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Interview with the British Voice Over Man
Hi, I’m Paul Urwin, the British Voice Over Man!
I’m a British voice over actor / voice over talent and I’m often asked about what I do, so I thought I would answer a few of the most common questions.
Are you a Voice Actor or a Voice Talent?
There are lots of different terms used to describe what I do: from voice actor to voiceover talent to voiceover artist. I personally describe myself as a British voiceover talent or a British voice actor or British Male Voice Over Artist. I like to include the “British” part, because the British accent is actually a key part of what I do.
But everyone has their own definition. And people write “voiceover” in different ways. It can be “voice over”, “voiceover” or even voice-over.
Does that help?
How did you get started in voiceover?
For me, it all started when I did a translation for a client, and once the document (the script!) was translated into English, they asked me if they knew anyone who could read it and record it for them. I said that I could and I guess I did a good job, because I’ve never looked back from there!
Using my voice has always been something I’ve enjoyed. I did lots of reading in public / presenting at school, and I always enjoyed joking around and trying different accents, so that all turned out to be a big help!
How much experience do you have in voice over?
Now it’s around 15 years. And it’s been quite a transition over that time, learning how to get better all of the time.
Going back to that first job I mentioned above, I really wasn’t sure what I was doing. Even simple things, such as finding the right distance to the microphone, take time to master. Confidence is a big thing, and experience gives you that.
What kind of projects do you work on?
I work on a huge variety of different projects and that’s one of the things I love about what I do. From TV and radio commercials to e-books and corporate videos, every job requires a specific tone and style.
Some projects are very short (only a few words) while others are 1,000s of words, so there is a massive variation in length as well That just makes it more interesting!
What is a typical voice over job like?
Typically, a job starts when a potential client finds the British Voice Over Man website and listens to a few of my samples and decides that they would like to receive a quote. If we can agree on a price (we usually can!) then it’s all systems go!
I review the script before recording and make sure that I’m comfortable with it, and that I understand the style or tone that is required. Sometimes the client will send instructions or a sample video to give me an idea, and sometime they won’t. But once I’m ready to record, I’ll have a rough read-through. I record the rough read-through even though I am almost certainly going to delete it afterwards. I do this just to get my voice warmed up and to make sure all of my recording levels are good.
Then, I start recording. If I make a mistake I just keep going and record that part again. I go through the whole script.
Next up, and depending on how I feel the first version went, I might do another version. Something with a bit more (or even less) energy or a little quicker or a little slower. Just a slightly different version.
I’ll then go with the best version and start editing. Take out any mistakes and also remove any unwanted breathing sounds. I’ll have a final listen to make sure everything is good before sending it off to the client in their preferred file format.
That’s normally it. Sometimes the client will want to make a change or two. Either because they would like to change the tone a little or because there are a couple of script changes. Either way, I just record again!
Where do your record the voice overs?
Most of the time I record in my fully-equipped home studio. This means I can respond really quickly and get jobs done in record time.
Sometimes I go to a client’s preferred studio and record there and sometimes, while traveling, I book a studio and carry out the voice over job there. All of them are high-quality solutions and designed to make sure that the client gets exactly what they are looking for.
How long does it take you to do a Voice Over?
Sometimes it can be done relatively quickly. But it’s never quite as quick as others might expect. For example, if I am going to record one sentence, then it takes a lot longer than the time it takes to say that one sentence.
That’s because I’m going to record a few different versions, the set-up time, editing time, converting the file to the required format etc.
But having said that, lots of voiceover jobs can be completed in 30 minutes to a hour. Of course it depends on the length, sometimes I am going to be in the studio all day.
Do you only do British Voice Overs?
As the British Voice Over Man, I think it’s pretty logical for me to focus on British voiceovers. It’s what I’m good at, it’s what sets me apart from other voiceover styles (mainly US voiceovers) and I think it’s good to focus on that.
Therefore I pretty much only do British voiceovers. I have done voiceovers with different accents, such as a US accent, but to be honest I think that if someone wants a US accent, then it would make more sense to work with a US voice actor.
What do you do to improve as a Voice Over Actor?
Whatever you do, I think it is always important to strive for improvement – to get better as time goes on.
So, I read books about voiceover, I watch YouTube videos, I talk to other voice actors / voice talents and I just generally try to get better as time goes on. As I’ve said, I think that is so important. Another issue is technology, technology is always changing so it’s good to keep up with what is going on, and how that can impact you as a voice talent.
What do your clients say about you?
You should ask them!
Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really great clients over the years and people who really appreciate the voiceover craft and how having the right voice talent for a particular project can really help to bring it to life. I’ve been referred to as “The Man with the Golden Voice” and “An extremely experienced broadcaster”, among other things. It’s always nice to be receive compliments, but the most important thing is to keep doing a great job for my clients.
What is the best part about being a British Voiceover talent?
I just really enjoy it! And being able to work in something you really enjoy is huge.
From the moment I step into the studio, take my place in front of the microphone and put my headphones on, I am exactly where I want to be, focused on delivering the best performance that I can.
What is the most difficult part of the job?
For me, even though I come from a technical background, it’s been learning about some of the technical aspects of recording such as the different hardware and software settings required to give the best results.
But I’ve also been fortunate in that I’ve been able to work with and learn from some great sound engineers over the years, they’ve been a massive help!
What’s the best way for someone to get started in Voice Over?
Probably the best way to get started is to start recording yourself and then to start looking for clients, even if they are non-paying clients at the beginning.
Clients want to hear what you can do so it’s important to have a demo reel or some samples to send them, but they don’t all need to be paid samples. You can record different samples and put them together on a demo. Then, you need to go out to your network and find some clients!
What skills does a great voice over actor need?
Well, I think the base skill or talent is to have a great voice. But lots of people have a great voice, and there is definitely no one definition of what a great voice is.
But whatever type of voice you have, male or female, deep or high-pitched, British voice or another accent, it’s important that it has some great characteristics and that you feel confident about your own voice. Confidence is key. Some people have a great voice, but they don’t like their own voice, so that’s not going to work.
Aside from the voice itself, there are other skills needed.
And one of the most important skills is being able to read well. Lots of people can read competently, but reading a script in real time, without having seen it before, is a different story altogether. It’s something that can be worked on over time, but having that ability to read a script cold means that you can complete projects much more quickly and effectively.
Furthermore, while you don’t need to do everything in one take, a good voice over actor is going be able to complete a job in a minimum number of takes. You can’t be reading everything 10 times!
You also need to be able to understand the client’s specific needs, be able to take direction / critique, have good editing skills and get on well with everyone involved in the process.
What are the future plans for the British Voice Over Man?
Well, it’s going really well right now, but I guess like all voice actors, I would like to get more and more jobs and work with an even greater variety of clients.
I’ll keep doing it as long as I keep enjoying it, and as long as I feel that I can provide a great service to clients!