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What is Voice Acting?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 17, 2024
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Voice acting is the art of acting out character voices for animated films and television shows. Rather than merely providing a voice, a voice actor should develop his or her character just as other actors in the performing arts field do. Voice acting coaches recommend that those who want a career as a voice actor should begin by studying theater and taking regular acting classes to develop basic skills before gradually making a transition from stage acting to voice only acting.

Most voice actors in North America must live in Los Angeles, California, in order to get work in the field of voice acting. Agents must represent voice actors to voice casting companies and in order to get an agent, an aspiring voice actor must have a demo tape. A demo tape is a recorded demonstration of what a performing artist can do in terms of creative performance. After taking stage and voice acting lessons and learning how to become a good actor, aspiring voice actors should study cartoons and develop their own unique animated voices. Once the voices are perfected, the demo tape can be prepared.

It's important that a voice acting demo tape contains a wide range of unique voices. The characters should be involved in active situations since animated films and shows revolve mainly around physical rather than psychological action. Agents and voice casting companies are looking for voice actors who understand how to convey different emotions and attitudes in animated characters to give cartoons personality. The more different types of animated voices and action scenes a demo tape has, the more likely it is that an aspiring voice actor will be seen as having a useful talent and a vision for the industry. Of course, quantity is no substitute for quality – especially when the purpose of the demo tape is to showcase voice acting ability.

Unique talent and an ability to be versatile in creating voices for each different character usually results in more work being available to voice actors. Still, voice acting can be a difficult field to break in to. The Art of Voice Acting by James Alburger is a popular book that covers the voice acting profession from acting techniques to creating demo tapes to becoming a voice actor.

In addition to studying acting and working on voices in order to prepare a demo tape, aspiring voice actors should get any voice experience possible. Volunteering to make announcements to customers in retail stores is one possibility for getting some early experience. Interning at a local radio station to do voice-over work for commercials is another possibility, but polite perseverance to gain experience is necessary as competition for voice acting opportunities may be competitive.

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Discussion Comments
By Krunchyman — On May 08, 2014

After reading this article, I definitely respect voice actors more, as they put quite some work into their characters. For example, I watched the Lion King the other day, and I still think that Jeremy Irons nailed the voice of Scar perfectly. In my opinion, no one could have done it better.

By Viranty — On May 07, 2014

As the article indirectly states, one thing that people who do voice acting need to remember is that it's very similar to movie acting. However, the only difference is that people can't see your face.

Regardless, you still need to "animate" yourself and get into the character. That includes tone, body language, and mannerisms. In fact, did you know that a lot of animators animate their characters based on the personality and movements of the voice actor? That's an interesting tidbit.

By Chmander — On May 07, 2014

Has anyone ever heard of the voice actor Jim Cummings? You should do some research on him when you have time. It's absolutely amazing the range of voices he's done in his lifetime, and he's still continuing. From Darkwing Duck, to Tigger, to many other Disney characters, he was the embodiment of my childhood.

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