Voice Acting hopefuls take the plunge during an organized day trip to Medialocate. Do they have what it takes? BY ANA ISABEL BELTRAN AND NOEMI GONZALEZ

Voiceover artists, those disembodied voices we hear in audio books, commercials and public announcements can conjure laughter, relief, mystery, awe, respect and sadness. In audio books, voiceover artists may make imaginations soar. In commercials, they may sway a consumer’s perception on a bank’s trustworthiness, an insurance company’s reliability or an automobile’s safety. What about movies? → continue reading


Maya discusses voice care and demonstrates proper techniques for effective voice-over.

A premier voice-over talent provides practical wisdom for enhancing professional opportunities in the voice-over marketplace. BY BRENDAN RILEY

On September 24, 2011, some twenty translators, interpreters, and voice-over talents gathered at the SFSU downtown campus for a lively day-long workshop led by Maya León Meis, entitled Using Your Voice to Make Money.

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In part II of this series exploring the voice-over industry, the author “goes local” and interviews two Bay Area producers and localization directors. BY INGEBORG WEINMANN WHITE
David Sweet-Cordero, sole proprietor of InterCultura Multilingual Media and Charles Xavier, Director of Localization at Polarity Post, both San Francisco companies, shared their thoughts with me about the foreign language voice- over industry. I have worked with both of them over the years as translator, voice talent, and director.
InterCultura Multilingual Media offers multi-language services in an all-in-one package. If a company needs to localize their video or website flash presentation in several different languages, if they require translation, voice-over or subtitles, all properly localized for the required foreign language market, InterCultura will handle the whole project and all the elements involved from start to finish. It is certainly an ambitious goal to offer a service like this, acknowledges Sweet-Cordero, who started his own multi-lingual business ten years ago. At the time no one else in the Bay Area was offering a similar service.
“Sometimes a translation agency will break into voice-over without any knowledge or infrastructure; or an audio recording studio decides they want to break into the multi-lingual market but they don’t really have the knowledge and experience either. Because I was a translator, interpreter, voice-talent and also a video producer I brought all those things together. There is really no one around who does exactly what InterCultura does.”
Over the years, Sweet-Cordero has developed a pool of voice-talents and translators. I asked him how easy it is to find good foreign language talent in the Bay Area and what talents can do to gain skills and break into the industry.
“There are less than a handful of male Latin American Spanish voice talents. I myself and one other guy are the main and most experienced talents; then there are a few other Spanish speaking guys, who either have a heavy regional accent or are inexperienced.”
Compared to Los Angeles, he explains, which is really the hub of the industry, there are only a few professional and experienced foreign voice talents in the Bay Area. This is due to a lack of training and information. Many people don’t know how to assess their own skills and will do auditions or record samples despite the fact that they don’t read well, have a regional accent or don’t know how to pace themselves, work with rhythm, inflection or different qualities in their voice.
He recommends that potential talents get training, work or apprentice with experienced colleagues, take voice-over classes, even in English, and apply what they have learned to their own language. There is more to producing a foreign voice-over than merely hiring a native speaker.
Other recommendations from Sweet-Cordero include developing a presence on the Internet and, later, if you are successful in getting a large contract, even getting an agent.
With respect to the kind of markets that are out there for voice over-talents and the most-in-demand languages, Sweet-Cordero noted that there are the projects directed at immigrants in Cantonese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian and Russian. Usually these projects include some kind of instruction or information.
Then there are companies who want to reach foreign markets with their product: banks, software companies, clothing brands, and so on. These are mostly directed at the European and Asian markets. The most popular languages for foreign markets are Spanish (Latin American and Castilian), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
Polarity Post is one of the few local companies that contracts multi-language voice-over projects in-house. Charles Xavier believes that the Bay Area is a good area to find voice-over talent compared to the rest of the country and internationally. He finds that there is a wealth of professional talent, who understand the requirements of recording a localized script in their native language, while making it work and fit into the English timing of the original video or web presentation. The market, however, is getting more competitive and this year, with budgets getting smaller, companies have often opted for subtitling rather than voice-over.
Xavier thinks there is a great pool of Bay Area talent for corporate, industrial and toy products. He has an A-list of about 3-4 talents per language—people he calls first when a project comes up. When they aren’t available, or the client doesn’t choose a particular voice, or doesn’t want to pay A-list rates, Xavier brings in his B-list or auditions new talent.
The best way to develop a working relationship with Xavier is to e-mail him mp3 demos and resumes if one has experience in the field. If you are new to the industry, Polarity Post will ask you to come to their state-of-the art recording facility in San Francisco’s North Waterfront District and record an audition.
I realize that I have presented two different points of view, one perhaps more optimistic than the other. I personally tend to agree with both of them: there is a lot of interesting work out there for foreign language voice-over talent, especially in the corporate field, but it is also important to note that this is rarely a full-time occupation. Voice-over talents work both for the fun and enjoyment of it, as well to supplement our income but we can still dream about our big breakthrough, when a large company will hire us to be their one and only voice.

