Voiceover Blog

  • Auditioning for voiceovers

    I receive at least one request a week from prospective clients or my agent to audition for a VO job. There's no payment for my time and no guarantee I'll be selected to voice the final version of the script.

    Unfortunately, I got stung badly a few weeks ago when a prospective client emailed asking me to voice a short corporate video.

    I recorded the script (it was only 150 words) in my booth and emailed it over in compressed MP3 format at 96kbps.

    96kbps is usually too low quality to be considered broadcast quality, but still good enough for the client to hear my voice. Voiceover audio intended for broadcast is almost always sent as uncompressed WAV.

    Anyway, I never heard back from the client, so assumed they chose someone else. It happens.

    Something however didn't seem quite right. I happened to see the client's YouTube page in my internet history from when I was doing my research for the voiceover. I clicked on it and to my amazement, there was the corporate video using my voice.

    It had been online for a couple of weeks and had been viewed over 9,000 times.

    I immediately sent an email to the client explaining that they are commiting copyright infringement and attached an invoice. I gave them 14 days to respond and/or pay up, but that came and went.

    Eventually, I contacted YouTube to get the video removed. To their credit, they removed it within a couple of hours and the client's YouTube account was suspended.

    The lesson to learn: Always sent audition audio to prospective clients (and even existing ones) with a beep track over the voiceover at around -5db. The beeps make it very difficult for the client to remove without severely degrading the audio quality.

    If you need a beep track for your voiceover auditions, I've uploaded a 1 minute beep track with a 100ms beep every 1 second alternating between 1kHz and 500Hz. You can loop it if necessary.

    Download the beep track

  • New look

    I decided that it was time for a new look for my website and on social media. New colour scheme and logo. I hope you like it.


    First of all, here's the previous logo:

    Although I still like this logo, but I think it's a little too corporate and doesn't give any indication that I'm a voiceover artist. The font is Helvetica. As much as I love it, it's pretty much everywhere (BBC News article). Red is a powerful, passionate colour - but along with orange, is a difficult colour to reproduce accurately in printed form (e.g. business cards, letterheads etc.).

    And so, here's the new logo. Just in case you hadn't noticed it yet!




    I've taken away the all-capital letters and chosen a friendlier, slightly sexier font called Rateway for my name. The secondary font is Museo Slab which is modern, easily legible and playful.

    The words 'Voiceover Artist' underneath my name begin at the 'Me' in James and end on the 'I' in Knight. Me and I.

    I hope you like the new logo. If you feel compelled to leave a comment, feel free to do so!


  • ipDTL: Could it kill off ISDN?

    This week, a few of my voiceover and producer friends have been trying out a new bit of browser-based software called ipDTL.

    It is being tentatively heralded by many as a realistic, cost-effective alternative to ISDN. And here's why:

    • ISDN (Integrated Services for Digital Network) is old technology. Developed in the mid-1980s for voice and data communications, it's still occasionally used in the business sector. However, since high-speed broadband became available in the late 1990s and superfast broadband in 2008, most businesses have done away with ISDN for voice and data communication.

      However, It is still widely used in the broadcasting industry - especially by radio stations, production houses and voiceover studios.

    • ISDN is ridiculously expensive. To get ISDN in your home or business premises, you need to have a second phoneline physically installed by the telecoms company. This isn't cheap.

      Then there's the ISDN codec (a box which processes the digital send/receive signal) . Even a second-hand G.722 codec costs upwards of £1,500.

      You probably already pay a monthly subscription for your broadband connection in your home or office. If you want ISDN, you'll need to pay an additional subscription. This comes to between £25 and £45 a month.

    • If you move premises, you have to get a new ISDN line installed. That could take up to a month. If you're a voiceover artist and you rely on ISDN almost every day, then a month without it is almost unthinkable.

    • ISDN is being phased out. It is old technology which offers painfully slow data speeds (compared to today's widely-available broadband). Most telecoms companies are keen to cease offering ISDN services in the next five years.

    ipDTL

    With ipDTL, you don't need to install an additional phoneline. You only need a decent broadband connection offering at least 2 Mbit/s. Even in the wilds of my native west Wales, speeds of 2 Mbit/s are easily attainable.

    You don't need to invest in any new hardware. ISDN codecs are eye-wateringly expensive. If you already have ISDN, you can now seriously think about putting your codec on Ebay and cancelling your ISDN subscription.

    To use ipDTL you need to be running Google Chrome (it won't work on Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari etc.).

    It offers send and receive data of 128 kbps.

    Testing, testing...

    This week, I tested ipDTL with three voiceover and producer friends. All of us are obsessive about sound quality and reliability. The results were very impressive.

    I simply logged into the ipDTL website using Google Chrome and a box popped up asking me to choose which audio source to send.

    When you sign up for ipDTL you are given two internet logins. One for you and one for your recipient.

    I have a 100 Mbit fibre optic internet connection connected directly from the wireless router to my computer with an ethernet cable. Don't worry, you don't need such a fast internet connection for ipDTL to work.

    Just ensure you have your studio computer connected directly to the router using an ethernet cable. If this isn't possible, try moving your wireless router as close as possible to the computer.

    To my well-trained ears, the audio quality over ipDTL is actually much better than ISDN. Even though I'm still transferring audio at 128 kbps (the same as ISDN), it really does sound cleaner.

    One of the biggest issues with IP-based audio transfer has been latency, drop-outs, variable bitrates and compression glitches have made it impractical to use as a replacement to ISDN.

    I've used ipDTL for a total of 4 hours this week and didn't encounter a single problem. I even made a point of using it during peak internet times when worldwide internet traffic is heavy and it still worked perfectly.

    The audio quality is superb with absolutely no signal drop-outs or weird glitchy sounds which you often encounter on Skype.

    ipDTL costs just a tiny fraction of ISDN. For just £103 a year for a voiceover artist (or free if the radio station or production house has an ipDTL voiceover subscription) then it's ludicrous not to give it a try. I'm sure you'll be as impressed as I am.

    Check it out for yourself with a free 1 month trial at www.ipdtl.com