A few months ago I was doing an ISDN session for an infomercial client. The video had already been edited, and we were replacing the scratch track, so each paragraph needed to be done for time.
Most of the time, it is fairly easy to find the “groove” of the piece. The general pacing and things move along fairly quickly at that point. But this scratch track was different. Some of it was done by the producer who speaks at a leisurely pace and the rest of it was done by the editor who speaks very quickly.
After doing the first few paragraph a couple of times to find the right time, the editor asked me if I wanted to hear the scratch track. “Heck yes!” was my response.
In fact, I asked him if he could do a little pre-roll and then punch me in when the section started – I would read along with the scratch track and be able to end up at the cut point. The producer had never done this before with any other talent, and was a bit skeptical about this process. The editor knew what was going to happen.
The session moved along quickly from that point on. I knew how fast or slow to go. Not everyone can do this. It takes being able to listen without letting what you hear take over – simply act as a guide. One of the exercises that I use in my Introduction to Voiceover Class at City College is stolen from Pat Fraley – I call it Talk Back to the Radio. You let the words you hear go in your ears and fall out of your mouth. Eventually, you should start to hear what you are doing and consciously make instantaneous decisions on pacing, inflection, overall speed, etc. – and still say the words. Sort of like teaching yourself the words to a song. You end up making the song your own, but it is still the song…the right notes, the right words, but your approach.
I learned how to do this technique during my years as an on-camera spokesperson where I used what is called and Ear Prompter for a lot of projects. I would record the script and then play it back in my ear as I delivered my lines to the camera.
Here is an extreme example of someone VERY skilled at this technique. Mike Rowe. Watch and be amazed!