Video games - Voiceover and escapism

A random thought, as I sit here at the day job, planning for my next client email, studying for my next lesson and preparing to audition tonight, I'm reflecting on the reasons why video games mean so much to me and why they are so massive even in the voiceover industry. This is one level where voice acting to me, is a very personal and passionate place.

Before the comment arises, the majority of the stuff I record is NOT video games at all. Those jobs are fewer but extremely rewarding when they arise. While I record narration, e-learning modules, phone messages and all the other jobs I love to do, I have an unshakable love for character acting. Now, there is an argument to be had that each script is performed as a character but that's not what I'm eluding to here.

This might sound childish to some but to the many that understand that these are the modern day 'novels' of our time. While there are still books, movies and television shows, the video game industry has nestled itself into a wonderful niche where story telling runs right along the dynamic of the player living the experience, not merely just observing. 

Despite people thinking, 'It's just a game' - I couldn't disagree more. Look at the progression as we've gone from Pac-Man to full on immersive adventures where you get emotionally attached to some of the characters. To me it, is no different than reading book and having those same feelings for the character in that medium. Games have become massive epic stories now, no longer merely objective based time wasters. 

In the news, we hear of heartbreak and tragedy all the time, yet we wonder why people are so invested in lengthy video games. This form of escapism, just like any other, I think can be healthy and help people come out of a social shell they may not usually be comfortable leaving. There are always those who obsess but in this instance, the characters, I believe truly help the player feel like they matter. 

The likes of Troy Baker, James Arnold Taylor, Nolan North, Brian Sommer, Adam Harrington - to name a few. Listening to how easily and fluidly they shape their voice and how believable they sound. That's what matters to the players and helps them become immersed and more attached to the story. Real VO heroes to look up to and aspire to. 

I've only had the opportunity to voice a few characters in various indie games but as this slowly becomes part of my progression, I rather relish the idea of perhaps performing as a character where someone becomes emotionally invested. Exciting stuff for sure.  

Voiceover Training and a new website look!

It's been a while since I last posted and I thought as we've all just enjoyed a rather lovely holiday weekend here in the US, it was time to catch up with all of you. 

The website has a fresh coat of paint and it's far more visually appealing now, so I hope you all enjoy it. Along with this I've got the lovely Lauren Bennett, who you can follow on twitter @temporaryglitch who is in the process of making this rather lovely banner. I'm leaning toward this being the brunt of my social media branding for now as the way she colours her artwork is nothing short of AMAZING! Just a sneak peek for now!

In other less charming news, my workhorse of a microphone decided to swan dive aloft from its stand and crash into the floor. Fear not however, a replacement has been ordered and I shall be fully operational come Thursday. I decided to upgrade to a Rode NT1 as I've had a lot of colleagues really sing high praises. The dream is the Neumann TL103 but for now, quality is still a big priority for me and the Rode just sounds fantastic. 

I've been taking some training with both Robin Armstrong and David Rosenthal who are both well renowned teachers in this industry. It feels extremely exciting to have proper coaching and critique, as we never should stop improving, regardless of our profession.

That's all the news for now but please follow me on twitter at @chrissharpesVO or drop me a line on LinkedIn or Facebook, just click on any of the social media buttons on this page.



Research, Voice over and why you're driving yourself mad.

"This isn't working." 

"My recording sounds bad"

"What mic do I need?"

"Do I have what it takes?"

I've personally gone through this and well I've spent probably around 200+ hours of my time watching you tube videos, trawling through forum posts, begging and borrowing information and absorbing as much as I can. 

"But why Chris? Why do you waste your time watching you tube videos on Voice Over. Shouldn't you be getting out there and working?"

Well, I am working, that's the point. In addition to recording and auditioning, I've been training. The amount of time I spend recording is the smallest amount of time, the rest is research and marketing. Would you want to show up to a sporting event having done no athletic training and expect to win? The same applies when you step up to the mic. You've got one shot to impress the casting director because believe me, there are hundreds in line that want it just as badly as you do. 

"But Chris, I don't have the money to train."

There is a wealth of free resources online established by industry pros, so I got you there mate. However, a quick note on paid training - be selective. What are you looking to get out of it?

Without going into too much detail, here's a way to think of it; Two teachers, one specializes in audiobooks and one specializes in animation. You want to do animation, which one should you lean toward? Blasting your money at coaches without researching if they are right for you, is not only a waste of money but it can also be a rather soul crushing experience.

However, picking the RIGHT coach for YOUR needs should be your #1 priority. Research them, ask for their resume, ask what they can do for you. Every coach I've dealt with when asking them this have been kind, open and honest. Some I've kindly said 'No thank you' to as what they offered isn't what I was looking for. It's no offence to them or you, just be honest and if they are able to help you, go for it.  There are many wonderful teachers out there but they are not all right for you. Find the one that is going to help you reach your goals. 

You are in control of your training but allow them to guide you once you've established a relationship. 

No business can establish itself without a solid plan in place. Training your staff, which in this case, is yourself, is a vital part of your progression. I am still training and I think I will be for my entire career as a voice artist. Personally, I love to learn new things!

I work in IT and I've had many a technician come to me with essentially 'How do I fix this?' - and every time I've asked 'Well, what research have you done?' - usually a blank look and then they return to assist their user. Magically, they research it and they fix it without my assistance.

Now, this isn't to come off as smug or act as if I'm being condescending but the point is there are times where you will need to find the answer yourself. 

Google. Dear Lord, use it. Start trying different combinations like 'voice acting' or 'my recordings sound too bassy' etc. You'd be amazed at the wealth of knowledge there is out there for FREE. Hard working, established and highly successful individuals within our business are giving out their spare time. People that have been in commercials, elearning modules, radio spots, video games - they are GIVING you their advice. Let me repeat that, they are GIVING YOU THEIR ADVICE. The only cost, is your spare time. Turn off the cat videos and look away from Facebook for a moment - you've got the time trust me.

"But Chris, I don't think that applies to me, I want to do it a different way."

Go for it! You can mimic others for a short time but you will find yourself searching for answers again. Trust industry professionals, however, a note of caution. The industry is rapidly changing, so what is true now, could be completely different in 5 years time. So if you're watching some dated stuff, don't be surprised if their advice no longer syncs with what you've experienced. 

However, the number of questions I see posted on Facebook or twitter or people begging for advice is astounding. The basic questions, like how do I get started, what do I need? You know what I'm going to give it to you. Below is a list of links which I think you should go through, listen to and watch. These are my personal selections and are in no particular order.

Don't wait for someone to hand you the answers. 

But...I'm giving them to you...dammit.

Dee Bradley Baker - This should be your first stop.

Voice Over Body Shop - George Wittam and Dan Lenard - These guys are utterly brilliant. Check out every last video. I command it. 

Marc Scott - Awesome guy - phenomenal advice. 

Global Voice Acting Academy - Relatively new organisation but they have some fantastic people and again, FREE advice.

Edge Studio - I've done a few training sessions in person with them. Great people and all over the country. Again FREE videos and if you're interested, there is training available on their site.