Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Why can't you send me the availability of your voiceover artists?

We are often asked by clients to send over voice demos of our voiceover artists who are available for a job tomorrow.

We wish this was possible but with over 2,000 voices on our books it is just impossible to keep track of everyone's movements.

We would need a full time person to do this and even then I am not sure how useful it would be.

We do ask our voices to email us every week with their availability; most don't.

Even if we did have this information on a Monday, by Thursday we would need to check again anyway as jobs come and go quickly. And so the availability of the voice artists changes daily. If not by the hour.

Most of our voices will let us know if they are going on holiday or away on a job for a couple of weeks or more but that's about as useful as it is.

Once we have a shortlist, we will of course contact suitable voices, but it can take a day or two to gather all the information you need. So do bear this in mind when commissioning voiceovers

Monday, 19 June 2017

How to keep cool in a heat wave

Another day of the Great UK Heat wave 2017. The Big Fish Team has been working away making sure we deliver professional voiceovers to our many clients. However in this heat that we are experiencing we have some advice for them and everyone recording in such temperatures.

1.      Keep hydrated
Our voiceover talent keep hydrated by drinking over 2 litres of water on a normal day. Now in this heat wave when we are hitting over 31 degrees Celsius drink much more water. Heat stroke and headaches may occur through lack of water. The booth can get hot and sticky so take regular breaks and ventilate the booth well.

2.      Keep cool
Use ice packs on the back of the neck and on the wrists to keep you cool. Or take a tepid to cool shower. Wear comfortable clothes to record that will keep you cool in the booth. Layering will be the answer for changes in temperature during reads.

3.      Keep your cool
Yes, we know it’s hot, we know its sticky, we know its sweaty but try and keep calm and cool as a cucumber while in the booth. Take a deep breath, get another ice pack and we’ll take it from the top.

4.      Keep the equipment cool
Yes the desk, the kit, the mic and computer fans can over heat even more quickly in this heat. Keep them cool by using a fan, closing curtains so the sun doesn’t heat up the booth or studio room.

5.      Protect yourself outside
Even when out and about, protect yourself. Sun cream, covering up with a top and hat and sunglasses will protect you from the sun. And if driving, cover the steering wheel or seat so you avoid burning your hands.

And when the day is over, treat yourself to some ice lollies, ice creams or a nice Long Island Tea with plenty of ice and listen to our voiceover artists to keep you cool, calm and collected. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Art of Telephone Conversations

We love to talk here at Big Fish Media (you might have noticed) and what we love more than recording voiceovers is talking to our clients. We happily pick up the phone and call them mostly just to hear their voice and to say hello.

However in the past few months we have noticed a trend. Many places we call seem to have lost the art of telephone conversation. Now us fish were schooled (fish joke) and drilled by parents, school and first jobs into how to answer the telephone, conduct a conversation and then how to end the call. I still remember having a class about this at school. We had to role play and ensure we knew how to talk to the other person.

These days we feel that the art of a business telephone conversation seems to be disappearing. We have often been greeted by a gruff “What?” “Hello?,” “Who are you?” We are proud to be Big Fish Media so why are some clients reticent to say who they are!?

Talking is one thing but listening is just as important. It is like a tennis match where you all know and understand that the ball is volleyed from one side of the court to the other. As we are all expert callers here, we are sad that many people flounder when we talk to them.

Key dos and don’ts
·        Do greet your client warmly and professionally naming your company, giving your name and offer to help
·        Do smile – that can make a huge difference to the mood and image of the company – this is the first port of call!
·        Do speak clearly and enunciate words
·        Do ask for the caller’s name and details and information – remember to repeat it back and get them to confirm the details
·        Don’t eat/chew/drink while on the call (crisps are a favourite snack we hear)
·        Don’t heavy breathe into the phone
·        Don’t carry on a conversation with a colleague while answering a call (Yes we heard all about the boss’s holiday – thanks for sharing!)
·        Don’t answer the phone while driving, busy, in a meeting or otherwise engaged.

