People Speak: ‘There are so many different ways to say one line’

July 07, 2018

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Tauseeq Haider — voiceover artist
Tauseeq Haider — voiceover artist

Q: How does one start out as a voiceover (VO) artist?

A: There isn’t one particular path. The industry is still little explored and a lot of people working in it have stumbled into their careers as VO artists. A lot of people do not join the industry because they think they will not get to experience stardom. But here is the thing: it can happen. Look how radio broadcasters are enjoying their celebrity.

Q: What sort of hours do you put in? How long does it take to record a 15 minute piece?

A: It depends on what is required. If it’s a live show, it’s going to take 15 minutes. Dubbing a 15-minute piece may take the whole day because you have to get it just right and you have the luxury of recording many takes. It does get better with experience. I take about an hour and a half to dub a 15-minute piece.

Q: Do people need acting lessons to be a VO artist?

A: Acting lessons can be beneficial but you do not necessarily need them. My career in theatre has helped me a lot.

Whether you are hosting an FM programme or dubbing a play, you need to be a fairly good actor because you are required to act with your voice. Your voice needs to be full of action.

Q: Do you sit or stand when you are recording?

A: When I am recording for a documentary, I prefer sitting, because you have to keep a uniform tone and you have to make your breath even.

But when I am recording a play, I prefer standing. Because then, I will animate as well, I will physically act the scene out. If there is a scene where two people are arguing I want both me and the other actor to be standing and acting it out. We will both be swaying our hands and moving about as people normally do when they are arguing. All of this brings richness into the scene.

People can tell if a piece has been recorded outside or in the studio. They can tell if someone is making movements. So when you have a scene like this, it is a good idea to act them out and give them more character, make them more realistic.

Q: What techniques do you use for long-form narratives, how do you keep your voice even throughout?

A: Coffee is my saviour. I don’t drink coffee except in front of a microphone. You need to take breaks.

The trick is to record in the same tone when you come back from your break, and that gets better with time. Ask to listen to the last five minutes you recorded before going on your break.

In the beginning you also have to be very aware if your mood is affecting your recording. Sometimes, for example, if you have fought with your parents or siblings, it will show in your recording that you are upset if you are not mindful of it. But it doesn’t take more than a year or two to get good at this. It is not rocket science.

Q: Do you have to prepare before a recording session?

A: I read the script before recordings. If it is a drama, I prefer to have a full rehearsal with the other actors. If it is a commercial, I like to sit with the producer and ask him exactly how he wants the lines delivered, how much enthusiasm he wants in his lines.

There are so many different ways to say one line. For example, say ‘I like you’, stressing a different word every time and the sentence will have three different meanings.

Q: Are there any face, mouth or voice exercises you need to do?

A: Stretching your facial muscles is very important. You have to make a habit of talking with your jaw open. A common exercise is holding a pen in your mouth and talking through it before you go in to record. This helps bring more clarity.

Another common exercise is putting your head in an empty bucket and trying to play with your voice. It gives you a chance to listen to yourself and helps you discover different tones.

But the most important exercise for a VO artist is jogging. Sometimes you have to say full paragraphs in one breath for which you need healthy lungs.

Published in Dawn, July 07th, 2018