t scupper their chances of getting a lucrative gig in the bigger markets.

We cast Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent for a series of WA road safety radio ads. We negotiated a rate that was only twice that of a 'nobody'.

The Last Word

Here are a few tips to finidng voice-over heaven.

Your voice will dictate the tone for the commercial. Use real sounding people and establish a consistent brand voice.

Take time and be open to the casting process. Make time for it in production schedules. Take risks and strive for interesting and challenging voice textures.

Celebrity voices only serve as positive endorsements when there is a definite link between the celebrity, and the script or product. If there is no link, or if it's not written in their style they'll sound 'bought'.

Avoid the in-vogue or common voices everyone else uses. Stand out in the break by using more unusual voices. A radio specialist will know where to find them.

Remember; no actor or voice over has ever been known to say 'I am miscast in this'.

We look forward to your next brief.

Brands and their voices

Jon Hamm voices American Airlines rebranding campaign;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ1tMaI9XMc

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Robert Downey Jr. signs up as Nissan Brand voice;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQO0imbouMg

RobertDowneyJrHeadshot

Josh Lawson cast for Apple-iPhone 5 brand voice;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZN5LPKDYV4

JoshLawsonHeeadshot

 

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