Monday, 20 August 2012

"So what does a Voiceover Artist actually do?!"

How many times a month do I get asked that question?! It seems to be a natural reflexive response whenever I utter the path of my chosen career. I'm sure I'm not the only Voiceover Artist who gets met with a look of surprise, confusion and more than a little bewilderment and bafflement when answering the innocent question, "What do you do for a living?"!! It seems to take intrigued individuals a moment or two to weigh up whether it is too brazen or bold to follow up with, "So what does a Voiceover Artist actually do?"

The funny thing is that with the explosion of new technology in the past decade or so, it is more a question of "What don't we do?!" Gone are the days where the fields of work were almost exclusively television, film and radio, either in the guise of commercials or documentary narration, or even drama. Of course, those wonderful projects still exist in plenty. In fact there are now even more channels to watch, and therefore more opportunity for voice work. Every Voiceover Artist still loves winning a big telly gig, yet heartily appreciates the smaller radio jobs as the 'bread and butter' of their income. However, we now have a plethora of alternative mediums at our disposal, and every one of those needs VOICE.

Take your pick: Computer and Console Games, Websites, Cd-Roms, Interactive DVD's, iPad, iPhone and Android Apps, E-learning courses, Podcasts, Interactive children's storybooks, meditation CD's, toys with embedded sound chips that speak, museum and exhibition guides, pre-recorded announcements on transport, public information services, in-store commercials, theatre shows that require pre-recorded voice, infomercials, shopping centre announcements, film dubbings for foreign film. .... The list goes on.

Joe Public is also often surprised to learn a VO lends his talents to the corporate world in many ways. Answer phone messages, interactive on-hold messages ("press 1 to speak to.. #". Yes. I am that voice!), corporate presentations, promotional updates for websites, YouTube videos and external pitches to clients, to name a few.

And let us not forget Talking Books. With the massive explosion in portable technology, the Audiobook world has gone a bit bonkers! Novels, newspapers, magazines, digests - you name it, someone has probably voiced it. There is a huge appetite for instant access to material, and the likes of Audible and iTunes are ensuring those needs are met. Plus there are the special and vital requirements and needs of blind people to cater for. The RNIB goes a long way to try to meet their needs by recording material for their use. And how many of you are aware that a large percentage of programmes on television, and also movies on DVD, are Audio Described (where quite literally a spoken description of what is on screen is given) to enable and enhance viewing capabilities of blind people?

Then there's the development of Satellite Navigation systems, and more recently Apple's Siri, the newest talking personal assistant facility within a mobile device. So groundbreaking are these Voice systems, that I'm sure we'll see even more advancements within the next few years. Meaning more places where a Voiceover Artist can find work.

So here's a challenge for you. See how many places you begin to notice the Voices around you as you go about your every day. I'm sure I've missed a few. I'll bet that you suddenly realise what an Audio-rich society we live in, and just how many voices you encounter and experience on a daily basis - voices that inspire, entertain, influence and educate. Go on, get counting!