Glossary of Voice Acting Terms

Trying to get to know the voice over business? We’ve developed this glossary of voice acting terms to help send you on your way!

AFTRA: American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. A union for Radio and TV actors and voice actors.

Account: An advertiser, also referred to as a client.

Account executive: The person at the ad agency who serves as a liaison between the agency and the client.

ADR: Automated Dialogue Replacement in a film. A process where actors replace dialogue in a film or video. ADR or automated dialog replacement is simply the recording of dialog for a previously shot scene in television or film. ADR recording generally occurs in a professional studio setting during post production. Although originally ADR referred only to post-production dialog recorded to replace original dialog in a scene, it is now widely used for all dubbing, including previously unrecorded multi-language tracks and background conversations added in post production. ADR may or may not be provided by the original actors seen in the live action images.

Automated dialogue replacement or Additional dialogue recording (ADR) is a film sound technique involving the re-recording of dialogue after photography, also known as “looping” or a looping session.[1] In the UK it is called post-synchronization or post-sync. ADR is recorded during an ADR session. An actor, usually the original actor on set, is called to a sound studio equipped with video playback equipment and sound playback and recording equipment. The actor wears headphones and is shown the line of the film that must be replaced, and often he or she will be played the production sound recording. The film is then projected several times, and the actor attempts to re-perform the line while watching the image on the screen, while an ADR Recordist records the performances. Several takes are made, and based on the quality of the performance and sync, one is selected and edited by an ADR Editor for use in the film.

Ad lib: A spontaneous spoken addition or alteration to a written script. Ad lib from the Latin phrase ad libitum, meaning at one’s pleasure, is something improvised in speech, a spontaneous spoken addition or revision to the written script. Though some jobs may require improvisation at the client’s request, an unsolicited ad lib is seldom welcome.

Agent: A person or group of people who represent talent and bring them into their facility to audition, or arrange for an actor to audition for casting directors and producers.

Air: Also known as airtime, it’s the media time slotted for a commercial, hence on the air.

Air check: A recorded portion of a radio program for demonstration purposes. An air check is any recording of a broadcast radio program. Air checks are generally used for archiving or as a demonstration (demo) for on-air talent. Often these recordings are ‘telescoped’ or ‘scoped’ as it is commonly referred to, meaning that music and promotional elements are skipped over in favor of just the air talent’s portion of the program.

Ambience: The continuous SFX behind voice-over suggesting the monologue or dialogue in a specific setting, like a hospital, restaurant, retail store, gas station, etc.

Analog: The old way of processing and recording sound on tape. An information form that is represented by a continuous and smoothly varying amplitude or frequency changes over a certain range such as voice or music.

Animatic: A rough version of a TV spot, usually with storyboard images set to music and voice-over, for client presentation of a concept.

Announcement: A commercial or non-commercial message. Also referred to as a spot.

Announcer: The role assigned to a voice-actor that usually has non-character copy. Abbreviated as ANN or ANNC on scripts.

Articulation: Clear enunciation.

Attitude: How the character feels about a certain product, or how an actor comes across in general.

Audio: Transmission, reception or reproduction of sound.

Audiobook: An audio book is a recording of the contents of a book read aloud. It is usually distributed on compact discs (CDs), or digital formats (such as mp3). The term “audio book” had been synonymous with “books on tape” for roughly 20 years. Cassette tape sales now comprise only 5% of the audio book market, with CDs and digital downloads the dominant format types.

Unabridged audio books are word for word readings of a book, while abridged audio books have text edited out by the abridger. Audio books also come as fully dramatized versions of the printed book, sometimes calling upon a complete cast, music and sound effects.

Audition: A non-paying, trial performance for voice talent where voice-over copy is read. Usually takes place at an agent’s office, an ad agency, a casting director’s office, or a production company’s studio, and usually the best actor is selected for the final job usually. Sample created by an actor or performing artist. Used in casting processes to demonstrate the performer’s talent. It is considered to be the job interview for the performer. An example of it is the recording of a piece of audio containing a previously given script to display someone’s talent.

Availability: Literally, the time an actor is available for a session. Advertisers or producers will call an agent to find out about an actor’s availability.

Back bed: The instrumental end of a jingle, usually reserved for location, phone numbers, legal disclaimers, or any other information the advertiser needs to add.

Background: Known also as background noise, it’s what’s placed behind the voice-over. Mainly music or sound effects.

Balls: A deep, resonant sound.

Bandwidth: Also seen as BPS, it is the most common measurement for data transmission. It indicates the number of bits that can be transferred to or from a communications device in one second.

Bed: The music or SFX behind or under an announcer’s voice.

Billboard: The emphasis given to a certain word or phrase in a script. Usually, a rectangle, or billboard is drawn around the client name and/or product.

Bleed: Noise from the headphones being picked up by the microphone or from other ambient sources, like other tracks.

Board: The audio console from which the engineer operates. The audio engineer has faders that adjust the volume and mix the various elements in a Radio spot. Also known as a console.

booking: A decision and commitment on the advertiser’s part to hire you for a session. The client calls the actor or actor’s agent to book an actor for a job. Your agent would say, You have a booking at 1PM tomorrow. Booked, Book, or Booking, a term applying to the status of job auditioned for. ‘I am booked’, e.g. ‘I am hired for the voiceover job.’

