There’s a lot of voiceover recording service online information available, but it generally addresses all sorts of voice talent- from the people doing phone IVRs, to radio, TV and product read overs and tutorial matter for universities. Although animation is what people immediately think of when you say voice artist, it’s actually a very particular and highly specified niche within the field.
With animation, the voice is generally the focus of the video, despite the graphics accompanying it. They are the catalyst that binds the experience together, so getting the right voice for the job is quite literally critical. So you need to know what you need and make sure you get it.
In most animation arenas, you need a voice who can actually create a complex, nuanced character. This isn’t just reading in a pleasant way, as with many ads or professional narrations. You need to find someone who can take your line drawings and breathe life and literal soul into them. You’ll need to have at least a rough idea of what that life should be, though, to be fair to yourselves and the talent. Is this a fiery Tasmanian devil? A soft and simpering My Little Pony? What do you need the actor to be able to create for the character?
Once you have a solid idea of what you’re doing, you can approach an agency or place an ad. You’ll generally be given a portfolio to listen to to help you choose. Given that you’re a] likely a long term project and b] need more than a few lines reading, look for actors who set and hourly rate. This will vary, depending on what you’re asking, who the talent is and what they’ve done previously. If yours is a particularly long running project, you may even need to ask about standing commitments they have. Actors who are fresh in the industry will, of course, cost less, but you take more of a gamble. Some will be wonderful, but as with any creative industry that the online environment has opened wide, there will be fraudsters, scamsters and those who think they’re good when they’re decidedly not. Don’t be afraid to hold auditions.
A good ‘voice’ will know that it’s rare to get a perfect first take. They’ll be upfront about their re-recording rates, and what edits are and aren’t included in the original rate. Once you’ve decided on the actor, make sure you give them the information they need to do your job well. If there’s jargon or terms in the dialogue, they need to know how to pronounce them. If there’s a specific mood in a scene, they need to know. If the animated character has history, they need to know about it.
You can, if you’re looking to combine roles or save a little money, look for a voice actor who offers additional services like sound effects or musical composition. You may be able to cut a deal for the package that would be better than using two individuals. Make sure that they can deliver on both promises, of course.
Hiring a good actor is a critical part of the animation process.