Local companies key in growing voice acting industry
Photo courtesy of Voice Coaches -- Mike Spring, vice president of communications for Voice Coaches, works a voice over session. Voice Coaches will host an informational workshop on the voice over industry Jan. 28 at Carpenter Recreation Center.
The voice over industry has changed a lot in the last 10 years.
Work, traditionally bound to large cities, has increasingly moved to smaller communities. Home recording technology has allowed talent to work out of their houses, and the expansion of video production has broadened the traditionally advertising-oriented field.
"Twenty years ago, I could have come there and talked about the voice over field, but there wouldn't be much opportunity," said David Bourgeois, president and creative director of Voice Coaches, an Albany-based production studio that regularly holds voice acting seminars across the country. "Today, there is a great deal of opportunity."
While the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of voice acting is television and radio commercials, 90 percent of the voice over field now consists of "narrative" voice overs, including audio books, training and educational material, television documentaries and video games, Bourgeois said.
"Commercials are out there. They're a lot of fun," he said. "But the growth has really been on the narrative side of the field."
One local company that specializes in voice overs is Richardson-based Okratron 5000, which provides music and dialogue for top-selling video games such as Guitar Hero: World Tour and the recent critical smash Borderlands 2, the latter of which was developed by Plano-based Gearbox Software.
"Dallas is easily in the top three places to work as a voice actor, alongside New York and Los Angeles, but it wasn't always that way," said Christopher Sabat, voice and studio director for Okratron 5000. "Ten years ago, the assumption was that you had to go to California to get quality voice talent on your games or cartoons, and because of that, many actors left Dallas for Los Angeles to find work. But over the years, local companies ... have remained loyal to using local talent instead of outsourcing the VO to West Coast companies. This has created a massive pool of experienced, fantastic Dallas-based voice actors who can compete in every way with Hollywood."
While Sabat admits it is difficult to break into the industry, he said the market has seen incredible growth in recent years.
"We now have thousands of TV channels and infinite websites that need content, and video game systems have become complex, able to handle far more music, sound effects and, of course, voice than they ever have," he said. "Major video game budgets are now matching major Hollywood movie budgets and players expect 40-hour long stories, so the business of voice over is very healthy."
While working on video games on such a large scale is usually a job for the most experienced voice actors, Bourgeois said the seminar will answer many questions those curious about the field have, including the pros and cons of the field, how to piece together a demo and how to look for work opportunities.
"This class is designed as an upbeat, realistic introduction to the world of voice overs," he said. "It's not a class that will make someone a voice [actor]. It's a class that will teach somebody what the field is, what it isn't, where the opportunities are, all of the wonderful things about the field, and some things people may find as roadblocks in the field."
A Voice Coaches "Making Money with Your Voice" seminar will be hosted at Carpenter Recreation Center, 6701 Coit Road, at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 28. Attendance is $15. The program is capped at 25 participants. To register, call the Plano Parks and Recreation Department at 972-941-7250.