Directing Terms - Part III
Marc Cashman

This article concludes our 3-part series of terms you’ll commonly hear in a studio session.

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!

“Read against the text”  Reading a line with an emotion opposite of what it would normally be read.

“Romance it”  Also heard as “Warm up the copy.”  Make it more intimate.

“Run it down”  Read the entire script for level, time and one more rehearsal before you start recording.

“Shave it by…” Take a specific amount of time off your read.  Also heard as “shave a hair.”  If your read times out at: 61, the director might ask you to “shave it by 1.5 seconds.”

“Skoche more / less”  A little bit, just a touch more or less.  This can refer to volume, emphasis, inflection, timing, etc.

“Split the difference”  Do a take that’s “between” the last two you just did.  For example, if your first take comes out at :58, and your second take comes out at :60, and the director asks you to “split the difference,” adjust your pacing so the third take should be in at :59.  Or, if your first take is monotone-ish and your second one is very “smiley”, and the director asks you to “split the difference,” adjust your read so  that the third take will be somewhat in between the first two.

“Stay in character”  Your performance is inconsistent.  Whatever character and voice you commit to, you have to maintain from beginning to end, take after take after take.  Focus.  Be consistent with your character and voice.

“Stepping on lines”  Starting your line before another actor finishes theirs.  Sometimes the director wants actors to “overlap” their lines, or interrupt.  Others want each line “in the clear,” where there is no overlapping or stepping.

“Stretch it / Tighten it”  Make it longer/shorter.

“Take a beat”  Pause for about a second.  You may be asked to do this during a specific part of the script, like in between paragraphs, or inside of a sentence or in a music bed.  A good sense of comic timing is particularly helpful. 

“Take it from the top” Recording from the beginning of a script.

“That’s a buy/keeper” The take that everyone loves—at least the director loves.  If the client loves it, then it’s accepted.

“That was perfect—do it again” An inside joke, but a compliment.  Usually the producer wants you to reprise your take “for safety,” i.e., to have another great alternate take.

“This is a :15 /:30 /:60”  Refers to the exact length of the spot in seconds, also known as a read or take.

“Three in a row”  Reading the same word, phrase, sentence or tag three times, with variations.  Each read should have a slightly different approach, but all should be read in the same amount of time.  The engineer will slate three in a row “a, b, and c.”

"Throw it away"  Don't put any emphasis or stress on a certain phrase, or possibly the whole script.

"Too much air"  Noise resulting from soft consonants spoken into the mic. Most evident in consonants like F, G, H, and W, and word beginnings and endings like CH, PH, SH, & WH.

We hope you've enjoyed Marc's articles on Direction Terms.  After studying these, you should be able to go into any studio and "talk the talk" with the best of them!  Thanks, Marc!

If you have a voiceover subject you'd like us to write about in a future newsletter, please send your suggestions to mailto:[email protected]

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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