As an actress and professional voiceover artist, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy an exceptionally varied career, lending my voice to everything from national TV and radio campaigns to audio books to live Hollywood award shows. Thanks to a knack for effectively communicating both plot lines and sales messages (and with the invaluable support of the William Morris Endeavor Agency), I’ve built a vocal résumé that includes Mastercard, Disney World, Pillsbury, Sony Music and countless promos for ESPN, USA Network, VH-1 and MTV.
In November 2014, I flew to Los Angeles to serve as on-air announcer for the CBS TV “Hollywood Film Awards.” In addition to my live performance, the show included tracks I prerecorded at my Pro Tools-equipped home studio.
Over the course of my career I’ve learned to adapt to a constantly evolving process of winning and producing assignments. When I started in the business, I’d make visits to Manhattan casting agencies where I would record and edit my auditions on-site. There was a casting director present who would help me polish and focus my delivery. These days, I’ll receive an email from my agent with the specs for an audition, record and edit a demo myself in my studio, and send it to the agency as an MP3 file.
I’ve developed a flexible vocal style and a dependable tool box that helps me deliver optimal performances. One of my key assets is a Sennheiser MKH 416 microphone, which I first encountered at a New York recording studio. I love the way my voice sounds when I use it, but I had to find a way of de-essing my natural sibilance which, depending on the text, it occasionally emphasizes. It was tricky, the MKH 416 put my vocal quality and delivery right where I wanted the but the sibilance was an off-putting byproduct.
A producer with whom I was working introduced me to the Oxford SuprEsser plug-in from Sonnox, and I learned that it eliminated the problem without compromising my performance. It’s an indispensable tool in my studio. I’ve got a preset which generally gets me exactly where I want to be. Depending on the script, I can perform additional tweaking by honing in on extraneous sibilant frequencies to shave away superfluous “esses.”
Occasionally, I’ll use two SuprEssers, one for the esses up at around 7 kHz, and then another down much lower around 200 Hz or so to soften or eliminate some of the “plosives” in the mic. I don’t use the lower frequency filtering as much, but occasionally I need to read closer to the mic to get more intimacy or warmth out of my voice. That recording style has a propensity to pop some particularly powerful plosives, and that’s where the lower frequency SuprEsser shines.
I also use Sonnox’s Oxford EQ to remove any unnecessary low end. By switching on a filter I can take out as much bottom as I need — I just push it up until it sounds good. Sometimes I’ll use the Oxford Dynamics with a little compression, but my favorite tool is the Oxford Limiter. The voiceover world is extremely competitive. I’m often competing with literally hundreds of other artists for the same job. Producers and clients review all these MP3 demos on their computer speakers. They’re listening for a special voice to deliver their copy in the most effective way. Having the Oxford Limiter on my track really helps my performance register. It’s never distorted and it keeps it clean and bright. Every little bit helps to kick the presentation up that extra notch.
I auditioned for the CBS Hollywood Film Awards assignment by recording different versions of the show’s intro. Using my entire Sonnox production chain I delivered the audition and I got the job. Before flying out to L.A. to do the live show, I prerecorded a variety of billboards, sponsor tags, intros and outros that were being incorporated into the broadcast, and for the pre- and post-shows as well. My prerecorded tracks were used along with the live announcing I did that night at the Hollywood Palladium. My family DVRed the show, and when I listened back I was really happy with the results.
Claudine Ohayon is a voiceover professional who has worked in radio and television.
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