Creating A Demo Reel for Online Voice Acting Dec 16, 2016 18:24:26 GMT -8 Rebekah Amber Clark, duffyweber, and 9 more like this
Post by LadyStardust on Dec 16, 2016 18:24:26 GMT -8
If you're planning to submit to actual studios or agencies, you'll know the importance of getting proper coaching and getting a demo professionally produced and mixed. But professional demos are a big financial investment which should only be made when you're ready to take that step---you live where the work is (or have a proper home studio), and you and your teachers/mentors agree that you are ready to start submitting.
If using existing copy...
But what about if, like many folks on this board, you're simply looking for a way to showcase your talents to online animators, indie game developers, or YouTube content creators? In a scenario like this, it's perfectly acceptable to create and mix your own demo reel. This guide is intended to help newer voice actors make a functional demo reel that will enable them to submit themselves to Internet projects, or to show on their website---because what good is a voice acting website without a sample of what you can do?
There are many types of voice reels, but for the purpose of this post, we will be talking about a "character reel", which is the most basic type of reel you will need for submitting for online animations and games.
- First off, listen to accomplished actors' demo reels to get an idea of what a proper demo should sound like. Many talent agencies have actor demos listed on their website. Don't copy someone else's demo, of course, but let it serve as an inspiration for what a demo should accomplish and what makes a good one.
- Make a list of the character/voice types you would like to include on your reel.
- Find and/or write the copy you want to use:
If using existing copy...
- Write down lines you like from books, comic books, games, or movies. However, avoid choosing anything too recognizable or closely identifiable with that property.
- Edit the lines a bit to make them flow better if needed or even to portray a different character type. Change any identifying names or terms. You can even simply use the original line/scene as inspiration to write something similar of your own.
- You can also take lines from projects you were in that have already been finished and released to the public. However, don't use lines from work-in-progress projects that aren't released yet, unless you have the client/director's permission.
- Do not use audition lines from projects you tried out for but didn't actually book. If the creator or casting director of that project hears your reel, they may find this misleading or be upset that you used their lines without permission.
If writing your own copy...
- Don't attempt to write your own copy if you have no clue what you're doing. Poorly written or stereotypical lines can make a demo sound bad even if the performances are otherwise solid.
- If you prefer fully original material and would rather not write it yourself, there are people who specialize in writing demo reel copy for a fee. If you have any friends who are script writers, consider hiring them to come up with some lines for you. Or, you can search in our #services-offered-wanted channel on the VAC Discord Server to find people who do writing commissions.
- Write out a full paragraph that sets the scene. Don't just choose one quick line that doesn't give any context. Even if you only end up cutting one or two lines from it to use in your actual demo, you want a clear picture of the scene and the intention behind it.
- Get someone else to look over your lines before recording and suggest any necessary script changes (you may use the #feedback-wanted channel on our server for this, or if someone is directing you on your demo, you may wish to consult with them.)
- Your reel should be approximately one minute long. It's okay to go a few seconds over, but much longer and the listener will get bored or impatient. Casting directors need a concise idea of what you can do, as they are often listening to many demos at a time (if you don't capture their attention in the first 10-20 seconds, they will probably stop listening and move on to the next person.) If well-established and versatile pros can make do with a one-minute demo, so can you.
- The very first spot on your demo reel should be your strongest, most marketable voice/character archetype. The one that comes most naturally to you and that you tend to get cast for the most often. Many newer actors lead with a ~*WaCkY cHaRaCtEr VoIcE*~ assuming that will grab the most attention, but unless that's the majority of the work you get cast for, it's better to pick a character in a range that's more similar to your own. First impressions are everything, so make it count!
- Each additional character should be around 5-6 seconds or approximately 2 sentences as a general rule---but basically, think: enough to establish the character and scene but not long enough to drag. Online demo reels in the 2000s favored "rapid fire voices" with one quick line in each voice before moving onto the next, but this style is largely outdated these days, as one short line like "I've got you covered!" is generally not considered enough to establish who the character is.
- Slating is optional, but if you do wish to slate, keep it to your first and last name only. For the love of unicorns and rainbows, do not include a rambling portion at the beginning that goes something like "Hi, I'm Sonicfan1996 and this is my first demo reel, I hope you like it..." It will immediately scream "amateur" and simply isn't necessary. Some people do this to show off their natural voice, but you can easily incorporate your natural voice and speaking style into one of your character spots.
- Don't mix character work and commercial/narration work on the same reel---this is a basic industry "rule". If you want to show that you are able to do both, have a separate character demo and a separate commercial demo, and link to both from your website. You can either send both to potential clients if you think they'd benefit, or just pick the best fitting one for the type of media you're submitting for (for example, a video game producer likely wouldn't have much use for your commercial demo, and a company who produces corporate explainer videos likely wouldn't have much use for your character demo.) Once you become established and experienced, you may start moving beyond the two basic types of reels---for instance, you might have an additional reel for narration/audiobooks, and you might have two separate character reels (one for animation and one for videogames, though a single character reel is perfectly sufficient for those starting out.)
