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Friday, July 16, 2010

Comic books a great tool for character actor scripts!

Comic books a great tool for character actor scripts!

When I was a kid, I loved book-and-records; especially those Power Records releases that included a comic book, with a fully produced drama. Music, sound effects, and voice actors told the stories of Spiderman, Superman, and other childhood heroes.

My favorite of these was an adaptation of Planet of the Apes. I had the whole thing memorized.

My dad loves to tell the story of our long car rides and how I would keep myself entertained in the back-seat by re-enacting the entire Planet of the Apes script-sound effects and all! This was pre-in car DVD, pre-iPod. We kids had to have a little more ingenuity in those days! Looking back, this was my first experience as a voice-actor.

I still enjoy reading comic books, and it was brought to my attention by one of my coaches, Bob Bergen, that comics are a great source of scripts for voice-actors to practice developing characters with. Everything you need is right there on the multi-panel, 4 color page: Heroes! Villains! Action! Drama! Plenty of dialogue, and lots of illustrations to show you what the characters look like, and how they’re behaving.

In fact, when I’m voicing Hammy from Over the Hedge-or Dilbert and his Boss-I’m reading my lines directly from the comic-strips. What’s the point in transcribing a script when you’ve got these beautiful, informative storyboards to work from?

If you want to give it a try, but you don’t know where to begin, I’ve taken the liberty of including some FREE comic book resources in this article. How cool is that? You don’t even have to leave the house or buy anything to get started!

Fans of daily newspaper comic-strips can find plenty of favorites here:

A couple of years ago DC comics published a weekly series starring just about everybody in their fictional universe, but especially the lesser known ‘fringe’ characters. It was called “52” and you can sample pages of that epic storyline here:

Not into capes? How about the gentle humor of Archie Andrews and the gang from Riverdale High School? Archie Digital is a paid subscription site, but they offer a few free preview issues.

Fancy yourself a Vampire Slayer? Check out free issues of Buffy.

Vertigo is an adult comic book…er, sorry…”graphic novel” brand. Great stuff! But definitely not appropriate for all audiences. A few free pages of several titles can be downloaded as .pdf’s here: Again, not kid stuff!

You can find many more resources by Googling ‘free comic book pdf.’

Practice accents with the characters. Age them. Play them over-the-top! Play them real. And if you are a producer as well, record the dialogue and add music and sound effects. Maybe you'll create something you can use on your demo! I'm no lawyer (check with one if you're concerned), but I believe using the material in this way is okay. You’re not selling anything (but your talent); and it’s purely for demonstration purposes. That said, I would change the names of familiar characters because people already know what characters like Batman and the Joker sound like, and if you don’t nail it-you could lose out on a similar gig. Best to use these magazines to create your own unique heroes and villains.

Have fun!

What Makes A Great Voiceover Talent - Not Just A Great Voice

What Makes A Great Voiceover Talent - Not Just A Great Voice
"Saying a great voice talent need only a great voice is like saying a great batter need only a great bat".

I've often heard it said that to be a great voiceover artist, one needs only a terrific voice. While having a great voice is certainly important, taken in isolation it is completely meaningless. Saying a great voiceover artist needs only a great voice is like saying a great batter need only a great bat. Of course it takes far more than a great bat to knock balls out of the park. It takes awesome power, timing, control, breathing, and eye-hand coordination among other attributes. Voiceover is not much different. First and foremost, according to Los Angeles-based voice coach Rodney Saulsberry, it takes a great ability to intrepret copy along with excellent ear-voice coordination - an ability to listen to direction from outside the booth and then make changes, often subtle, in inflection, pauses, speed, microphone orientation, stance, and more. A great voiceover talent has a great voice but also can nail just the right interpretation of the copy to satisfy the client. A great voice talent becomes a "human mixing station" in the studio, according to Nancy Wolfson, a Los Angeles-based voice coach and former Playboy casting director. Someone who can belt out the most melifluously-pleasing words is of no value if he cannot take direction and quickly respond with desired stylistic adjustments. A great voiceover artist must be able to listen intently to those outside the booth for navigation and then set the vocal compass for the client's desired destination. Not to minimize the value of having a great voice. It's certainly a plus as voice acting goes, but a great voiceover artist must have a great ear for listening and the flexibility and range to adjust.