E-learning has become the defacto industry standard for companies large and small to train their employees - it's one of the fastest growing industries today. Because eLearning often has an audio element that requires the need for a voice talent, narrators are popping up everywhere claiming to be "professional."
More often than not, they're sitting in their basement at home, but a single person handling huge projects that are hours in length. Good luck finding a voice talent that will even answer the phone, much less an e-mail.
I've recorded hundreds and hundreds of e-learning modules. After tackling about 5 huge, long and involved E-Learning projects, I decided to hire someone to help me with Project Management so I could concentrate on voicing the narration and editing the audio.
Over the years, I found that almost all e-learning projects need project management from a voiceover standpoint, so I take all the management of the audio element of your project off your hands. My staff will answer all your questions, answer your e-mails promptly, work closely with your developers and make sure things run smoothly. Hiring a voice talent is not something people do everyday. We'll help navigate you through the process and point you in the right direction, the first time.
Rest assured when you hire Todd Schick Productions Inc., you're getting the best Project Management in the industry, hands down. I can say this....because I'm one of the only ones that offers it at all! LOL!
"Don't talk at me; speak to me."
This simple statement really says it all. Many voice artists can read the words, but very few can actually communicate to the listener, emparting the knowledge in a personal manner. I hear the same request constantly:
"I don't want you to sound like an announcer..."
Elearning is one-on-one, not a radio announcer giving you a traffic report or weather forecast. E-learning is intimate, personal and in-depth. A single person sits in front of a computer screen and learns from the images and audio presented to them. It's not someone listening to a newscast, but rather someone absorbing a great deal of information because they have to. It has to be easy and as comfortable as possible for the student to truly absorb your message/course.
Interestingly, companies get so focused about saving money with e-learning that they go too far in cost-cutting and hire the cheapest narrator to communicate their most important messages: their Corporate Image, HR Policy, protocols, methodology, structure and vision. I've heard some really, really bad stuff.....! I have, because I'm quite often the guy they call in to fix a bad narration.
Most of the time, it's the ex-broadcaster that's the culprit. Guys and Gals who, by nature of the fact they were "On Air", consider themselves professional elearning narrators. They also think that because they operated a console in a broadcast outlet that they can run a home studio. This, couldn't be further from the truth. I can't tell you how many ex-broadcasters I've come across that boast of their studio gear, which is 9 times out of 10 the wrong equipment. I know this, because many radio announcers have approached me on how to improve their studio sound and I've also scouted out hundreds of home studios via Voice123 - again, there's a ton of garbage out there.
Please.....PLEASE.....don't settle for less. Take the time to inspect what you're paying for. The amount of garbage audio being delivered these days is staggering.
I'm saying this, because in 5 very short years, people offering "Voice Talent" services on the Internet have grown from a scant 500.....to 125,000....! Wow. I didn't know there were so many "professional" voice talent out there. The fact is, there isn't and almost all of them are hacks and wannabes. I know this, because (I do my research and) I was one of the very first out there on the Internet offering the service.
I can tell you honestly, that 90% of the voice talent out there hasn't a clue how to properly record audio, much less edit it and provide all the other services that go along with running a professional recording studio.
Do you know what else is shocking? Even some of the best VO talent on the Internet are delivering a sub-standard product. I know this, because I've hired experienced talent, only to discover that their audio sounds like it was recorded on a cassette tape.
Audio quality is your first sign as to whether or not you're hiring a real pro for the job. The problem is, it's difficult to tell how good the quality is because most people listen to audio on a cheapo set of computer speakers (even the most expensive computer speakers can't do the job). The most important thing to look for is something we call a "noise floor." Simply put, it's the "noise" behind (underneath) a recording.
Usually, it's a CPU fan, or a furnace....or air conditioning. I've even heard a toilet flush in the background.....(which seemed oddly appropriate given the circumstance). Bottom line, if audio has a lot of noise behind it, this affects the final product which is (most times) radically compressed for use on the web.