Boom: An overhead mic stand.

Booth: An enclosed, soundproofed room where voice talent usually works.

Branching: Recording one part of a sentence with variables within that sentence as a means of customizing a response. Often recorded for multimedia games and voice mail systems. Also known as concatenation.

Break up: When vocal audio becomes distorted and unstable, usually caused by equipment problems or telephone line interference.

Broadcast or Broadcasting: Is the distribution of audio and/or video signals, which transmit programs to an audience. The audience may be the general public or a relatively large sub-audience, such as children or young adults. There is a wide variety of broadcasting systems, all of which have different capabilities. The smallest broadcasting systems are institutional public address systems, which transmit spoken messages and music within, for example, a school or hospital, and low-powered radio or television stations transmitting programs to a small local area.

Bump: Either to remove a person from a casting list, or as an additional amount of studio time in a session. Also known as a bumper.

Butt-cut: When sound files are placed together tightly, particularly for a V-O demo.

Button: A single scripted or improvised word, phrase or sentence at the end of a spot that clinches the commercial without introducing additional copy points. See sting.

Buy: As in That’s a buy. Also known as a keeper. It’s the take the client selects as the best. Buy also refers to the amount of money spent on the media time for a commercial spot or campaign.

Buy-out: A one-time fee paid for voice-over services on a commercial. Common in many non-union situations and industrials, as well as CD ROMs, dubbing, looping and A.D.R. work.

Byte: A unit of measurement of information storage, most often consisting of eight bits. In many computer architectures it is a unit of memory addressing

Cadence: How breaks are placed between words.

Call-back: A second shot at an audition. One step closer to booking the spot.

Call letters: The letters assigned to a Radio station by the FCC. Stations east of the Mississippi River have call letters starting with W, while stations that are west of the Mississippi have names starting with K.

Call time: The time scheduled for an audition.

Cans: Another word for headphones.

Casting: Casting (or casting call) is a vital pre-production process for selecting actors for a recorded performance. It sometimes involves a series of auditions before a casting panel, composed of individuals such as the producer and director.

Cattle call: An audition where hundreds of people try out for a part on a first-come-first-served basis.

CD-ROM: Compact Disc-Read Only Memory.

Character: The person an actor is cast as in a spot.

Class A: National network commercial usage.

Cold read: An audition where an actor is given little or no time to rehearse.

Color: Subtle speech nuances that give texture and shading to words to make them interesting and meaningful.

Commercial: Also referred to as a spot, it is a pre-recorded message which advertises a product or service. Sometimes abbreviated as COMML.

Compression: Reduces the dynamic range of an actor’s voice. Engineers apply compression to cut through background music and sound effects.

Conflict: Doing two commercials for the same kind of product. An agent will clarify with the client whether doing a specific spot would put an actor in conflict.

Console: A large desk-like piece of equipment where the audio engineer monitors, records and mixes a voice-over session.

Control room: Where the engineer and producer (and many times, the client) are located. This is usually a separate room from the booth.

Copy: Also known as the script. It’s the text of a spot. The copy, also known as the script, is the text to be read by the voice over talent. More commonly, it refers to the script for a commercial voice over for radio or television.

Copy points: The specific benefits of a product or service, placed throughout the script by the copywriter. The copy points are generally the branding terms or unique features of a product or service to be emphasized in a script for commercial voice over. Although copy points are generally chosen by the client or copywriter, a voiceover talent needs to be able to spot copy points in the script and may sometimes need to use his or her discretion on the level of emphasis for each copy point to provide the desired delivery. A client may request a natural delivery, but too many copy points can make it difficult to deliver a script in a natural or conversational way. Conversely, too few or no copy points, if they can be completely absent, can flatten the delivery and render the message indefinite or uncommunicative.

Corporate Presentation: It is a presentation meant to be shown in a company not to be broadcast, normally used to present innovative ideas, reports, or statuses to the clients or the company itself.

Creative Director: The person at the ad agency responsible for the work of all the other creatives.

Cross talk: When copy spoken into one actor’s microphone is picked up by another mic. The sound is said to spill over or bleed into the other actor’s mic.

Cue: An electronic or physical signal given to an actor to begin performing.

Cue up: Matching to time and speed, lining up an actor’s voice to the visuals or music.

Custom Demo: It is a personalized demo created using a specific script that allow the person who requested it hear something in particular that facilitates the decision of choosing the most appropriate voice for a project.

Cut: A specific segment of the voice-over recording, usually referred to during editing.

Cut and paste: The act of assembling different takes into a composite, edited whole.

Cutting through: When a voice slices through, or doesn’t get drowned out by music and sound effects.

DAT: An abbreviation for digital audiotape, high-quality audiotape used in sound studios.

Dead air: When a voice-over pause is too long.

Decibel: A unit for measuring the intensity of sound. 0 would be no sound, 130 would cause acute aural pain.

De-esser: A piece of equipment used to remove excess sibilance.

