Career growth, salary, types of work

In the entertainment industry, some of the most visible artists are usually actors and actresses. Of course, since they are always in front of the cameras.

But there are others who also act to bring the characters to life, but their roles usually go unnoticed or even underestimated. They are those of the voice over (VO) industry.

So, we spoke to 4 VO Talent to find out more about what’s really going on behind the scenes, how the industry is doing and how we get into it, in the first place.

They are:

  • Songfan Seah, professional VO artist since 2001,
  • Azman Zulkiply, whose VO career dates back to 2011,
  • Su Ling Chan, who voiced characters like Mayday from Metronomik’s No Straight Roads game, and BoBoiBoy’s Ying, among other characters in popular media,
  • Anand Rajaram, who has worked for KFC, Honda, Cadbury, Astro, and more, with 16 years of experience as a radio announcer.

1. There is no known official qualification to practice VO professionally.

And of course you don’t have to have an interesting voice to do well in original version, because there isn’t any particular qualification for that either. What you will the need, however, is a good command of the language.

While this seems like an easy feat, Su Ling believes Malaysians in particular would be at a disadvantage as we tend to mumble a lot when speaking English.

We are also comfortable speaking “Manglish”, so those who wish to become a VO artist would have their job to do to relearn the proper pronunciation and enunciation.

Of course, improving skills is also one thing, so there are vocal workshops from performance institutions like Finlanditi Academy where you learn to be expressive with the way you speak, and how to fully act as a character assigned to you, the way the director sees it.

2. It’s more than just dubbing cartoons or shows

For the most part, VO artists are generally more involved in commercials, corporate videos, radio and TV commercials, storytelling, etc. Some other projects they get are educational materials, audiobooks, character voices for games, interactive voice response (IVR), and even news-related VO.

Some real-life examples include a person announcing when the next station is on a train, caution reminders on an escalator, confirmation that you got a correct answer in a quiz, and even a voice taking you on a digital tour of a museum. or an amusement park.

VGM members Su Ling and Anand / Image credit: Su Ling Chan and Anand Rajaram

3. Carrying out used vehicles for international customers is not as easy as hitting “record”

It is difficult to secure a role on an international scale due to the competitiveness of the used vehicle landscape. Some artists, however, are lucky with their ability to express themselves in different languages.

But one of the reasons it’s more difficult to land a gig abroad is that you need a “broadcast quality” home studio. To qualify, your studio would need amenities such as soundproof windows, a booth with Rockwool panels, acoustic covers, studio-grade gear such as a high-quality XLR mic, interface, and preamp.

Before creating a studio of this quality, Su Ling had 0 reservations abroad. The studio was a game-changer for her, and now she has managed to secure roles in international video games, audio dramas and also storytelling.

4. Original version artists don’t usually audition for a role.

In Malaysia, they are usually chosen on the basis of previous samples and will only be called if a client wishes to hire them. Therefore, most of the time, VO artists won’t really know if they are even considered for a job here. There are times when they are forced to do an audition, but it’s quite rare.

Abroad, however, as in Los Angeles, it is quite the opposite. But the booking rate to audition is extremely low anyway – somewhere between 5% and 9%, even for a well-known artist like Roger Craig Smith who is best known as the voice behind Sonic the Hedgehog.

5. The work can also be physically demanding

If you are a VO artist voicing a character as the main villain in an animation, you need to stay in the character for at least 2 hours, which can be physically taxing.

Also, if you are dealing with difficult customers, you may be challenged to deliver the same 67 lines over and over again, but none of them will be considered even satisfactory in their eyes, and it can be a process. stressful.

If a VO artist is ever to make this career a full-time career, Azman believes that, at the very least, one should be easy to manage, be able to deliver quickly, and not fumble around a lot as that would waste a lot of time. .

Songfan and Azman, the current chairman and vice chairman of VGM / Image credit: Songfan Seah and Azman Zulkiply

6. There may be a lack of creative control

Even if you have an idea of ​​how you want to play a role, it may not be what the client has in mind. So even at times when you think the way you’re supposed to deliver your line will seem bad or weird, you still have to go with what they have planned.

Songfan added that in some cases where there is a bilingual recording, VO artists might have to copy nuances and expressions from another language, which can seem really artificial.

For example, the original version artist who records in another language should follow the nuances and expressions of the English original version, which can make the original version really awkward and even “foreign” in the other language.

7. Malaysia has an association of voice actors

It’s called Voice Guild Malaysia (VGM), and its role is to ensure the welfare of VO artists, which includes payment issues, rate issues, etc.

Songfan is in fact the current president of VGM and Azman is the current vice president of VGM. Su Ling and Anand are members of VGM, which consists of around 160 members from different languages ​​and age groups.

“Each VO artist works as an individual, an independent artist. This means that when a customer does not pay, it is a person VS an institution / company, which is a power imbalance, ”Songfan explained of the importance of VGM.

“The existence of VGM allows all independent VO artists to have more power as a collective, which allows us to demand payment on time, in addition to preventing exploitation or intimidation.

And speaking of payment …

8. You might well win as a VO artist

Songfan has established that even though a VO artist is recognized for their talent, it still does not guarantee a constant flow of jobs. That being said, if you’re good with clients and the production team enjoys working with you and keeps calling you back, there’s a good chance you can make a good profit from this career.

Since its inception about 20 years ago, VGM has suggested minimum rates for the industry which have been called the industry standard. Here’s what the base rates look like for a VO artist’s work:

Advertising0-15 secondsRM300
Corporate videos and documentaries0 to 5 minutesRM700
Infomercials0 to 3 minutesRM700
Voice prompts, training modules, audiobook1st pageRM400
Demo, research and stealomaticsLess than 1 minuteRM300
Narration (television)24 minute episode1,000 RM
Store Ads0-30 secondsFlat rate RM300
Basic rates for the work of a VO artist

At the same time, VGM has also helped protect vocal talent (whether members or not) from being paid or underpaid. Some of the industry working conditions outlined to protect VO artists include payment for talent work within 90 days (including holidays and weekends), refusals that are only valid within 30 days. from the date of registration, etc.

9. The gaming industry is where the opportunities lie

We already have a lot of Malaysian animation, which usually requires VO artists. However, locally made games and their quality are also on the rise, and as this industry grows so does the market for VO artists.

At the same time, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) content is also increasing, providing artists with even more job opportunities.

10. Like in any other industry, you need to stay relevant

Staying relevant in the original version means keeping abreast of changing nuances in dubbing, the latest games and animations, as well as international commercials. These are just a few of the ways we can continue to grow in the industry.

Another important thing is also, as Azman rightly put it, that you have to “care about how the younger generation talks” because that can certainly help a VO artist a lot to land new roles.

11. AI voice generators could challenge the industry

VO artists are not exempt from the possibility of robots taking over their work, and in this case, they are AI voice generators. It would be a challenge if a VO artist’s voice shares a resemblance to these AI voices, but one way to do this is to constantly work on making your voice more distinct and creatively delivering it.

In other words, your work should have its own personal touch that is not at all reproducible by other VO artists or AI voice generators.

  • You can read more about Voice Guild Malaysia here.
  • You can read more lists than we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: Songfan Seah and Azman Zulkiply, President and Vice President of Voice Guild Malaysia

Our sincere thanks to
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