Professional growth, salary, type of work


In the entertainment industry, some of the most visible artists are usually actors and actresses. Of course, as they are always in front of the cameras.

But there are others who act to bring the characters to life, although their roles often go unnoticed or even underestimated. They are those in the voice-over (VO) industry.

So we talked to 4 VO talents to learn more about what’s really going on behind the scenes, how the industry is doing and how to get there.

They are:

  • Songfan Seah, professional VO artist since 2001,
  • Azman Zulkiply, VO’s career dates back to 2011,
  • Su Ling Chan, who has voiced characters such as Metronomik’s No Straight Roads game and BoBoiBoy’s Ying, among other beloved media characters,
  • Anand Rajaram, who has worked with KFC, Honda, Cadbury, Astro and more, with 16 years of experience as a radio announcer.

1. No official qualification for professional OV is known

And of course, you don’t have to have an interesting voice to do well in VO, as there’s no particular qualification for that either. What you will necessity is a good command of language.

While this seems like an easy feat, Su Ling thinks Malaysians, in particular, would be at a disadvantage because we tend to murmur a lot when we speak English.

We also feel comfortable speaking “Manglish,” so those who are interested in becoming a VO artist would have their work cut out to re-learn proper pronunciation and utterance.

Of course, the improvement of skills is also, so there are voice workshops from performance institutions such as Infinite academy where he learns to be expressive with the way he speaks and to act fully as the character assigned to him, as the director anticipates.

2. It’s more than dubbing cartoons or shows

For the most part, VO artists tend to be more involved in commercials, corporate videos, radio and television commercials, storytelling, and more. even VO related to the news.

Some real-life examples include someone announcing when the next station is on a train, reminders to be careful on escalators, confirming that you got a correct answer on a quiz, and even a voice that will make you a digital tour in a museum or amusement park.

Su Ling and Anand, members of the VGM / Image credit: Su Ling Chan and Anand Rajaram

3. Doing VO for international clients is not as simple as clicking “record”

It is difficult to get a role internationally because of the competitiveness of the VO landscape. Some artists are lucky, however, thanks to their ability to speak different languages.

But one of the reasons it is more difficult to get a concert abroad is because a home studio of “broadcast quality” would be needed. To qualify, your studio would need equipment such as soundproof windows, a stand with Rockwool panels, acoustic sound blankets, quality studio equipment such as a high-quality XLR microphone, an interface and a preamplifier.

Before creating a studio of this quality, Su Ling had 0 reservations abroad. The studio changed its game and has now landed roles in international video games, audio dramas and also in storytelling.

4. VO artists don’t usually rehearse a role

In Malaysia, they are usually chosen based on previous samples and are only called if a customer wants to hire them. So most of the time, VO artists won’t know if they’re even being considered for a job here. There are times when they are required to audition, but this is quite rare.

But overseas, like in LA, it’s just the opposite. But the percentage of audition bookings is extremely low, anyway, between 5% and 9%, even for an artist known as Roger Craig Smith, better known as the voice behind Sonic the Hedgehog.

5. Work can also be physically demanding

If you’re a voice artist who expresses a character as the main villain of an animation, you’ll need to stay in the character for at least two hours, which can be a physical impact.

Also, if you have issues with difficult customers, they may repeat the same 67 lines over and over again, but none of them will be considered satisfying in their eyes, and this can be a stressful process.

If any VO artist wanted to become a full-time career, Azman believes that at the very least, it should be easy to direct, that it can be carried out quickly, and that it doesn’t face much because that would lose. much time .

Songfan and Azman, the current president and vice president of VGM / Image Credit: Songfan Seah and Azman Zulkiply

6. There may be a lack of creative control

While you may have an idea of ​​how you want to play a role, it may not fit what the client has in mind. So even at times when you think the way you’re supposed to deliver your line will sound bad or weird, you still have to follow what they have planned.

Songfan added that in some cases where there is a bilingual recording, VO artists should copy the nuances and expressions of another language that may seem really unnatural.

For example, the VO artist who is recording in another language should follow the nuances and expressions of the English VO, which can make the VO sound really awkward and even “foreign” in the other language.

7. Malaysia has an association of voice actors

Is called Voice Guild Malaysia (VGM), and their role is to ensure the well-being of VO artists, which include payment issues, fees, and so on.

Songfan is actually the current president of VGM and Azman is the current vice president of VGM. Su Ling and Anand are members of VGM, which consists of about 160 members from different languages ​​and age groups.

“Each VO artist works as an individual, as an independent performer. This means that when a customer does not pay, it is a single person against an institution / company, which is an imbalance of power, “Songfan explained the importance of VGM.

“The existence of VGM allows all independent VO artists to have more power as a collective, which allows us to demand timely payments, in addition to preventing exploitation or harassment.”

And speaking of payment …

8. You could win well as a VO artist

Songfan established that even if a VO artist is recognized for his talent, it still does not guarantee a steady flow of jobs. That said, though, if you’re good with customers and the production team likes to work with you and keeps calling you, there’s a good chance you’ll win well with this career.

Since its inception about 20 years ago, VGM has suggested minimum rates for the industry which has been called the industry standard. Below are the basic rates for the work of a VO artist:

Commercial 0-15 seconds RM300
Corporate videos and documentaries 0-5 minutes RM700
Infomercials 0-3 minutes RM700
Voice instructions, training modules, audiobook 1st page RM400
Demonstration, research and stealomatics Less than 1 minute RM300
Narration (television) 24 minute episode 1,000,000 RM
In-store ads 0-30 seconds Flat rate of 300 RM
Basic rates for the work of a VO artist

At the same time, VGM has also been instrumental in protecting voice talents (whether members or not) from being paid or poorly paid. Some of the industry terms of work described to protect VO artists include paying for talent work within 90 days (including holidays and weekends), rejections that are only valid within 30 days. days from the date of recording, etc.

9. The gaming industry is where there are more opportunities

We already have a lot of animation from Malaysia, which usually requires VO artists. However, locally made games and their quality also increase and as this industry grows, so does the market for VO artists.

At the same time, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (RA) content are also on the rise, offering artists even more job opportunities.

10. As in any other industry, you need to be relevant

Maintaining relevance in the OV industry means keeping abreast of changes in the nuances of voice, the latest games and animations, as well as international advertising. These are just a few ways to keep growing in the industry.

Another important thing is also, as Azman carefully said, that one should “fuck up how the younger generation speaks,” because that can certainly help a VO artist a lot in getting new roles.

11. AI voice generators can challenge the industry

VO artists are not exempt from robots being able to take on their jobs, and in this case, they are AI voice generators. This would be a challenge if the voice of an OV artist shares a resemblance to these voices of artificial intelligence, but one way forward is to work continuously to make your voice clearer and spread it in a way creative.

In other words, your work should have a personal touch that is not replicable at all by other VO artists or AI voice generators.

  • You can find more information about Voice Guild Malaysia here.
  • You can read more articles we have written here.

Featured Image Credit: Songfan Seah and Azman Zulkiply, President and Vice President of Voice Guild Malaysia

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