Demo: A demonstration of an actor’s voice talent. A 3-D calling card, representing the actor when they cannot be present physically. Also, a format used by ad agencies to present an idea to a client. An actor is paid a demo rate to perform a demo session. These demos are usually not broadcast, but if they are accepted as is, the demo is upgraded to a session fee.

Demographics: The components that describe the target audience. This is done by age, sex, income, education, etc.

Dialogue: A script calling for two people talking to each other.

Digital recording: A process where sound is converted into numbers and stored on a DAT or computer hard drive.

Director: The person responsible for giving an actor voice-over direction in an audition, session or class.

Distortion: Fuzziness in the sound quality of a recorded piece.

Donut: A section of a spot that will usually feature another voice, usually an announcer. Many times it’s the section of a jingle that showcases an announcement.

Double: A term for a two-person spot, or dialogue.

Drive time: The most frequently listened to times on the Radio. Morning drive refers to the hours between 6AM and 10AM, evening drive refers to the slot between 3PM and 7PM.

Drop off: Not ending strong at the end of a word or phrase.

Drop out: A minute moment of silence inside a recorded word or phrase.

Dry mouth: A condition where your mouth has little or no saliva.

Dry Read: A narrative read of any length that usually contains the voice of one person and is delivered by some means other than ISDN. Typically the file is recorded, edited and delivered as a Monophonic file. No musical bed or background sound effects are added.

Dub: Also called a dupe (as in duplicate), it’s copy of a spot or spots on cassette, DAT or CD. The verb to dub, or dubbing is the process of transferring recorded material from one source to another.

Dubbing: is the process of recording or replacing voices for a motion picture. The term is most commonly used in reference to voices recorded which do not belong to the original actors and speak in a different language than the actor is speaking. “Dubbing” can also be used to describe the process of re-recording lines by the actor who originally spoke them. This process is technically known as automated dialogue replacement, or ADR. This dubbing is the process of dialogue replacement in a foreign film, as in dubbing a French voice into English.

Earphones: Also known as cans, headphones or headsets. Worn during the session to hear your own voice as well as cues and directions from the engineer or producer. Also used to converse with the client during an ISDN or phone-patch session.

Echo: A repetition of sound.

Editing: The removal, addition or re-arrangement of recorded material. Voice elements can be spread apart, slowed down, speeded up, clipped, eliminated, etc. to achieve the final take.

EFX: Effects. Another term for SFX.

eEllipsis: Three periods in a row that usually signify a pause.

Engineer: The person who operates the audio equipment during the voice-over session.

Equalization: Also known as EQ, it is used to stress certain frequencies, which can alter the sound of a voice.

Eye-brain-mouth coordination: What every good voice actor has to have. It is the ability to lift the words off a page effortlessly, without omitting, adding or stumbling.

FCC: The Federal Communications Commission. Created in 1944 to regulate all interstate and foreign communications by Radio and TV.

FTP: Aka: File Transfer Protocol, method or protocol by which data is sent to public folder that can be accessed from two computers on the Internet.

Fade: To increase or decrease the volume of sound.

Fade in/fade out: When you turn your head away from the mic or towards it.

False start: Situation where a talent makes a mistake within the first line or two of copy. The take is usually stopped and sometimes re-slated.

Feedback: A distorted, high pitched sound, usually emanating from headphones or speakers. Many times caused by problems with the console or headphones getting too close to the microphone.

Filter: What engineers put on a mic to make an actor sound clearer.

Fish-bowl effect: When the actor in the booth cannot hear what the engineer or producer is saying, or vice-versa.

Fluctuation: How often a voice goes up or down, also known as inflection.

Foley: Also known in the business as a Foley Stage, this is a special sound stage used for source sound effects. Used to record up-close sound effects for film or video, where the Foley artists match sound with picture, such as walking, running, doors opening or closing, glass breaking, shots firing, etc.

Franchised: Term applied to talent agents who adopt SAG/AFTRA guidelines.

Front bed: The opposite of the back bed, where the announce is at the beginning of a jingle.

Gain: The volume of a voice, or a fader on the console.

Gig: A job. A sig gig is a union job.

Gobos: Portable partitions positioned around the actor to absorb or reflect sound, or to isolate the actor from another on-mic actor.

Good pipes: Description of a talent with vocal strength, authority and resonance.

Go up for: To audition or to be considered for a job. I’m up for a Ford national, means that an actor is in contention for a national network commercial for Ford.

Hard sell: Approach used for high volume retail clients. One producer refers to hard sell as: I’ll stop shouting when you start buying!

Harmonizer: Also referred to as a Munchkiniser, it’s a piece of equipment designed to change the pitch of the voice, usually upward.

Headset: A set of headphones. See cans.

High speed dub: A copy of a tape or CD made at several times normal speed.

Highs: The high frequency sound of a voice.

Hold: When a potential client likes an audition enough to hold some of an actor’s time for a possible booking–a step before the booking. Usually the client is deciding between a couple of voice-acting candidates and wants to cover their bets.

Holding fee: The money an actor receives if the client wants to hold a spot for airing at a later date.

