A Perfect Match

by Kate McClanaghan, www.voiceoverinfo.com

Here’s a little snack food for thought that you may not know about…

matching—The term used when you are trying to recreate the timbre, emotion, inflection, phrasing, volume and/or tempo of a delivery to make a change to the read or to correct a minor error in the initial read.

Also, if at a session the client preferred a specific take and simply wants to change a line or phrase they may have you ‘punch in’ the corrected line. This requires you ‘match’ the original delivery as close as possible.

Notably, many, many actors, both novice and ‘well established’ alike, often harbor the common misconception they are expected to deliver only one perfect read, and therefore attempt to ‘perfect’ a single delivery repeatedly, take after arduous take, almost as if they were trying to match a read.

The truth is there are only three circumstances in which only one specific delivery is required from you:

1. If you’re understudying a role on stage. In fact, according to Actors’ Equity, you are expected to recreate the original actor’s performance as closely as possible.
2. When you are in a professional touring company of a stage production (such as The Producers or Hairspray). These productions are very strictly choreographed in every way because a very specific product is being presented and the original show is the blueprint for the touring company, which is often followed to the letter. Additionally, these productions are often heavy ‘tech’ shows and straying from the program could increase the risk of injury to cast and crew.
3. And, when adding or correcting a line in a voiceover or film or TV production.

Other than that, matching is not the desired goal of a performance it’s only a tool and nothing more.

So, if until now you have always thought all that was required of you as a talent on a session was to match your initial take, again and again and again, then you have thought acting was simply ‘matching’. 
Well, for what it’s worth you’re in good company. It’s an honest misconception. 
Again, to clarify, at SOUND ADVICE our very unique approach forwards the idea that you’re always expected to deliver a limitless number of ‘perfect’ or at least appropriate reads.
 For example: eight to ten takes of this one over here utilizing this direction, eight to ten of that one over there utilizing that direction and eight to ten of yet another delivery that’s maybe a hybrid of the two different directions—this is the norm, albeit the best kept secret in the industry.

Our job as talent is to give the director options within the context of what’s being asked of us, regardless the medium. So play. It’s your job. How many people do you know who can say that? In fact, the real objective of a skilled, professional talent in every medium is to deliver a variety of deliveries with every single take, all within the context of the scene, character and circumstance. That takes a great imagination and agility.

Mastering the art of delivering variety within the context of the piece takes courage and the willingness to truly risk.

That gives you an awful lot of rope to hang yourself with, which is why it can be a very scary notion at the onset. But continually building that agility and engaging your imagination fully is forever the requirement of an effective artist—in any medium.

So never underestimate the demands of the profession. They are always required of you in every medium. It simply takes intention on your part.

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Comment by Mike Coon on April 27, 2010 at 1:17pm
Dear Kate: Thank you for the post. I found some useful nuggets there to keep in mind the next time a director gives me the "I'll know it when I hear it" schtick!
Actually, I find it fairly easy to keep my otherwise sizeable ego in check when I'm behond the mic and the "meter" is running.....no problem-o, Mr. Client sir!
I have one client who uses me exclusively because, in his words, "year-after year, I've been able to splice your files together to create updated projects...because you are so consistent." I choose to take that as a complement, rather than a need to renegotiate my rates with him! He is a good repeat client (pardon the pun!).
Cheers! M
Comment by Cowboy Dave on April 27, 2010 at 12:37am
I thought being a retired stuntman had nothing to do with voice work & generally speaking, it doesn't. However, I was voicing a crusty old armadillo last Friday who get's run over by a semi truck. The director liked my performance after the (fourth take) & the client wanted a different line in the middle of the read, but with more3 feeling as the truck runs over me. I did the pick up line the same way I did the rest of the read, but the director asked me to give it something a little more "Sparkly". I haven't seen too many Armadillos that sparkle, but, what the heck. I did four takes "Cowboy Style", then suddenly, I thought ....what the heck. That's when I let loose with three different voices & the client loved the last one, which was very comedic.....So much for matching, I reckon. Besides, you're just dealin with a Cowboy-
Comment by Lani Minella on April 26, 2010 at 4:57pm
I'm not exactly sure how to interpret this advice as, from a director and actor's point of view, I can tell you more times than not, if someone wants an alt, you should vary the take, but if someone wants just a script change and says to match the previous read, they usually don't want a different read. Of course one needs to ask what a director wants when they say "give me a safety" I usually give a different performance, but it's good to ask if they want a repeat in case of technical probs or if they'd like a different interpretation. And to hear someone talking about 8-10 takes is a bit much. When directing games, we don't have time to have actors give me 3 takes and then I direct differently. Usually if I don't hear what I want the first time, I will give more specifics for a second take. Yes I even line read if we aren't getting it by the 3rd take. Sorry actors....as a fellow actor don't take it as an ego bash. Look at it as though you had to do less talking for the same amount of money. NO offense should be taken. But of course if your director is no actor, then you might have to do the horrible answer to "I'll know it when I hear it" conundrum.
Comment by Sean Hall on April 26, 2010 at 4:46pm
We have all hanged ourselves by not matching our voice to the recording. And it can be tough. But if you're on ISDN with someone; you don't have the time to do it over and over and find the closest take. One of the great banes of what we do...

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