There’s probably no group more devoted to perfection than artists – among whom I include voice talent. We’re constantly wondering if we did our best. In fact, back in the day it was an oft-heard comment that “I did my best take in the car going home.”
But what is perfection to you? Is it reading a script without a mistake? Is it the mythical One Take? Is it the painstaking process of recording take after take until everybody is deliriously happy? My opinion is… none of the above.
I have worked with a number of directors who really believe that if you record enough takes eventually you’ll get it perfect. What a recipe for disaster! It hardly ever works, and it often drives the voice talent nuts. More enlightened directors know that it’s the result you’re after, not how you get there. And since these days you’ll probably be your own director, it has become easier to focus on the result.
Recorded, not live
After all, this is voice over. That means it’s recorded, not live; it’s audio, not video. So there’s really no reason to get it all perfect in one magical take.
Let’s say that after two or three takes you feel like you mostly got it. Maybe there were a couple of glitches - a line or two you didn’t quite like, or it came in a bit long. But that take had something special about it. At this point you don’t really need to try for another take, hoping that the magic remains while you iron out the glitches. Instead, I suggest you do two things:
You, the narrator, you, the editor
First, listen to other takes to see if maybe the glitches in question didn’t appear in them; if so, a little cutting and pasting might give you a complete, seamless take. Second, if you don’t find what you need, do pick-ups and paste them in place.
If you’re good at matching tone, pace, level, etc. – and if you’re adept at seamless editing – you may end up with a “perfect” read. It’s something you, the narrator, created with you, the editor.
At that point, of course, how you define “perfect” is between you and your client. But at least you didn’t have to beat yourself senseless to get there.