Here is our business call example:
  1. Answer warmly – “Good Morning/afternoon this is Amy at Big Fish Media – how can I help?
  2. Listen to client attentively and Ask for clarification or give information clearly
  3. Ensure the client has understood everything and repeat back any details as needed
  4. Finish the call with a departing greeting ““Thanks very much, we will be in touch as agreed, many thanks, bye”

The purpose of the opening and closing parts to the business call are important so the other person knows that the call has come to an end. Leaving someone hanging is impolite. 

Here at Big Fish Media we have many voices that are reassuring and can give your company that professional greeting. 

If you are in need of a clear and confident professional on hold phone greeting then – just drop us a line. We love to talk! 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Self-recording quickly at a good quality on iPad or iPhone

So, you have an audition coming up. Lets imagine, you need to record a voice sample for a potential job quickly and all you have is your iPhone and / or iPad.
You don’t have the time / money to book a studio just for an audition, for a job which you may or may not get.
You could record yourself on the phone, using the built-in mic, but the end result will not do your voice justice.
You could go and buy a portable digital recorder such as the Zoom or Edirol. These are great, but you then have to transfer the audio to a computer before sending.

A great alternative is a high quality microphone attachment for your iphone or iPad, such as the RODE i-XY with lightning connection (there is also a 30 pin version for older iPhones)
Using the Rode i-XY and the Rode Rec app you can record and edit audio, then you have a choice of ways to transfer that audio straight from the phone via File Sharing. Email, FTP, Dropbox or Soundcloud. This is an advantage over the separate flash recorder with USB card; When you are living in a Battersea bedsit that costs £1600 a month, you are probably doing all your business on a smartphone and or tablet. With the Rode mic and App you can record, edit and send, all on the phone and very quickly. If you are in the world of VO, speed can be important. If you were out and about and your agent or a client requested a voice sample to be done within the hour, with this you could find a quiet enough space and make a recording in next to no time.  
I own the Rode i-XY and the Rode Rec app and I have found them to be excellent. The mic attachment is not cheap at around £150, but it is well worth the money.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Sync Translations - Who is responsible to make sure they fit?

Here at BigFish Media, we often get localisation recording jobs. That is, those scripts that have been originally written in English and have accompanied a video which it fits perfectly time wise.
Now, when it comes to recording say, the German VO for that same video, we often find that the German translation is too long for the video, due to ‘text expansion’ as its know in the translation world. 

Basically, in some languages, more words are needed to say the same thing as in another language. In the case of German translated from English it can be up to 35 per cent longer.
What usually happens is that the client only realises this when it comes to recording and we end up wasting expensive in-session time re-writing the script on the fly in an attempt to make it fit. This is less than ideal as the proper time and consideration can’t be given to script changes during a session.

It would be better if these things were sorted out before the session. But whose job is that?

A client will usually use a translation company, who do a literal translation. We called a company who told us they cannot translate to picture, i.e. they cannot make sure the translated script fits the video as this would be "copywriting".

This is understandable as it would require changing the script from the written English. This isn’t something you would do without consulting the client. As many translators are freelancers working from home doing a literal translation of a document they have been sent, it’s unlikely they will even have the details of the client. 

So what is the answer to this problem? 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Overcoming your fears of the Mixing Desk...

Anyone who has ever had any association with the world of Audio will have at some point come across something similar to one of these:

No that's not the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, but our new Mixing Desk and a staple in Recording Studios around the world. We have just upgraded our studio desk (to the above) to allow us to more effectively and efficiently record our Voiceovers. I thought now would be a good time to speak about approaching new mixing desks for the first time and facing any anxiety that they may conjure up.

The most common phrase I hear when people are first confronted with a mixing desk is usually: 

"How do you remember what all of those Dials, Buttons, and Faders do!?"  

In actual fact there are only a few features on all desks that you need to remember, regardless of how big or small they are. Once you understand these you will be able to apply them to most of the desks you come across. 

Our desk, the Soundcraft Signature 22 has 22 Channels, as its name implies. This means that the desk has just 18 Channel Strips (given that four of the 22 are Stereo Channels). While you may be thinking that I am making this sound even more daunting, the number of Channel Strips is in fact completely uncorrelated to the complexity of understanding the Desk. 

