Demos are very important in the VO industry. They give casting directors and clients an idea of your range, personality, and style. If you are trying to break into the biz, you may be working on your demo right now, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the process.
The first thing you should do when you’re creating your first demo is to listen to other professional vo artists demos. Usually VO agencies will have their own web pages, and on them they will list the vo artists they represent with links to their demos. Listen to how the pros put theirs together. Pick out which ones you like and try to organize your demo accordingly.
Next, figure out who you are as a vo artist. What are your best vocal qualities? Where do you really shine? What type of script really puts you in the “sweet spot” with your read? For commercial and promo demos, prepare by going through magazine ads, listen to the radio, watch TV, and pick out ads that you feel you could really add your touch to, and are right for who you are as a voice over artist. If you have a wide range, great, if not, that’s fine too. The point is to understand who you are as a vo artist and concentrate on presenting that in the best way. If you have the money, you can go to a recording studio and hire and engineer and/or director for an hour or two. The benefit of this is that the engineer will cut your demo together. Many time, especially if the engineer has experience working with ad agencies or studios, he or she will add music and sound effects for you as they edit, giving your demo a professional and broadcast quality to it. Having a competent director can help you get some great feedback, take your own critique of yourself out of the equation, and produce your best read. If you don’t have the money for extra help, you can record and edit yourself at home. Try to add generic music in some of your reads that doesn’t overpower your read, is non-distinguishable, but gives the demo SOME life. Again, listen to the pros and try to emulate your favorite demos. I think a minute is enough time to show off your voice. The longer the demo gets, the less likely it is that someone is actually sitting there listening to the whole thing. Time is money. Don’t try to read every type of script you are capable of; Pick the best of what you can do.
Animation demos are fun. Again, the goal is to show off your best attributes. Demos in animation range greatly in style and organization. Animation is more creative and there is more freedom to add your own personal flair. I personally like to write my own scripts for animation demos (vs. picking ad campaigns already in existence and giving them MY version). Give each character about 5-10 seconds. Lengths on animation demos vary, and that is because some people really do love to show off their range. Range is much more important in animation than it is in commercial or promo. In fact, it’s almost necessary in Animation. When you’re hired for an animation project, 99% of the time there are secondary or “incidental” characters in a script that you will have to take care of in additional to your main character, so it is important to show that you have a wide range and can change your voice.
I think the best advice I can give to people just starting out, who are putting together their demos, is to listen to the pros and spend a good amount of time on preparation. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Get a list together of demos you like, and try to emulate the qualities about them that stood out to you. Pick copy that shows off your voice. Pay attention to the length-give the casting director, client, or even potential agent a good idea of who you are, but don’t ramble.