Home recording: Means recording at home rather than in a professional studio. It has lately become more popular due to the increase of affordable digital and analog recording equipment. One can have one’s own semi-professional recording studio, depending on the quality and extent of their equipment, in the comfort of one’s own home as opposed to paying a larger studio by the hour for their services. Home recording may include (or be completely performed upon) a personal computer (PC), which allows for upgrade prospects and high-definition, studio-grade and digital recording mixing. It has grown so much in the past few years that some professional recording studios are turning to utilizing personal computers, ADAT or DAT systems (or the very popular Digidesign tools available on the market), Multitrack Recorders, vocal booths, and various instruments either acoustic or synthesized as opposed to the traditional console setup. For a small amount of money, the proper recording equipment, and sound-proofed settings, basically anyone can have their own recording studio without ever having to walk out the front door. To process home recording, the minimal setup requires an audio interface, microphone and recording software. Many manufacturers support audio devices for any kind of want, e.g. special devices for recording vocals or guitars.

Home Studio: A small, personal recording studio is sometimes called a project studio or home studio. Such studios often cater to specific needs of an individual artist, or are used as a non-commercial hobby. The first modern project studios came into being during the late 1980s, with the advent of affordable multitrack recorders, synthesizers and microphones. The phenomenon has flourished with falling prices of personal computers, as well as inexpensive digital hard-disk recording products.

Most independent voiceover artists use their own home studios on a regular basis, both for personal and commercial recording. Some voiceover artists implement ISDN hardware and software into their studios, to facilitate real-time remote recording of broadcast-quality audio.

Hook: Starting out on a high note on the first word of a spot to grab attention and immediately dipping down. Also used to describe the chorus section of a song.

Hot: Term used to describe a mic that’s on; also, if a voice recording level is bleeding into the red or distorted area of the spectrum.

House demo: An agency’s demo, the condensed version (each actor has only a one minute demo) of their roster of male and female talent.

In-house: A production produced for the client in the client’s own facilities.

In the can: A phrase connoting that a part of the copy or the entire spot is acceptable and done.

inflection: The raising or lowering of voice pitch, a way of reinforcing the meaning of a word by changing the way it is said. See also fluctuation.

ISDN: ‘ISDN’ is an acronym for ‘Integrated Services Digital Network’. Integrated Services Digital Network is a telephone system network. The key feature of the ISDN is that it integrates speech and data on the same lines, adding features that are not available in regular telephone systems.  Special high-quality lines that allow voice recording to be digitally transmitted from one recording facility to another. There are several kinds of access interfaces to the ISDN defined:

Basic Rate Interface (BRI)
Primary Rate Interface (PRI)
Broadband-ISDN (B-ISDN)

ISDN is a circuit-switched telephone network system, that also provides access to packet switched networks, designed to allow digital transmission of voice and data over ordinary telephone copper wires, resulting in better voice quality than an analog phone. It offers circuit-switched connections (for either voice or data), and packet-switched connections (for data), in increments of 64 kbit/s.

Another major market application is Internet access, where ISDN typically provides a maximum of 128 kbit/s in both upstream and downstream directions (which can be considered to be broadband speed, since it exceeds the narrowband speeds of standard analog 56k telephone lines). ISDN B-channels can be bonded to achieve a greater data rate, typically 3 or 4 BRIs (6 to 8 64 kbit/s channels) are bonded.

ISDN should not be mistaken for its use with a specific protocol, such as Q.931 whereby ISDN is employed as the network, data-link and physical layers in the context of the OSI model. In a broad sense ISDN can be considered a suite of digital services existing on layers 1, 2, and 3 of the OSI model. ISDN is designed to provide access to voice and data services simultaneously.

However, common use has reduced ISDN to be limited to Q.931 and related protocols, which are a set of protocols for establishing and breaking circuit switched connections, and for advanced call features for the user. They were introduced in 1986.[1]

In a videoconference, ISDN provides simultaneous voice, video, and text transmission between individual desktop videoconferencing systems and group (room) videoconferencing systems.

IVR: In telephony, interactive voice response, or IVR, is a phone technology that allows a computer to detect voice and touch tones using a normal phone call. The IVR system can respond with pre-recorded or dynamically generated audio to further direct callers on how to proceed. IVR systems can be used to control almost any function where the interface can be broken down into a series of simple menu choices. Once constructed IVR systems generally scale well to handle large call volumes.

Jack: Socket connector made for the insertion of a plug, commonly used for audio devices, such as, connecting your headphones to your audio equipment.

Jitter: Applied to VoIP is a variation in packet transit delay. The causes of jitter are typically queuing, contention and serialization effects on the path through the network. i.e. many websites opened at once. Faster, higher bandwidth networks tend to have less jitter whereas slower networks tend to have more congestion and more jitter.

Jingle: A musical commercial.

KBPS: aka. kilobit (or byte) per second (kbps) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to 1,000 bits per second.

LAN: Local area network, computer network covering a small geographic area, like a home, office, or group of buildings e.g. a school. The defining characteristics of LANs include their much higher data-transfer rates, smaller geographic range, and lack of a need for leased telecommunication lines.