If you would like me to check out some audio for you, just drop me a line and/or a sample and I'll give you the straight goods.
My studio has a sound-proof booth (many VO artists don't have this) and all that expensive equipment with tons of knobs and LED's that make the audio nice and clean. My noise floor is at -78 db, which is very, very low. The mic is superb, the mastering excellent.
To hear an example of my audio after it's been radically compressed, go here and listen to a few of the on-line demos.
An E-learning project often involves more than 1 voice. Whether it's a male-female combination or scenario-based role playing, my clients often ask for different voices to compliment their project.
In addition to a large network of pro voice talent that I have access to, I also have the benefit of knowing several fine actors - very handy for smaller roles that require voice "acting" as opposed to narration. I'm pretty active in the acting community here in Toronto (the Hollywood of Canada) and I've got a select group of thespians who work for me on a regular basis.
Again....another service that no-one else is offering in the world of VO. Oh, you'll get the "we've got a roster of talent for you to listen to and hire" - but these are freelance voice people...not "actors." There's a big difference. Quite often, voice talent do not have acting skills, just broadcasting experience.
Regardless of your vocal needs, I can offer up a fine, talented selection of vocal talent...and I'm pretty picky about who I work with - so you know you're getting the best... ;-)
Paperless Recording Studio
First of it's kind and the way the industry will move in a couple of years, once all the voice talent out there catch on to the fact that it saves them time, money and speeds up their service by....oh.....30%!
It's simple. I have 2 LCD monitors in my VO booth. One to read from, the other to watch the recording on my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). A small thing - a HUGE advantage.
Imagine an e-learning project that has been issued in .pdf format, chock full of text, graphics, comments.....the gamut. And....it's 100 pages long! That's a lot of paper and ink...and....well....paper! It would take about 30 minutes just to print...and even then, the ink might run out.....grrrrr. Then, there's the extra 100 pages that the engineer needs, the stand in the studio taking up room to hold the paper, the microphone picking up noise from the "ring" coming off the music stand, the talent turning the paper, the pen you need to scribble in changes to the script.....oh, the list is endless.
Enter the Paperless Recording Studio. Need to make a change? Type it in. No waiting for the printer to pump out 200 pages - just open the file! Poor vision? Let me zoom in for you. If I'm working by myself, during the editing process if I make a mistake (a rare thing, indeed), I simply highlight the questionable text in red.....go back and scroll through the document to re-record any mistakes afterward.
I call it "Cutting Edge Common Sense." Save a tree.....hire TSP.
The Professional E-learning Narrator
So, what sets the professional narrator apart from the others? Well, first of all, a professional elearning narrator can make a bad script sound good and a horrible script sound "OK". The script really is everything - that is to say, it has the single most important impact on any e-learning project.
The professional narrator doesn't ask you ask you how to edit your files, he/she already knows. They know about compression ratios, how your audio is affected by radical compression and the importance of "clean" audio. They also can provide you with a variety of voicing styles for you to choose from. By that I mean, not merely reads that are faster or slower, but different in age, style and energy.
In short, the professional e-learning narrator inherently justifies your reason for hiring them: to deliver your message and quality audio in a prompt, personal and professional manner.
Somewhat of a surprise. There's very, very few of us out there who do this work well. I mean "true" professionals who deliver 100% of the time on all the aforementioned aspects of your project. After many years in the business and hearing many, many voices....I personally know about 10 people who can do e-learning narration very well.
Why so few? Well, it's one thing to simply voice dry material (many people can do that), it's quite another to make the dry material sound interesting and engaging. And, it's very rare to find good quality audio produced in a home-based recording studio.
As always, I back up what I say with my talent. Ask me for an audition and then by all means shop around....I'm not afraid of some friendly competition!
For some samples of my voicing styles with visuals, click here. To check out my references, please visit my Testimonial page.