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How Do I Become a Voice Actor Today?

Updated: Nov 7, 2020



We voice actors are often said to have one foot in Hollywood. This is far from the case.- Helmut Krauss.

Nonetheless, dubbing is a very good way of earning an income, because at the moment dubbing studios are working double shifts. The reason for this is the new streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon, which are currently flooding various international markets with US and other overseas series. These series require localisation, translation, and of course - dubbing. Good examples of this are, for example, "House of Cards" or "Game Of Thrones". There are also channels such as Showtime and HBO, which have countless series produced.


In recent years, the entire season of a series has been dubbed in one piece. The advantage is the dubbing project can be completed quickly. The disadvantage is that is may lead to pirated material and leaks (in season 4 of the series "Game of Thrones" 5 episodes were leaked). For this reason, the distributors and studios have agreed not to synchronize extremely popular films and series until shortly before the cinema or series commences. In the case of Game of Thrones this means that whilst the first episodes are being broadcasted in the US, and simultaneously around the world, there is a very little window-of-time to complete the dubbing and synchronisation process.

What Does a Voice Actor Earn?

Voice actors are usually freelancers and usually work simultaneously for several dubbing studios on different projects. There is a basic fee (25-80 dollars), also known as "Kommgeld", and an additional 3.30 dollars per take. You usually start as an ensemble speaker, in Berlin also known as quantity / mass, where you pay according to time Talent is a short or long way from there to the solo speaker. A take can be a little cough or a 2-minute monologue in front of an audience. The take fee can vary depending on the studio and the level of awareness of the speaker. A good voice actor can do 100-120 takes a day, but I also know of “work machines” that do 150 takes a day.

For some years now there has been intensive work with voice actors in computer games. There are computer games that have a higher proportion of speech in the game than a normal feature film. More and more well-known Hollywood actors are used, who are then cast with their dubbing voice actors. For computer games, the normal synchronous fee is often abandoned and take prices of well over 3.30 dollars are the rule. Many voice actors are known to call out 10 dollars per take.

What Training Do I Need as a Voice Talent?

Most voice actors are trained actors. In addition to the creative means, this training course also includes a high level of speaker training including voice training. Exceptions confirm the rule as always. There are also well-known voice actors who have not attended drama school. Most of them belong to the so-called synchronized children. Often it is the daughters and sons of actors and dubbing actors, some of whom are allowed to perform their first dubbing roles at the age of four or five. For example, Tobias Kluckert (son of Jürgen Kluckert), Sarah Riedel (daughter of Lutz Riedel and Marianne Groß) and Dascha Lehmann (daughter of Bruce Willis' spokesman Manfred Lehmann) started as synchronized children, to name just a few.

But the next generation does not always come from the ranks of the professionals. Many studios regularly hold children's auditions, most of which are advertised or advertised in the daily press. Hartmut Neugebauer, dubbing director from Munich, for example, had his children talk to and test other children at school or on playgrounds. Many of them have become dubbing stars, e.g. Sandra Schwittau, the German voice of Bart Simpson and Hillary Swank from the start.

Anyone who wants to become a voice actor has to serve a wide variety of roles and characters within a very short time. One moment you're a cold-blooded murderer, the next you're a bored insurance agent.

How Does Synchrized Dubbing Work?

First, the original film goes to a raw translator. This is, as the name suggests, a RAW translator who has the task of translating the dialogue literally. The dialogue book author turns it into a linguistically and dramatically correct, synchronous dialogue, whereby breaths and sounds are of course inserted. Care is taken to ensure that every groan, cough, and throat clearing is recorded in the dialogue book, the timing of the words is correct and the meaning is preserved. There are series such as "Die Zwei" with Roger Moore, which were more successful in the German dubbed version than the original. But that is usually the exception. At the same time, a cutter starts cutting the film into snippets of 5-20 seconds, so-called takes. She uses special software for this.

And who is Actually Responsible for the Fact that Bruce Willis Always Has the Same Dubbing Actor?

In 99% of the cases, that's the unit manager. He takes care of the disposition and booking of the dubbing actors and casts the respective characters with the voices he thinks fit. In individual cases, e.g. with Jim Carrey or John Travolta, the Hollywood stars themselves determine who is allowed to speak them in other languages. If the dubbing actor now enters the studio, the sound engineer prepares "his" takes. So he only sees his actor; connections in the film are rarely revealed. The speaker is alone in front of the microphone in 99% of the recordings. In the large production studios, the editor is usually in the same room and controls the synchronicity of the recording.

It starts on "4": The actor briefly looks at the scene he is supposed to synchronize. He takes a look at his dialogue book, notes his text and the recording can start. In contrast to the actors in the film, it is important to avoid movement noises, although a fight for life or death may be played out. Therefore: rustling clothes in the dubbing studio is not possible. Small temporal corrections can be made later using technology, although there are also limits here. Used 0.5 seconds too late are usually not a problem if the take was really good ...