In the above picture highlighted in yellow is a single Channel Strip and as you'll notice, all of the Channel Strips around it are identical (the different coloured Knobs & Faders are there simply for our own ease of use and all serve the same purpose). This is why understanding mixing desks is a great deal less daunting than it first appears; Once you understand one... You understand the rest! 

Starting from the bottom of the Channel Strip you have the Fader. These control level of the source (Playback or Recording depending on your routing). At the top of the Fader you will notice three buttons; these determine where the output of the Fader goes. For example we have ours setup to route to Headphones, Speakers & our DAW to record. The Mute button, Mutes the output of the Fader (which we use frequently in a more complex Minus Mix scenario that I will refrain from delving into) and above that we have a pan knob. 

The next block of Knobs are known as Aux Sends, and on our desk we have 5 per channel. These allow us to send audio from one channel to another. This is particularly useful in our setup as our sessions often involve a number of different sources of Voiceovers and Clients. For example, we have an Aux dedicated to our Booth, ISDN, ipDTL, Skype and the Telephone so that we are able to send the VO and Clients to and from each other at varying levels depending on their location, so that they can communicate as if they were in the same room. 

Above the Aux's are an EQ section which allow us to balance frequencies when necessary, and lastly there is a Gain trim, which means we are able to make fine adjustment to the recording level of our Voiceovers. 

And that's it... That's how we remember what all those Dials, Buttons and Faders do! 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

How can I record an authentic vintage voiceover?

Recently I saw a TV documentary on the early life of the Rolling Stone guitarist and professional death-dodger Keith Richards. It was an enjoyable watch, but at first I was quite confused. 

The reason for my befuddlement wasn’t the half bottle of red wine I’d already quaffed, but the fact that I appeared to be watching images of Keith Richards as a baby with a voiceover talking about young Keith. 

Why would a camera crew be filming the baby, as yet not famous, Keith? Was this some amazing co-incidence that the newly-born boy had been chosen as the subject of a film about society in wartime Britain and the makers of this documentary had somehow unearthed this?

No, of course they weren’t images of Keith at all, it was stock footage of an anonymous baby with newly-recorded and very convincing voiceovers. 

I was very impressed with the authenticity of the voiceover, both in the acting and the recording and I would love to know who did it and how.

Perhaps someday I’ll meet the people involved at some Soho Soiree and I can ask them, but in the meantime, if I were tasked with recording something similar here at BigFish Media, here’s how I might go about it...


Of course, the simplest way of creating a vintage-sounding voice recording would be to use a plug in effect within Pro Tools (or whatever platform you use)

Years ago I created some video spoofs of the old British C.O.I. Public Information Films. For ‘Silly Billy’, I recorded my voice on a modern microphone and used the free plug in ‘Vinyl’ by IZOTOPE to affect the whole audio file.

This isn’t just good for affecting audio, to make it sound as though it were on old vinyl; in this case I think it made it sound as though it was a convincing old tape recording. 

There are plenty of other plug-ins you can use to create a vintage effect, an excellent example being Speakerphone by 'audio ease'.

Another approach, and the one I think would produce more authentic results and be more fun, would be to use the type of equipment that would have been used in the old days.

You could record on to tape using an old cassette recorder.

I used this approach for a project recently. The small dynamic built-in microphone and the ferrous oxide tape in the cassette, produced some good results when I attempted impersonations of John Peel & John Lennon.

Using a vintage microphone, perhaps a ribbon mic, recording to your D.A.W. of choice, would also be worth a try.


Then of course you’d need to get a convincing voice. People, especially on the radio or TV, don’t speak or sound like they once did. 

I’ve heard a lot of old style voiceovers where they have over-done the ‘plumminess’ of the voice and have used words or phrases that would not have been in existence or used in that way at the time. 

I would research existing material from the time period I was trying to emulate, then cast a voice actor who could get close to that sound. 

The amount of voice actors who can recreate that kind of voice perfectly are few and far between, which made the voiceovers on the Keith Richards documentary all the more impressive.