In part II of this series exploring the voice-over industry, the author “goes local” and interviews two Bay Area producers and localization directors. BY INGEBORG WEINMANN WHITE

David Sweet-Cordero, sole proprietor of InterCultura Multilingual Media and Charles Xavier, Director of Localization at Polarity Post, both San Francisco companies, shared their thoughts with me about the foreign language voice- over industry. I have worked with both of them over the years as translator, voice talent, and director. → continue reading


Do you like the sound of your own voice? Perhaps you are a hidden voice “Talent.” An exploration of the voice-over industry in two parts. BY INGEBORG WEINMANN WHITE

I was hired for my first voice-over job 17 years ago—about the same time I started working as a freelance translator. With my background in theater, voice-over seemed a natural and enjoyable way to increase my income.
That first script consisted of a few dry paragraphs about laser printers. I met the client at a San Francisco recording studio and spoke the text into a microphone in my best stage German. The client and the recording engineer told me that my voice was very well suited for voice-over work. I was surprised and flattered .Up to that point I had always cringed whenever I heard a recording of my speaking voice. But this is normal; the more you hear your recorded voice the more you get used to it.
Over the years I have worked on many German voice-over projects both as voice talent and director, including narration for corporate and industrial videos, ad campaigns, audio tours and video games. → continue reading

Voices Everywhere!The May General Meeting

By Raffaella Buschiazzo

Spring flowers in bloom means it’s time for our May General Meeting. This year’s session had at its core two presentations that couldn’t have been more different: a talk on the important business of insurance products for Association members, and a panel discussion on the wide and interesting world of voiceover. Add some lucky door prize winners, and you’ve got a successful meeting.

As it has become a staple of our regular meetings, NCTA’s new member orientation opened up our spring General Meeting. NCTA Membership Director Naomi Baer opened the proceedings by answering questions and helping our new members find out more about the Association. The gathering also served as a pre-meeting networking session, where new members could get to know experienced NCTA-ers.

NCTA President Tuomas Kostiainen opened the General Meeting at 1:30 p.m. with a few announcements of upcoming events. Then he introduced Mr. Myron Gomes from Mutual of Omaha who provided us with extremely helpful information on disability income insurance and other benefit products that Mutual of Omaha offers to NCTA members at discounted membership rates. For our members, it was a chance to learn about this type of insurance policy without having to spend the time and energy to research it on their own.

Voiceover Panel Discussion

The core of the meeting was a panel discussion on voiceover presented by David Sweet-Cordero, Francisco Hulse, and Ines Swaney, and moderated by NCTA Events Director Raffaella Buschiazzo. The three speakers introduced us to a specialized world within our profession that involves not merely translation and interpretation, but acting skills as well! In addition to presenting practical examples, the speakers offered excellent tips that would prove invaluable to any of our colleagues who wish to try their hand at this specialty.

David Sweet-Cordero is the owner of InterCultura, an agency that specializes in multilingual media production including video, voiceover, and translation. He currently combines work as both a voiceover talent and a producer. David opened the discussion by explaining what voiceover is and what kinds of projects and applications it is used for. He talked about the qualifications needed for voiceover work, the market for this specialty, and trends and directions in the voiceover industry. As both an actor and producer, he offered a unique perspective on the two roles.

The panel continued with Francisco Hulse, interpreter and translator of Spanish and English, who successfully stumbled into voiceover work in the late ‘90s. Francisco is a member of SAG, the Screen Actors Guild, and AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. In addition to telling us all about the expectations producers have of actors at the microphone, along with many tricks of the trade, he also provided us with important information on SAG and AFTRA—including how to join, what to expect as a member of these unions, and pros and cons of belonging to them.

Francisco also brought some recorded excerpts of his advertising work for us to listen to. These were perfect examples of exactly what voiceover means, and how a voiceover talent must be trained not just to speak a foreign language well but also to play a role. As Francisco pointed out, many skills are required at the same time. He is a translator-interpreter-actor who needs to adapt the tone of his voice again and again until the producer is satisfied.

Our third presenter, Ines Swaney, enjoys a variety of assignments resulting from her work as a Spanish translator, interpreter, and voiceover talent. She is also a columnist for Intercambios, the quarterly publication of ATA’s Spanish Language Division. Ines particularly likes sharing anecdotes of the adventures that she has encountered in the language field, along with personal experiences and suggestions for those who want to get started in the field.

Lucky Members

Even after a twenty-minute question and answer session, people were fascinated and eager to learn more. For that, we had our three talented speakers to thank: they presented the subject from all the important angles, answered questions with practical tips and examples, and kept us engaged with funny and illuminating anecdotes. The panel discussion had a very sweet end: Tuomas gave each of the three panelists a box of chocolates, a simple gesture to let them know how much NCTA appreciates the input and time that they give to the association. Thank you again David, Francisco, and Ines!

At the end of the meeting, five door prizes were drawn. Karin Seeman, Kathleen Davis, and Luis Salvago-Toledo held the lucky numbers to win AnyCount Software, a word-, character-, and line counting software package, donated by Jessica Bazzoli won Translation Office 3000, administrative and accounting applications for freelance translators donated by Ines Swaney won a framed original artwork print by conservationist Betsy Fowler.

Another NCTA General Meeting ended with delicious refreshments and relaxed networking, where old members enjoyed chatting with new ones, all sharing in the camaraderie of a profession like no other!