When you're brand new to voiceover, you'll hear a lot of industry jargon that you may not be familiar with. It can be overwhelming, but understanding these terms is essential to ensuring that you deliver a great performance. Here are some of the most common terms used in a voiceover recording session:
DAW: DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, which is the software used to record and edit audio. Popular DAWs include Pro Tools, Logic Pro, and Ableton Live.
Mic Check: Before you start recording, the sound engineer will perform a mic check to ensure that your microphone is working properly and that the levels are set correctly.
Levels: Levels refer to the volume of your voice as it's being recorded. The sound engineer will adjust the levels to ensure that your voice is recorded at the appropriate volume. This may seem obvious, but make sure if they ask you for levels, that you give them the first few lines exactly at the volume you plan on delivering them!
Pickup: A pickup is when you re-record a section of the script. The sound engineer will mark the beginning and end of the section that needs to be re-recorded, and you'll record it again.
Punch-in/Punch-out: Similar to a pickup, punch-in and punch-out are techniques used to re-record a section of the script. Instead of re-recording the entire section, you'll start recording at a specific point and then stop recording at another point.
Slate: A slate is a short introduction at the beginning of the recording that includes your name, agency, and the character name or project you're working on.
Room Tone: Room tone is the ambient sound in the recording space. It's recorded separately from your voice and is used to ensure that the recording sounds natural and consistent.
Script or Copy: The script /copy is the written text that you'll be reading during the recording session. It's important to read the script carefully and understand the tone and intent of the words.
Cue: A cue is a signal from the sound engineer that you should begin speaking. This can be a verbal cue or a visual cue, such as a hand signal.
Take: A take is a complete recording of the script. The sound engineer will keep track of the number of takes and will often ask for multiple takes to ensure that they have enough material to work with during the editing process.
ALT is short for 'alternate' and usually just means one different take for variety. Oftentimes an ALT means that the line will be worded slightly differently as the client / writer haven't decided which wording is best and they want to hear it said different ways.
A|Bs: A|B direction refers to a technique used during the recording process to provide the voice actor with multiple options for delivering a line. Essentially, the voice actor will record a line twice, with slightly different performances. This could involve changes in tone, pace, or emphasis, for example. The two takes are then labeled as A and B, and the client or director can then choose which take they prefer, or even use a combination of both. Sometimes they ask for and A|B|C which means 3 distinctly different takes. The above technique is often used to ensure that the final product meets the desired tone or style, and to give the client greater flexibility in the editing process.
Understanding these terms will help you communicate effectively with the sound engineer and ensure that you deliver a great performance. If you're ever unsure about a term, don't hesitate to ask for clarification. Don't feel bad for not knowing... remember, every successful voice actor once had their very first voiceover job, and were likely unfamiliar with these terms too when they started out!