Laundry list: A string of copy points–adjectives or prices and items in the copy. Sometimes a list of benefits of the product or service. The object for the talent is to read them with various emphasis so they don’t sound like a list.

Lay it down: Another phrase meaning, “let’s record.”

Lay out: Don’t speak, as in Lay out while the music plays in this section.

Level: To set a voice at the optimal point. When the engineer says, Let’s get a level, the actor will start reading the copy at the level they’ll be speaking throughout the spot.

Library music: Pre-recorded music that producers use when the budget doesn’t allow original music. Each piece of music requires a fee to be paid, usually on an annual basis.

Lines: The copy that’s read by the voice talent. To run lines is to rehearse a dialogue with another actor.

Line level: Term used to denote the strength of an audio signal used to transmit analog sound information between audio components such as CD and DVD players, TVs, audio amplifiers, and mixing consoles, and sometimes MP3 players.

Line reading: When a producer explains to a voice talent how they want a line read by reading it themselves.

Live mic: The mic is on and can pick up everything said in the booth. That means everyone in the control room. See hot.

Live tag: The copy delivered at the end of a spot, usually by a staff announcer at the Radio station.

Local: Refers to the union in a particular locale. Usually accompanied by a number, i.e., AFTRA Local 47.

Looping: The older technology of recording background sound effects and noises for TV or film. Done in post-production after the show is recorded. A type of voiceover by which a group of individual voice actors record the audio of a scene in a movie or TV show. The talents watch a previously recorded video, and are assigned to a person or group of people, and must mimic or record whenever the person on screen talks.

Lows: The low frequency of a voice.

Major markets: Refers to the Big Three: New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. These markets pay the most in voice-over work.

Marking copy: Placing different marks above, below, around, in between and circling words on a script. Best done in pencil, because direction or emphasis may change.

Master: The original recording that all dubs are made from.

Mic: A common form of the word mike, as in microphone. A microphone, sometimes referred to as a mike or mic, is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound into an electrical signal.

Microphone Preamp: (Microphone pre-amplifier) device used to amplify the voltage taken from a microphone to a higher, more usable level. Most microphones must be used in conjunction with a microphone preamp to function properly.

Milking: Stretching words out and giving them as much emphasis as possible, as in Milk it.

Mix: The blending of voice, sound effects, music, etc. Final mix usually refers to the finished product.

Mixing Board: An electronic device for combining (“mixing”), routing, and changing the level, timbre and/or dynamics of audio signals. A mixer can mix analog or digital signals, depending on the type of mixer. The modified signals (voltages or digital samples) are summed to produce the combined output signals.

Modulation: The process of varying a periodic waveform, i.e. a tone, in order to use that signal to convey a message, in a similar fashion as a musician may modulate the tone from a musical instrument by varying its volume, timing and pitch. Normally a high-frequency sinusoid waveform is used as carrier signal. The three key parameters of a sine wave are its amplitude (“volume”), its phase (“timing”) and its frequency (“pitch”), all of which can be modified in accordance with a low frequency information signal to obtain the modulated signal.

Monitors: The loudspeakers in the control room.

Monologue: One-person copy. Also referred to as a single.

Mouth noise: The clicks and pops a microphone picks up from a dry mouth.

MP3: The name of the file extension and also the name of the type of file for MPEG, audio layer 3. Layer 3 is one of three coding schemes (layer 1, layer 2 and layer 3) for the compression of audio signals. Layer 3 uses perceptual audio coding and psycho acoustic compression to remove all superfluous information (more specifically, the redundant and irrelevant parts of a sound signal. The stuff the human ear doesn’t hear anyway. The result in real terms is layer 3 shrinks the original sound data from a CD (with a bit rate of 1411.2 kilobits per one second of stereo music) by a factor of 12 (down to 112-128kbps) without sacrificing sound quality.

Multiple: Refers to script with three or more characters in it.

Multitrack: A machine capable of recording and replaying several different tracks at the same time.

Music bed: The soundtrack that will be placed behind the copy, or mixed in with it.

Narrator: A narrator is, within any story (literary work, movie, play, verbal account, etc.), an entity that tells the story to the audience. It is one of three entities responsible for story-telling of any kind. The others are the author and the audience (usually called the “reader,” when referring specifically to literature). The author and the audience both inhabit the real world. It is the author’s function to create the universe, people, and events within the story. It is the audience’s function to understand and interpret the story. The narrator exists within the world of the story (and only there—although in non-fiction the narrator and the author can share the same persona, since the real world and the world of the story may be the same) and present it in a way the audience can comprehend.

Niche Market: A focused portion of a market.

A business that focuses on a niche market is addressing a need for a product or service that is not being addressed by mainstream providers. A niche market may be thought of as a narrowly defined group of potential customers.

A distinct niche market usually evolves when a potential demand for a product or service is not met by any supply, or when a new demand arises due to changes in society, technology, or the general environment.

