Top 10 Behind the Scenes Secrets of Voice Actors

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Top 10 Behind the Scenes Secrets of Voice Actors

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Jesse Singer
Behind the scenes, voice acting is harder than you might assume. For this list, we'll be looking at the good, the bad and the strange things these vocal artists go through. Our countdown includes pay isn't always guaranteed, real voices typically inspire fictional ones, a "Loop Group" can be essential, and more!
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Top 10 Behind the Scenes Secrets of Voice Actors


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Behind the Scenes Secrets of Voice Actors.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the good, the bad and the strange things these vocal artists go through.

Which of these facts about voice acting surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments below.

#10: The Number of Words Can Affect the Paycheck


The first thing a lot of people want to know about voice actors is how much they get paid. As it turns out, they’re like freelance writers whose fee can vary greatly depending on their project. While they’re sometimes paid per project, a voice actor’s earnings can come down to the word. Movie trailers are a great example. When it comes time to record narration for previews, voice actors are often required to record multiple tags like “starts Memorial day” or “only in theaters”. According to voice actor Corey Burton, “Each individual tag is an additional union scale payment.” A few words can definitely affect an entire paycheck.

#9: A "Loop Group" Can be Essential


When “Modern Family’s” Phil and Gloria appeared in a commercial, they learned firsthand that background actors don’t talk so the main dialogue can be recorded cleanly. But then how do we hear noises coming from other people when we watch movies or commercials? This phenomenon all comes down to what is known in the industry as a “loop group.” Voice actors record all the background chatter at a later time. While it might sound like a walk in the park, it can prove to be challenging. If there are background performers whose mouths are visible to the camera, the voice actors must match mimed lip movements to actual words. Their hard work is definitely necessary to make a crowded scene sound realistic.

#8: Real Voices Typically Inspire Fictional Ones


Did you know that Hank Hill’s voice came from someone Mike Judge heard from during his paperboy route? Or that Hank Azaria’s Comic Book Guy voice on “The Simpsons” is partially based on an old college acquaintance? And speaking of “The Simpsons”, did you know that Moe’s voice is meant to be a loose imitation of Al Pacino? People always tell authors to “write what you know.” Well, the same can be true when it comes to voice acting. Sometimes the best character voices are inspired by whatever celebrity or regular joe the actor is most familiar with.

#7: There’s A Major Difference Between Voice Acting for Anime & Western Animation


The processes for recording western animation and anime can look very different. In North America, productions often prioritize recording the voices early on in the process. Doing so allows animators to draw the characters to reflect each live performer’s speaking style. However, many anime productions take the opposite approach. Most of the drawing is actually before the voice actors arrive. This means the performers have to match the animated mouths instead of the other way around. If you’re aspiring to voice-act for projects all over the world, you should be prepared to record at whatever stage of the process the project demands.

#6: How They Take Care of Their Voices


We often hear stories about singers taking care of their instruments. So, it makes sense to hear that voice actors protect their speaking voice seriously. Some performers do lots more than just drink hot tea with lemon. Professionals consistently recommend that voice actors should always warm up their bodies and instruments. They’re also advised to skip the Starbucks run because caffeine can negatively affect their work. When seasoned voice actor Kari Wahlgren wants to rest her vocal chords after a big session, she avoids conversations for the rest of the day. She also won’t celebrate loudly with her voice while attending live events. Voice acting’s a job that requires more attention to the voice and maybe a few less “woos” outside the booth.

#5: Finding Their “Natural Voice” Can Be Hard


After famous people are cast in animated projects, audiences generally expect to hear the big celebrities using their own voices. After all, what’s the point of having Chris Rock voice a zebra if the animal doesn’t have the comedian’s hilarious cadence? But professional voice actors tend to spend most of their careers using voices other than their own. Legendary performers like Kari Walgren and Tara Strong each have hundreds of varied vocal credits on their professional resumes. So, we can understand why it would be tough for them to harness the voice they use when they’re not trying to play a fictional character.

#4: Voice Actors May Be on Camera


Although voice actors are often only heard by the general public, they still might have to perform their dialogue like any screen actor would. While some artists like to be there during the recording process to make sketches that match vocal performances, that isn’t always possible. That’s why productions will sometimes install a camera in the recording studio to capture the voice actors live. This gives animators the opportunity to watch the performers closely and get subtle mannerisms down carefully. This behind-the scenes footage can really help the final character animations reflect the live voice actor.

#3: Pay Isn’t Always Guaranteed


Have you ever had to rearrange your work schedule and wait for a cable or internet technician for hours without knowing when or if they’ll arrive? Well, voice actors definitely feel your pain. Within the industry, an actor may agree to make themselves available for a job for a certain time period that could last as long as multiple days. During this time, they might not be allowed to pick up any other gigs. Although the performer doesn’t get paid unless they work, there’s no guarantee that the studio will give them something to do. A voice actor could easily miss out on a big opportunity or hefty paycheck due to making one commitment.

#2: Performers May Reach for Real Props During Recording


While computers can be used to create audio effects, sometimes performers are encouraged to use objects within the studio. When Veteran voice actor Corey Burton wanted to sound like he was inside a hollow tree, he spoke from inside of a trash can. Even seemingly mundane animated actions can require actual objects. Over on “Rick and Morty”, the old scientist is infamous for burping during takes. In real life, voice actor Justin Roiland actually consumes carbonated beverages during recording sessions to help get those burps out. Seeing the performers use props behind the scenes can look a little ridiculous. However, it’s hard to argue with how fantastic everything sounds in the end.

#1: Voice Actors Must be Ready to Record Whenever


Just like Charlie Puth, voice actors these days are often just one call away. While it was once common to have a couple weeks prep time for a job, that isn’t necessarily the case anymore. Commercials, promos and movie trailers may all be literally phoned in by performers at a moment’s notice. This means a voice actor can go from enjoying a nice cup of tea to recording a national ad within the span of an hour. A performer in the modern world just has to be prepared to dive into a new project whenever they get the call. While it sounds like a lot of pressure, these vocal professionals definitely handle whatever’s thrown their way with grace and energy.
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