What the Microphone Picks Up: The Real You

By Vicki Amorose

This is not a discussion of how the mic picks up sounds like a leaf blower down the street or the rumbling of your stomach. I'd like to discuss the moods, emotions, and personal qualities of the voiceover actor and how dependably the microphone picks them up.

Let's start with the obvious. The mic picks up your gender, general age, health, regional dialect, and how well you are performing. It can also pick up quite accurately how much you are or are not enjoying yourself. Fatigue, anxiety, boredom, distraction, joy, energy, and living in the moment--it's all there. As voice actors, our job is to adjust our personal mood and connect with the listener. Some days are better than others. That's life, that's acting.

But let's talk about authentic character traits, the qualities you just can't fake. For example, the funniest voice actors are genuinely funny people. The best sportscasters genuinely love the sport. Have you ever been listening to some voiceover guy and decided you don't like him? It may have nothing to do with the quality of his voice or what he's talking about. It's just an instinctive reaction to 'a certain something' the mic picked up.

Isn't it fascinating how much the human voice can convey? I once asked a voice coach to listen to my demo and give me career guidance. In my voice, he said, he heard 'kindness'. I was so shocked I repeated it back, "Kindness?" I knew my demo backward and forward and never considered any of the clips to be particularly 'kind'. He identified a quality behind the acting. His comment started me thinking about everything that comes across, both obvious and subtle, in voiceover performance.

The mic doesn't lie. That's a provocative idea, and it can be a little intimidating. (I admit I have qualities less flattering than 'kindness'.)

What qualities do you possess that the microphone picks up? Examining who you are as a unique individual may be the best way to determine your specialties in voiceover.

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