Guidance: Sound Design and Demo Production

“For professionals only. Should not be attempted at home (alone)!”

When producing your voice over DEMO, precautions must be taken.

  • Hopefully you’re working with folks who have been doing sound editing and direction for enough years to become proficient at their craft. Ask about their credentials. Who have they worked for? This isn’t a time to have someone conducting experiments with you as the guinea pig.
  • Years and experience go hand in hand. During the course of my career as a sound editor, designer, and director, one word prevails, as the single most important factor in producing anything of value: “Preparation.”
  • Your demo is your calling card.
  • It could turn out to be the single most important commercial project of your professional life. (Or not.)
  • Music and sound effects should never be the star of your demo presentation.
  • The intent is to provide a showcase for your work, not an entertainment provided by production values.

(Here’s where it often becomes confusing.)

  • The purpose and importance of music and/or sound effects, whether they are natural or manufactured, is for those enhancements to push your voice forward. By push, I mean showcase.
  • Music or effects must never detract from an actor’s message.
  • While the creative sound designer’s goals are established before the actual recording of your demo, they must never be etched in stone.

NOTE: I doubt if anything ever comes out exactly the way you thought it would before you began. Changes are a very natural and vital occurrence.

  • During PREPARATION, nothing must be taken for granted.
  • While the sound designer must be free to create, he must also have a complete understanding of what you intend to accomplish.

Questions must be asked and answered:

  • Are you comedic, dramatic, the kid or neighbor next door, a parent or grandparent?
  • Who are you? In other words… what is your signature??
  • What is (are) your strengths (attitudes, roles, styles, pacing, monologue, dialogue, etc.)?
  • What will they hire you to convey? Are you against doing announcements of certain products?
  • Silence can be a marvelous background for an important message.
  • Where a message is placed in order of appearance on your demo is of equal importance.
  • Your first sound byte should represent the truth of who you are.
And so it behooves you to understand:

Sound editing is a subjective art form!

Studio Ambience
Each spot should be given a slightly different studio ambience. We do this to avoid a built-in sameness, and to avoid alerting the listener to the fact that yours are not real commercials.

Music Selection
Music can help a mood, signal change, create a helpful regional quality, add suspense, while at the same time not detracting from your voice or the meaning of the commercial message. Vary the music tempo.

Sound Effects
Whether mechanical or human, sound effects provide an assist in getting the message across, and can provide a degree of humor without detracting from the actors’ intent.

Your Choice of Material (Scripts)

Don’t select dated material. If the year happens to be 2010, you wouldn’t want to do an advertisement which ran in 1990. Good judgment is the key.

Don’t choose a commercial which is currently running and has a recognizable actor as its spokesperson.

NOTE: The celebrities you hear on current campaigns are specifically selected because of their name value, and the demographics of the consumers the sponsor is endeavoring to influence.

i.e.: There is only one Michael Jordan. There is only one Hannah Montana. Professionals will all instantly know you borrowed from them.

The same cautions would apply to your background music selections. Unless he was your uncle, George Gershwin did not write “Rhapsody In Blue” as background for your demo. Many kids today refer to it as the “United Airlines song.”

And down the road a piece, as you become a true professional, and have a stronger command of your personal signature and truth, you will discover a need to modify, and sometimes even find cause to completely change your demo. One of the essential ingredients for a new demo would be the use of actual commercials, and or dramatic pieces you actually were paid to do. The number one choice in my opinion for a new demo would be to include spots which are currently running on air. Nothing is better than to have someone out there recognize your work.

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