- Record each character/spot separately and then piece it all together when editing. Don't try to record your reel in one go by doing a bunch of different voices one after the other---it's very obvious when someone has done this as the characters and voices start to blend into each other. Record and focus on one character at a time, get it just right, then move onto the next.
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- Think of your reel not as "look at all the voices I can do", but as unique characters and performances. Even though each character may only be speaking one or two lines, it must be grounded in something---otherwise it will just come across as "I'm reading a line off this script for my demo". Have a clear picture of who the character is and where the action is taking place. Who are you speaking to and what is their relationship to you? What is your motivation behind saying what you're saying? You must commit fully! To avoid hollow-sounding reads, part of your prep work should include establishing a distinct character and scene to keep in mind when you're recording for each part. It's okay to focus less on being able to do a ton of voices and more on the believable performances you can create.
- Choose voice types you can actually use and sustain. Challenging yourself is good, but you don't need to do everything under the sun. If a voice would be too painful for you to keep up for a 2+ hour session, don't include it. If something is way out of your age range or sounds too forced or fake, don't include it...it's better to play to your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Variety is good, but you can achieve variety by including distinct character types as mentioned above.
- Limit your use of impressions, especially recognizable ones, unless you are specifically making an impression reel. Casting directors want to hear YOUR performance, not your imitation of someone else's. (However, existing actors' performances you admire can work as a great base or inspiration to create your own voice for an original character.)
- Make sure your characters are well-rounded. Don't rely heavily on contrived stereotypes or one-dimensional archetypes ("I-it's not that I like you or anything, i-idiot!", "You really think you can defeat ME?! Muahahaha") to prove that you can play a certain character type---show it with your acting choices. For example, countless actors incorporate a "robot voice" onto their reels. If you wish to include a robot, what makes YOUR robot different from the generic robot in 600 other actors' demo reels? Archetypes certainly have their place, but it's important to add some element of interest (between the writing and performance) that makes yours unique.
- Accents and dialects can be a great option especially if you are native to a certain region or speak another language...but only include accents on your reel that you are good at, can sustain, and do believably. These characters need to be fleshed out as well, not just put on there for the sake of showing that you can do the accent. Again, avoid stereotypes in the copy ("shrimp on the barbie", "vodka", "tally ho mate", etc.) And this should go without saying, but don't perform accents that sound like offensive ethnic stereotypes. If someone who is actually from that region would cringe when listening, it's probably not a good idea. (Not sure if your accent is passable? We've got an extremely diverse community on our Discord server, so - for example - some of our Australian actors would be happy to tell you whether or not that Aussie accent on your reel needs to go.)
- Be cautious when it comes to cursing on your reel. A word here and there, especially on something like a video game reel, can be acceptable if it helps add power to the character and scene. But think about your intended audience, too. For example, if you're submitting for children's educational games, potential clients might be a little put off hearing the "F" word unexpectedly when listening to your samples. Words that are considered slurs should be avoided altogether.
- Use a variety of different emotions. Vary up the volumes and pacing. You've got a full minute to showcase your stuff, so don't keep it all on one note. And by one-note, this also means: you don't need to yell everything, either. There is a tendency on demos to think "I've got to prove I can go really big and emotional, so I'm going to shout"...and some of that is okay, but you can show intensity without being big and loud. Have some casual and conversational spots, too - "real people" tend to be cast more often these days than "cartoon characters".
- Because chances are you'll be recording this on your home setup without an engineer, you'll need to make sure your final takes are flawless in terms of audio quality. This means no pops, background hiss, loud breaths, peaking/distortion, tinny sound due to improper noise reduction techniques, or very audible room echo. Things like this can immediately mark a demo reel as sounding amateur and hurt your chances. There are resources in the #audio-and-tech channel on our server - and across the Internet - for dealing with and preventing these issues.
- Decide whether or not you can mix your own reel. By "mixing", I mean putting the voices together, adding sound effects and music, and using any processing needed to make the audio sound clean and balanced. If you have zero audio editing experience, it may be better to ask a friend or commission someone to help you with this part.
- While sound effects and music aren't 100% necessary, they will certainly make your reel sound more polished and interesting. You can easily Google royalty-free music and sound effects that can be used at no cost to you. Remember, the music and effects should enhance, not overpower, your voice. Any effects, music or sounds in the background should work together with the voice line to paint a cohesive scene in the listener's mind. You don't want something that sounds disjointed or doesn't make sense, like a serious voice line paired with whimsical music in the background, or melancholy music playing on top of an energetic line.
- Some vocal effects are okay, but don't go overboard. For vocal effects, I mean things like reverb, phone filters, robot voice, etc. Some people have a tendency to use a lot of these to make their reel sound flashy, but remember that 1) effects don't compensate for lackluster acting, and 2) the main point of the reel should still be your voice and your acting---don't let it get drowned out in too many fancy filters.
Happy demo reel making! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them and one of our staff or other experienced members will be happy to help you. If you want to post your own demo reel or work-in-progress for critique, please do so in the Demos board or under #feedback-wanted in our Discord server.