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  • Writer's pictureSebastian Brown

Being Authentic, Being Human.

A Voice Over blog written by Sebastian Brown Voices - never a machine.


In this blog, we're going to talk about how we make our reads authentic, and why that's important for this age of the emotional flesh sacks that we are.





But wait...first of all, what is authenticity? And why do we crave it so much?


Well like many buzzwords that come and go, authenticity seems to be having its moment in the sun.


People once latched onto the word engaging, as if a person's speech patterns and particular sound could make someone's ears prick up and their attention focused, despite the drab and often dull source material.


Personally I think engaging is a blanket term with no real detail in its form, its a term for those who don't know better how to describe the nuances of the human voice or what they wish to hear, however, that's another topic for another time.


So...authenticity, the dictionary describes it as such:


"Of undisputed origin and not a copy, genuine."


Now this I like, and perhaps it ties into our reaction to the rise of AI and the acceptance of a voice that has no nuance talking to us about our music preferences on spotify; but the idea of a genuine voice is something I can really get behind. Genuine emotion, genuine storytelling and genuine, in the moment expression of feeling.


And why do we hear this term more and more now, well probably because the old fat cats of the world have realised that in order to sell something, most people want to feel like they are being spoken to, not at, like its a dialogue, a conversation, a moment.


So how do we create original, authentic and genuine voice overs, not just for selling things, but for telling stories in a more human, and compelling way.





Well there are a few things that I think we can do:


  • Add nuance: don't be afraid to add human nuances to your reads. Can you smile through the lines, laugh through words at certain points, can you scoff, show real emotion without it taking over the speech? Practise what it feels like to add more and more human elements to your emotional world. And then if you have too, strip them back, and just hold on to that feeling.


  • Pause and Mini Pause: Embrace the power of saying nothing. Lets face it, most VO's like the sound of their own voice (even if you say you don't, let's be honest here). But playing with the power of the pause, and by extension, the pacing, can help you maintain a more authentic sound. Sometimes you just need a tiny fraction of a beat before a word, to give it a more real emphasis. And sometimes, a big old pause, can create a lot of wonder.


  • Visualise Everything: One thing that has always helped me, right from the get go, is visualisation, some clients will give you images, and that's lovely, but knowing what's going to be on the screen isn't always the most helpful. Instead, visualise who you are talking to, picture their clothes, your surroundings, the breeze on your skin or the darkening clouds in the sky. The more you picture, the more rich and detailed your authentic world can be.


  • Create an emotional life: I don't care what anybody says, being sensitive is beneficial, and even a corporate read about a company's progress, has an emotional backstory. Think of all the work involved, think of the endless amounts of people and hours, the lives they all have, and the lives the company supports. Talk from those places of emotion. We're not talking about wailing into the microphone here, we're talking about the acceptance of being a heartfelt, feeling human being.


  • Talk TO someone: This one is a no brainer, and we've said it time and time again. Who are you talking to? Picture them, picture the details of who they are and what they do. Now just talk to them, you can bring in your technique afterward, but first, just say hello, and talk like a normal person. Having that regular conversation will help to bring a much needed reality to your reads.


  • Do it one way, and then another: One of my favourite tips, is to do my reads in lots of different ways. I love to try reading something like I'm talking to a friend, and then twist it and pretend I'm talking to a patient in a hospital, and then shift again and talk to someone who is climbing a mountain but wants to back down. These scenarios help me to understand the difference in my voice when it comes to communicating on a very human level, and mixing it up just strengthens your ear and vocal dexterity.


  • For a more technical and less emotional route to sounding authentic, you can also try:

  • Give yourself a lead in - before your first line, improvise an opening line or conversation that leads you into the script.

  • Change your body language - try relaxing your posture, leaning or sitting can help to relax your speech patterns.

  • Get closer to the mic - create a more intimate space, and drop your volume, this can help you to feel like you're speaking on a more personal level.

  • Don't read out loud until you record - read the script in your mind before you record, that way the read may have a fresh and exciting energy.


So, as we continue to move away from the typical, 'voiceover' style, and hear more and more natural, more regional and more nuanced voices, make sure you can offer an authentic read, while keeping the more typical delivery tucked away for when you need it.


Subscribe to my blog for more voiceover industry insight, updates and wonderful tales of being a modern voice over actor.


Happy Voicing,

SBVO.





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