Niche market ventures may become profitable even though they are by nature small in comparison to the mainstream marketplace, due to the benefits of specialization and focus on small identifiable market segments; even without the benefit of economy of scale. Niche markets may be ignored or discounted by large businesses due to what they consider to be small potential; this in turn is part of the process that makes the niche market available to smaller businesses. The key to capitalizing on a niche market is to find or develop a market niche that has customers who are accessible, that is growing fast enough, and that is not owned by one established vendor already.

non-union: A voice-over job that is paid off the books, under the table, not through the union. A non-union shop is one that is not a signatory to SAG or AFTRA.

Off-camera: A part where an actor supplies only their voice to a TV spot or video presentation.

On mic/off mic: Either speaking or not speaking directly into the microphone. An actor is always on mic when recording, unless shouting, and then turns his head slightly to speak off mic.

Outtake: A previous take that hasn’t been approved and accepted.

Overlapping: When an actor starts his or her line a moment before another actor finishes theirs.

Over scale: Any amount paid over the minimum wage set by AFTRA or SAG.

Over-the-top: Direction that makes the copy sound larger than life, requiring the actor to overact.

Pace: The speed in which an actor reads copy.

Paper noise: Sound that the mic picks up as you move your script. Set it on the mic stand and leave it alone. If you have two pieces of copy and no stand, hold one page in each hand. If you have more than two pages, you may stop, place the next page in front of you, and continue. The engineer will accommodate you, as they don’t want to have to edit out paper noise.

Patch: To make an electrical/digital connection for recording and/or broadcast. Also referred to as a phone patch or land patch.

Paymaster: A payroll service that handles talent payments for the producer.

Phasing: When sound reflects or bounces of certain surfaces and causes a weird, disjointed effect in the recording.

Phonemes: The small units of sound used to make words.

Phones: A short word for headphones.

Pick-up: Re-recording a section of copy at a certain point. 90% of your read may be a in the can, but there may be a phrase, sentence or paragraph that the director feels could be done a bit better, clearer, faster, slower, etc. The director tells you exactly where they want you to pick-up your line(s), where to start from and where to end at. Read a sentence or phrase before the pick-up starting point, as well as the ending point. This is done to help the engineer better edit the pick-up, matching phrasing and levels.

Pick-up session: An additional session to complete the original. There may be copy changes or character changes in a spot before it finally airs. This is usually due to the client changing their mind before they commit the spot to air.

Pitch: The vocal level at which a person speaks.

Placement: Where the mic is positioned when an actor is reading.

Playback: Listening to what has just been recorded.

Plosive: Any consonant or combination of consonants that causes popping.

Plus ten: Refers to the contractual agreement in which the producer agrees to add an additional 10% to the actor’s payment for the agent’s commission.

Pop: When voice sounds are registering too hard into the mic. Usually caused by plosives.

Pop filter: A foam cover enveloping the mic or a nylon windscreen in front of the mic. Mitigates popping. Also known as a pop stopper. Aka: Gooseneck… A small piece of fabric placed in front of a microphone to block plosives from creating an air burst or ‘pop’ in the recording.

post-production: Also known as post. The work done after the voice-talent has finished recording the session. This includes mixing in SFX and music. Post-production occurs in the making of motion pictures, television programs, videos, audio recordings, photography and digital art. It is the general term for all stages of production occurring after the actual end of shooting and/or recording the completed work. Typically, the post-production phase takes longer than the actual shooting or recording.

Preamplifier: Aka: control amp in some parts of the world, is an electronic amplifier which precedes another amplifier
to prepare an electronic signal for further amplification or processing. The preamplifier circuitry may or may not be housed as a separate component.

Pre-life/pre-scene: The previous history an actor invents for his character.

Producer: The person in charge of the voice-over session. Many times the producer is also the director.

Promo: A promotional commercial spot used by TV and Radio stations specifically to increase audience awareness of upcoming programming.

Protection: Also known as insurance, this is an additional take requested by the producer to insure that they have a back-up of a take they like. Usually phrased as, One more for protection.

PSA: Public Service Announcement. Commercials produced to raise awareness of current issues, such as smoking, drug abuse, pollution, pregnancy, etc.

Punch: Reading a word or line with more intensity.

Punch in: Sometimes referred to as a pick-up, it’s the rejoining or continuation of a piece of copy. The engineer will punch in a pick-up at a certain point in the copy, to help with editing later on.

Read: The style of reading an actor presents as a voice talent, or your performance, as in That was a good read.

Real-time: An event that takes as long as it actually takes, as opposed to high-speed.

Released: Being dropped from consideration from a voice-over job. It’s one of two results from being on hold.

Residuals: Continuing payments an actor receives every 13-weeks their spot airs. Also referred to as 13 weeks per spot per cycle.

Resonance: The full quality of a voice created by vibrations in resonating chambers, such as the mouth and sinus areas.

Re-use: What actors are paid when their spot is re-run. It is usually the same amount they received for the first 13-week cycle.

Reverb: A variation of echo. It’s an effect added to your voice in post.

Room tone: The sound a room makes without anyone in it.

Rough mix: The step before the final mix. This is when the producer and engineer fine-tune levels of voice, music and sound effects.

Run-through: Rehearsing the copy before recording. Like a dress rehearsal.

SAG: Screen Actors’ Guild. The union for film actors and performers.

