Sunday, June 20, 2010

Invasion of the Headphone Snatchers! (Uncut, unrated, extended edition)!

Last week I was priveleged to have my blog featured in VOX Daily at But the kind folks there have much better taste than I do, and know their audience better than I do, so a colorful analogy from Ashton Smith was omitted. I understand and respect their decision to keep things family friendly. But I feel that Ashton's comparison is so spot on-and funny-that it may provide that "a-ha" moment of clarity for some readers. I've got a one word anaology for acting while wearing headphones that is even more abrasive. But I'll stick with Ashton's PG version to get the point across.

Along with that, I am adding in a comment from Marice Tobias that a reader shared in repsonse to the article.

Now, without further ado, I present: INVASION OF THE HEADPHONE SNATCHERS! Uncut! Unrated! Extended edition!
“A Nightmare on Headphone Street.” “The Good, the Bad, and the Headphones.” “The Unbearable Lightness of Headphones.” What do these movie titles have in common? Headphones have no business in them!

I know I’m being absurd, but think about it… The actors in our favorite movies and TV shows are not listening to themselves. They are in the moment… Acting.

“Ditch the headphones!” says Beau Weaver, who hosted a VOICE 2010 panel aimed at giving radio people acting tips. “Stop listening to yourself through processing. You are spending too much time judging yourself. Get into a performance space.”

Ashton Smith echoed this advice on the Promo panel, saying that wearing head-phones changes the read. “It’s like looking in the mirror as you’re making love, and checking yourself out.” Right. You should be concentrating on the performance. Get it?

VOX Daily reader W.L. Jenkins offers this:

"I quit using headphones a long time ago. My voice acting coach is Marice Tobias and she says that the surest way to bring out your inner critic is to wear headphones while you're working. Think about it: you're listening to yourself listen to yourself, and when that happens you'll start editing your performance. Another performance killer is wearing headphones when working with other actors in the booth. How can you listen and react to them when you're listening to yourself at the same time?"

Can you imagine Gary Cooper stopping to check his look in the mirror during the gunfight in “High Noon”? He wouldn’t have had time to fire a shot. What if, while the villain bragged about his evil schemes, James Bond was busy admiring the cut of his tux instead of planning an escape? And what if John Travolta was constantly worried about his appearance in “Saturday Night Fever”? Oh, wait. That actually happened. The point is: Stop analyzing what you’re doing and just do it.

Remember… the most important word in Voice Acting is ACTING. Not voice.

Headphones keep you tethered to your board as well, perhaps leading to an inhibited performance. I mean, you don’t want to move around too much or those Sony’s will come flying off your head, right? Yet using your whole body in a performance is very important. The microphone picks up every nuance because your voice changes with each gesture.

There are also long-term health benefits to giving your headphones a rest. I can’t tell you the number of guys I know who crank their ‘cans’ a little louder each year. They’re killing their ears. Don’t let this happen to you.

Obviously there are exceptions to the ‘no head-phones’ rule. If the director insists you wear them, you wear them. I’m a producer as well as voice-actor, so when I’m monitoring somebody else’s performance, I wear them. Promo guys punch-in live when recording copy, so they need to hear the production. Singers must hear the music or the song will turn into a train-wreck. But in general, it’s a good idea to lose the head-phones. So step away from the “Valley of the Headphones” and trust the experts. I think you’ll find that it will breathe new life into your performances!



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