Step by step guide to becoming a voice actor

Voice acting is the art of doing voice-overs or providing voices for animated characters in various works, including feature films, dubbed foreign language films, animated short films, television programs, commercials, radio or audio dramas, comedy, video games, puppet shows, amusement rides, audiobooks and documentaries. Voice acting is also done for small handheld audio games.

Performers are called voice actors or actresses, voice artists or voice talent. Their roles may also involve singing, although a second voice actor is sometimes cast as the character’s singing voice. Voice acting is recognized in Britain as a specialized dramatic profession, chiefly owing to the BBC’s long tradition of radio drama.

Voice artists are also used to record the individual sample fragments played back by a computer in an automated announcement.

What does a voice actor do?

A voice-over actor is a person who performs, typically with voice alone, in a variety of media. These actors work in animated films and series, and lend their voices to dubbed foreign films, video games and commercials. They’re at once prominent and behind the scenes. Though generally not in front of a camera when they’re acting, the voice-over actor is the principal talent of many shows or other productions that require acting, and the degree of talent may make productions a success or failure.

Many people are familiar with animated films like those produced by Disney® and these films usually use well-known traditional movie or television stars for major voice acting parts. This tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

In contrast, a person who spends his life being a voice-over actor may never be very well-known or achieve celebrity status, though there are a few exceptions. Some of the most famous actors in Japanese animated series or video games have huge followings, but principally the voice-over actor is known by his or her voice, only. The most prolific actors are probably recognizable when they voice new characters, but it would be their voices and not necessarily their face that would be recognized.

What kind of skills are required?

Following is the list of skills required to be a successful voice actor.

  • Clarity A voice actor’s articulation has got to be impeccable. Each word needs to be distinctly understood, not swallowed, mumbled or garbled.
  • Cleanliness This only partly means you have to shower before a session. Cleanliness refers to mouth noise, and if you have a lot of it, you may have a difficult time getting work in voice-over.
  • Consistency In voice-over, consistency is a highly valued skill.
  • Connected Being connected to what you’re reading is vital to your performance and the believability of your interpretation.
  • Conversational  It means reading (and speaking) at conversational speed – the typical pace that we speak in everyday conversations.
  • Cold Reading This skill is a must-have for long-form narration, particularly in the areas of e-Learning modules, instructional CD-Rom narration, and non-fiction audiobooks.
  • Chop chop… The ability to get through copy rapidly, but not at the expense of clarity, is a crucial skill that, if you haven’t mastered, you need to develop.
  • Coordination It’s like a musician who practices their scales every day they strengthen their muscle memory; or it’s like going to the gym every day to build up your muscles and your stamina.
  • Characterization The ability to perform solid characters is another arrow in your quiver of voice acting skills.
  • Convincing The most convincing narrators are those who, in Penny Abshire’s term, “tell, don’t sell.”
  • Control Successful voice actors are always in control – of their voice, that is. They can control their pitch,volume, and breath.
  • Confidence The best thing you can bring to any VO session is confidence – true confidence, not a false sense of bravado.

The steps to becoming a voice actor

  1. Develop your acting talent
  2. Create a demo reel
  3. Find a talent agent
  4. Choose the right location