It is also interesting, for example, that we do not find it annoying if the sound still sounds but the actor has already closed his mouth - the other way around. Pay attention to it. In this whole scenario, only one person says where to go - the dubbing director. He knows every character, knows how the dialogue partner recorded his takes and tells the actors in front of the microphone what is important in terms of content in the respective scenes.

The quality of the synchronization does not only depend on the voice actor, but also on the translator, the editor, the dialog book author, the dubbing director and the sound engineer. The sound engineer ensures that every recording is clean and free from background noise. The right choice of words makes it possible for the speaker to work lip-synchronic in the first place. If the actor breathes in the original, the voice actor has to breathe as well; if he speaks loudly, the speaker has to speak it loudly.

As a voice actor you have to be prepared for many hours, there are no fixed working hours and it happens that you spend ten or more hours in the studio for several days. Professionals speak a blockbuster with normal speaking in three to five days. It is rather rare that you have many days to spare. The industry is constantly under deadline pressure. Time is money. The dubbing studios only earn if a defined number of takes are recorded every day. In the past - before the advent of digital technology - people usually recorded together in the dubbing studio. So all speakers involved in the scene stood together in front of the microphone and took turns. They also performed the dialogues on the screen in the studio. It used to be that four people like to speak in the studio at the same time - such as Marina Krogull reveals in her interview about the first episodes of "Sex and the City". A sound engineer swivelled the microphone from voice actor to voice actor. Nowadays, dialogues are mostly still taking place, but these are also becoming increasingly rare. It is cheaper and, above all, faster if each speaker records individually. This leads to far less distraction in the studio, saves time and money and is now hardly conceivable any other way due to the number of series and films to be synchronized.


Overview of Different Language Voice Actors

If you look at databases, you will find that there are thousands of speakers who have at least once spoken a take or have been used in a film or series. Not all of them are in regular use. However, there are of course experienced voice actors who have been in use for a number of decades and some of them have worked in more than 1,000 productions. In order to shed some light on the darkness and somehow create an overview, we have defined for ourselves that a voice actor must have had at least 100 assignments in order for him to be listed in our agency. With this definition we come to around 1,300 people. Of these, around 200 have already died and around 100 are no longer or very rarely active in service.

So we have a total of around 1,000 voice actors who actually work regularly. About 150 of them are on the road intensively and are in the dubbing studio every week, sometimes for several days. These 150 voice actors also share almost all popular actors among themselves. Quite a few voice actors lend their voice to several actors at the same time.

How do Start Voice Acting?

Becoming a voice actor requires certain conditions. First you should be able to speak without dialect. Of course, it is ideal if you already have a job in this direction, for example as a moderator, radio announcer or spokesman for advertising. Different course providers give you the opportunity to learn the basics and then of course you have to practice hard. It is advisable to have your own sound files and voice samples recorded in a professional studio in order to then apply for this material to one or more dubbing studios. Since there is a great demand for voice actors at the moment, it can be assumed that the studios also have a certain amount of patience when new people try their hand at something.

Apart from that, it is of great advantage if you have a distinctive voice that, ideally, you can recognize immediately. For example Christian Brückner (also called “The Voice”). There are speakers who simply have talent and there are speakers who have to train very hard. At the beginning they all need one thing: practice and perseverance. Don't get discouraged! In any case, you should familiarize yourself with the subject and know how the mechanics, the process of synchronized recording, work.

How Does One Practice Dubbing?

I think that getting into the dubbing industry is very difficult. Many aspiring speakers do not have adequate acting training and basically get little or no feedback on their personal skills. There is a way that you can test your skills quite well on your own. An editing program is required for this, which is available free of charge, for example Windows Movie Maker or DaVinci Resolve. Both tools are good to work with.

The point is that you always hear yourself differently than other people. This has to do with your own structure-borne noise and the problem that you simply cannot concentrate on listening to your own pronunciation when you are speaking. In recording studios this is one reason why the speaker always wears headphones (closed headphones). Through the headphones he only hears what he is speaking into the microphone. So if you speak something into a microphone, record what is being said and then listen to it, you will find that you sound completely different from what you think. You may become aware of problems with pronunciation and get a much better idea of ​​your own performance.

To get a little impression of dubbing and to test yourself, you choose a piece of a film. This part of the film is cut into small pieces. The role that you want to test is divided into small parts. This is called a Taken. Then you should mute the sound and while the film snippets are played, the role of the existing film text is spoken. What you speak is recorded and then put under the film as sound. Ideally, you now have the original film and its spoken text. Laying the two on top of each other should give the impression that it is consistent. Too fast, too slow? Sounds good or not good? Basically, the professionals don't work any differently, only the voice actors have nothing to compare with, except for the English original. 

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