Directing Terms - Part I
Marc Cashman

Marc Cashman is a producer, copy writer, voice talent, and VO coach in Los Angeles, CA. Starting this month, Marc shares some of the "insider terms" and special phrases of the voiceover business.

Before and after every take, you’ll receive some sort of direction from the producer, hopefully preceded by the phrase “That was good.” The producer will tell you whether you’re “in the pocket,” meaning that, for the most part, you’ve emphasized the right words or phrases, your timing is good, your enunciation is clear and your overall tone and energy is appropriate. If you get conflicting direction, ask for clarification. The best advice: listen, listen, listen!

In the pocket: You've given the producer exactly what they want.

Intimate read: Close in on the mic more, speak with more breath, and make believe you're talking into someone's ear.

Keep it fresh: Giving the energy of your first take, even though you may be on your twentieth.

Let's lay one down: Let's start recording.

Less sell / More sell: De-emphasizing/stressing the client name/benefits.

Let's do a take: The recording of a piece of copy. Each take starts with #1 and ascends until the director has the one(s) they like. Also heard: Let's lay it/one down.

Let's get a level: The director or engineer is asking you to speak in the volume you're going to use for the session. Take advantage of this time to rehearse the copy. Any shouts or yelling will require you to turn your head 45-90 degrees away from the mic. If the mic needs to be adjusted, the engineer will come into the booth. Do not move the mic unless instructed to do so.

Make it conversational. Just like it sounds, make your read more natural. Throw out the "announcer" in your read, and take the "read" out of your delivery. If it sounds like you're reading, you won't be believable. Pretend you're telling a story, talking to one person. Believe in what you're saying.

Make it flow: Also heard as: Smooth it out. Avoid choppy, staccato reads, unless the character calls for it.

More / less energy: Add more or less excitement to your read. Use your body to either pump yourself up or calm yourself down. Check with the engineer (i.e., do a level) to make sure your levels are not too loud or soft.

Mouth Noise: The pops and clicks made by your mouth, tongue, teeth, saliva and more. Most mouth noises can be digitally excised, but make sure that you don't have excess mouth noise, because too much is an editing nightmare and will affect your work. Water with lemon or pieces of green apple can help reduce or eliminate most mouth noise.

One more time for protection: The director wants you to do exactly what you just did on the previous take. This is similar to "that was perfect, do it again." This gives the director and engineer a bit more selections to play with, should they need them in post-production.

Over the top: Pushing the character into caricature.

Pick it up Start at a specific place in the copy where you made a mistake, as in: Pick it up from the top of paragraph two, or Let's do a pick-up at the top of the second block.

Pick up your cue. Come in faster on a particular line.

Pick up the pace: Pace is the speed in which you read the copy. Read faster, but keep the same character and attitude.

Play with it: Have fun with the copy, change your pace and delivery a bit, try different inflections.

Popping: Noise resulting from hard consonants spoken into the mic. Plosives, which sound like short bursts from a gun, are most evident in consonants like B, K, P, Q and T.

Punch-in The process of recording your copy at an edit point in real time. In a punch-in, as opposed to a "pick-up," the engineer will play back part of the copy you recorded and expect you to continue reading your copy at a certain point. The director will give you explicit directions as to where in the script you will be "punched in," and you will read along with your pre-recorded track until your punch-in point. From there, you'll continue recording at the same level and tone you originally laid down.

Next month, we'll conclude this series with Part 3 of Marc Cashman's list of "Inside Voiceover Direction Terms."

Adapted and compiled from the following sources: (All of these books are available here.)
James Alburger --"The Art of Voice-Acting;" Focal Press (SE 1998 & 2002)
Susan Blu & Molly Ann Mullin "Word of Mouth-Revised Edition;" Pomegranate Press (1996)
Terri Apple, " Making Money in Voice-Overs;" Lone Eagle Publishing Company (1999)
Alice Whitfield, "Take It From The Top;" Ring-U-Turkey Press (1992)
Sandy Thomas, "So You Want To Be a Voice-Over Star;" In The Clubhouse Publishing (1999)
Terry Berland & Deborah Ouellette, "Breaking Into Commercials;" Plume Publishing (1997)
Chris Douthitt/Tom Wiecks, "Putting Your Mouth Where The Money Is;" Grey Heron Books (1996)
Chuck Jones, "Making Your Voice Heard;" Back Stage Books, (1996)
Elaine A. Clark, "There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is;" Back Stage Books (SE 2000)

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