Safety: This is a re-take that the producer or client wants to make sure that if there’s something technically wrong with the take they like, they have a back up. Let’s do one more for safety, is a common phrase. See protection.

S.A.S.E.: Self-addressed stamped envelope. Sometimes needed when submitting a CD demo to an agent.

SFX: Shorthand for sound effects. Also seen as EFX.

Scale: The minimum, established wages set by SAG and AFTRA for working talent. Double scale or triple scale refers to these wages times 2 or 3.

Scale plus 10: Refers to the extra 10% paid to the actor’s agent on a job.

Scratch track: A rough audio or video track that a production company or ad agency may put together for an actor to read to. See animatic.

Series of three: Term used to describe a set of wild lines to be recorded, done in a set of three. Each read should be varied slightly.

Session: The event where a talent performs a script for recording purposes.

Session fee: Payment for the first commercial within the session. If an actor does two spots, they get a session fee plus payment for the other spot. If the same actor does a tag, they get a separate tag fee. And if they record only two tags, they get paid session plus one tag.

Shave: To pare down your read, as in, Can you shave three seconds off that read?

Sibilance: A drawn out or excessive “S” sound during speech. Some sibilance is joined with a whistle. This is a very annoying sound, which some engineers mitigate with a sound tool called a de-esser.

Sides: Commercial scripts for video, where the action is in the left column, the dialogue on the right, or animation.

Signatory: Someone (usually a producer or ad agency) who has signed a contract with SAG or AFTRA stating that they will only work on union jobs and promise to pay talent union scale.

Signature: The specific quality of a voice that makes it unique.

Single: Also known as a monologue, or one-person copy.

Slate: Slating is simply saying your name at the beginning of an audition recording. There are different ways you can slate, however, the basic slate is simply stating your name at the beginning of the file, and usually paired with the character or role the actor is playing. The slate helps a director identify and keep track of the actors and the various takes.

Sound Effects: Sound effects or audio effects are artificially created or enhanced sounds, or sound processes used to emphasize artistic or other content of films, television shows, live performance, animation, video games, music, or other media.

In motion picture and television production, a sound effect is a sound recorded and presented to make a specific storytelling or creative point without the use of dialogue or music. The term often refers to a process applied to a recording, without necessarily referring to the recording itself.

Spec: Short for Specifications, these are the directives given for a particular script, ideas as to how the client would like the commercial to be read, and will accompany the script, often on the same page, but sometimes as a separate page.

Spec can also mean: Volunteering your services and postponing payment until a project sells. The popular definition is working for nothing now on the promise of getting more than you deserve later on.

Spokesperson: Also referred to as spokes. A voice actor who is hired on a repeat contractual basis to represent a product or company.

Spot: A commercial. Originated from the days when all commercials were performed live, in between songs played on the radio. The performers were on the spot.”

Stair stepping: Having the pitch progressively rise up or down as a means of defining phrases. This technique is especially effective when reading laundry lists.

Stand: Where copy is placed in the booth.

Station I.D.: A short sound bite where the call letters of a radio station are announced or sung.

Steps: Increasing the energy on a long list of adjectives or superlatives.

Storyboard: The art director’s and copywriter’s conception of a TV spot, drawn on a large board for presentation to a client. The talent gets to see what the on-camera actors are doing in the spot. See animatic.

Studio: The facility where all recording and mixing for a commercial takes place.

Sweeps: The TV and Radio ratings periods when the total viewing or listening audience is estimated, thereby determining advertising rates. These occur in February, May and November.

Sync: Matching a voice from a previous take. Also refers to aligning tracks to start or end together.

Taft-Hartley: This labor law protects an actor from having to join the union for their first job. She has to join AFTRA if she’s hired for another union job within 30 days.

Tag: Information placed at the end of a commercial containing a date, time, phone number, website address, legal disclaimer, etc. A different announcer sometimes reads the tag. A tag is a keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching.

Take: The recording of one specific piece of voice-over copy. All takes are numbered consecutively, usually slated by the engineer.

Talent: A broadcast performer, entertainer or voice-over artist.

Talkback: Refers to the button connected to the microphone in the engineer’s console. It allows the engineer or director to talk to the talent in the booth.

Tease: The introductory line used to promote interest. Promos are sometimes referred to as teasers.

Tempo: The speed at which copy is delivered.

Three-in-a-row: Term used when one is asked to read the script three different ways on one take, with the intent of picking up a new reading each time.

Tight: Not a lot of time to read, or referring to a script that has a lot of words and not much time to say them in, e.g., This is a really tight :60.

Time: Literally, the length of a spot. Most Radio and TV spots time in at :15, :30 or :60.

Time code: A digital read-out on the engineer’s console referring to audiotape, videotape positions. Used in film dubbing.

Tone: A specific sound or attitude.

Track: Either to record, or the actual audio piece. We’re ready to track, as opposed to Listen to this track.

Trailer: A commercial that promotes a film or video release.

Undercutting: Dipping down in a sentence and throwing a portion of it away.

Units: The number assigned by AFTRA and SAG to cities throughout the U.S. Each city varies in their amount of unit value by their population. This directly affects the amount of money an actor receives in residuals.

