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  • Cheryl

In The Booth: How Long Does It Take?

There's something you probably don't give a lot of thought to when listening to a quick commercial or hearing a voiceover on a short video. To the listener, a 30-second ad is just that - an ad that consists of someone talking for 30 seconds. To the voice actor recording that speech, however, it takes a lot more time than 30 seconds.


If you had to guess how long it takes to produces that final 30-second recording that makes it on air, what would you guess? A minute? Two minutes?


It's different for everyone - the more time you spend in the recording booth, and the more gigs you get under your belt, the more vocal and editing tricks you learn which cut down on the amount of time it takes to complete a project. On the other hand, a script that contains, say, a great deal of medical terminology can take a bit longer to read just to ensure you're pronouncing everything correctly and articulating well.


But the general rule of thumb is this: One minute of finished narration ("finished" meaning the final take, edited, cleaned up, and bounced out) requires two minutes of recording time. That's just the time spend talking into the microphone - sometimes you nail the read on the first take, but more often than not, you read it a few different times in a few different ways until you feel you've gotten it right. And when it comes to editing, one minute of finished narration requires four or five minutes of editing - choosing the best takes, stringing them together, taking out the breath sounds and the mouth clicks, cleaning up the background noise, and finally bouncing out the finished recording.


So how much time is involved in that 30-second ad? Up to four minutes, minimum.


That doesn't sound like much, right? And for this particular project, you're right - it's a pretty quick turnaround. But most of the projects I work on, for example, are measured in minutes, not seconds - three minutes, five minutes - and they often come in a series, such as a group of training videos, so the total finished narration time approaches an hour. Using the formula, that 60 minutes of finished recording means 420 minutes - or 7 hours - in the booth, reading the scripts and editing the recordings.


These are the factors I take into consideration when I'm asked what I would charge for a project. It's not just the reading of the script a client is paying for - they're also paying for booth time, for multiple tries to get the perfect take, for editing and cleaning up and polishing until that recording is the absolute best narration with the best quality sound I can produce. That's not something I want to rush.


If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right, right? And when it's your own business, it's definitely worth doing right.

Voice actors spend more time in here than you might think.