Use fee: An additional fee paid to the performer when their spot is actually aired.

Value added: Refers to words in a script that give the impression you’re getting more than you paid for. Plus, free, new, improved and extra are examples.

Voice print: The vocal equivalent of fingerprints. Can be seen on the monitor of any computer using a ProTools or similar sound tool.

V-O: Short for voice-over. Also seen as AVO (announcer voice-over). It’s the act of providing a voice to a media project, where the voice is usually mixed over the top of music and SFX. Voice-over was the term originally used to describe an announcer’s voice on a television spot, referring to the process as voice over picture. The more accurate term now is voice acting, which is the art of using the voice to bring life to written words.

Voice Over Coach: A teacher who specializes in the improvement of voiceover skills in students but who also may teach other subjects or areas. Many people purport that, ideally, this teacher should have experiences as a voiceover talent, but this may not be the case, for instance, as some coaches (many, of substantial reputations worldwide today) have extensive experience as copywriters, booking agents, radio or television on-air announcers, casting directors, audio producers, film producers, television producers, audio recording engineers, audio recording studio owners, advertising agency professionals, or theatrical or film acting coaches.

Some voiceover coaches are credentialed (degreed by a college or university) often, in the areas of speech, communications, vocal pedagogy, educational subjects, singing, or other areas. This may (or may not) impact the teacher’s abilities and skills as a voiceover teacher. It is always wise, however, to inquire about a teacher’s background and experiences. One of the areas in college that usually does impact a person’s ability to teach is having studied pedagogical methods such as classroom teaching skills, understanding the learner, adult education techniques, practical teaching skills, and similar subjects.

A knowledge, to some degree, of the anatomy of the human voice, how humans produce speech, the speech organs, and even voice and speech dysfunctions is a decided “plus” in a voiceover coach. Additionally, a voiceover coach with knowledge acquired through study of the principles of human speech production could be valuable to students in improving vocal tone, articulatory prowess, and other speech necessities of the voiceover talent. The teacher might also be equipped, through study, to identify vocal dysfunctions or problems best addressed by a physician skilled in malfunctions or diseases of the human voice.A voice and speech therapist, or a teacher who has studied this area, but who has not become licensed by a state or governing body as a therapist, can be most helpful to voiceover students in this regard.

A teacher skilled in theatre or drama techniques can be most useful to students of voiceover in the area of “voice acting.” That is, portraying characters of various types as a voiceover performer, performing accents or dialects, and similar jobs. A teacher experienced in on-air radio or television announcing can be useful to voiceover students seeking announcer skills.

Voice Over Talent: A person who sells his or her voice as a product to be used with other media either as a disembodied voice or dubbed with a live action or animated body. A voiceover talent may or may not have a particularly pleasant voice, but has the consistent ability to use his or her voice to achieve a desired effect, at times incorporating different dialects, accents, characters, or emotions to communicate a particular message or evoke a particular feeling. A voiceover talent may also be referred to as a voice over talent, talent, voice talent, voice actor or voice over artist, and less accurately as a narrator or announcer.

Voice Seeker: Someone who is looking for a voice talent or voice producer.

Voiceover Hangover: Term for someone who is worried about their past voiceover auditions and how they did, to the point where it becomes physically and emotionally draining.

VU meter: A meter on the engineer’s console that indicates the level of sound passing through the board.

Walla: The sound of many voices talking at once, used as background sounds for a party or restaurant. Originally, it was thought that saying the words walla walla over and over again in the background would simulate good sound ambiance for a crowded scene, but the prevailing view now is that actors doing walla should converse in the way they would normally do so in that situation.

Watermark: A means to render an audition file unusable. For audio files watermarks will be tones or other background sound mixed into the finished audition file.

Wet: A voice or sound with reverb added to it.

Wild line: A single line from a script that is reread several times in succession until the perfect read is achieved. It’s considered wild because it is read separately from the entire script. Often performed in a series of three, where the actor reads the line three times in a row without interruption. Each line is read slightly differently, unless otherwise directed.

Wild spot: A flat fee for a spot that airs for an indeterminate number of times within a 13-week cycle. Can be local, regional or national.

Windscreen: A pop filter, or pop stopper.

Woodshed: To rehearse or practice reading copy out loud. From the old days of theater where actors would have to rehearse in a woodshed before going out to perform.

Wrap: The end, as in That’s a wrap.

Adapted and compiled from the following sources:

  • Wikipedia
  • James Alburger, The Art of Voice-Acting
  • Susan Blu & Molly Ann Mullin, Word of Mouth
  • Terri Apple, Making Money in Voice-Overs
  • Alice Whitfield, Take It From The Top
  • Sandy Thomas, So You Want To Be A Voice-Over Star;
  • Terry Berland & Deborah Ouellette, Breaking Into Commercials
  • Chris Douthitt & Tom Wiecks, Putting Your Mouth Where The Money Is
  • Chuck Jones, Making Your Voice Heard
  • Bernard Graham Shaw, Voice Overs: A Practical Guide
  • Elaine A. Clark, There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is