Review — Voice Acting Mastery

A few months ago I started listening to Crispin Freeman’s podcast, Voice Acting Mastery. Crispin has done tons of roles in both anime dubs and video games. I’m personally most familiar with him for his role as Winston in Overwatch and Itachi Uchiha in Naruto, but he’s also Alucard in Hellsing and prominent characters in Fate/ZeroFate/Stay Night, and Young Justice.

Voice Acting Mastery is a podcast about learning the fundamentals of the craft of voice acting. It includes tips on everything from learning the craft to establishing a professional career to interviews with actors in the field.

The primary reason for my interest in this podcast is not of vocational purposes. Mostly, I want to learn how to use my voice to become different characters in both Dungeons & Dragons and my acting career (as a hobbyist and instructor). Also I’d like to be a better narrator for my own stories when I record them.

That said, much of the content of the podcast is irrelevant to me, so here’s the disclaimer. I don’t need to know how microphones work, I don’t need to look for an agent or anything technical or “business”-y about the field. I was mostly looking for tips on how to change the quality of my voice.

So I was a bit disappointed to find out that most voice acting roles are signed based on the natural speaking voice of the actor. I may be pulling this number out of thin air, because I can’t remember if Crispin said it or not, but I believe I remember something along the lines of “80% of your booked gigs will be booking you for the emotion you put into your real voice, not for having an amazing pool of voices to pick from”. This isn’t the podcast for that.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t have useful knowledge. Most of the tips he provides are useful for any professional in the creative fields. It’s also never a bad thing to hear about the personal experience from anyone trying to break into industries of this sort.

So with as many podcasts exist in the world right now, is this one worth listening to? Well, it depends. For somebody looking into becoming a voice actor, absolutely. This teaches so much valuable knowledge about what it’s like, it’s a good tool. For somebody like me that is only recreationally interested in the craft, it’s not that great. My recommendation would be to go through all the episodes (there are currently 134, and the pre-100 episodes are only 20 minutes long), look at all the titles, and if they don’t sound relevant, they probably aren’t. The interviews are cool to listen to, but typically Crispin brings on specific people to talk about specific things, so if you know you’re never going to do motion capture for a video game, you can probably skip the interview with the actress he brings on for it (though she is a lot of fun).

If nothing else, I’ve learned a lot about what I need to look for in my pursuit for utilizing different voices, so I at least have that to thank Crispin for. He’s also a great teacher, and since he lives in my area I might consider taking a class or two with him to get more direct instruction.

Me — Visualizing Information About Yourself

I like lists and putting things into boxes. This mostly means Google Sheets. I used to keep track of everything I had ever written, for example. I had categories for each universe I wrote in and subcategories for each project. Every entry has the name, when it was first written, when it was last edited, how many words it was, how much it needed edits, whether or not I had had my writers group look at it, and whether or not I had recorded it. For each short story and novel I had written.

I haven’t updated that particular thing in months. It’s just a lot of maintenance because I’m constantly writing and editing. I even kept track of how many words had been published on my blog in posts like this. I had to do the math myself because that particular metric had to exclude fiction which would have been featured elsewhere anyway. I was careful not to duplicate.

I love graphs and visualizing data, but I’m not keen on doing things that don’t do me a whole lot of good. The only thing useful that Google Sheet told me was word count, so working so hard to keep it accurate wasn’t an efficient use of my time. But there are three things I use a ton because they’re very useful for my daily life. I have a “Hype Tracker”, an “Audio Tracker”, and a “Timeline”.

The Hype Tracker lists every game, movie, book, or event I’m looking forward to. Not only does it allow me to know what I’m looking forward to and how long it will take to happen, but I can also keep track of games that are out that I haven’t gotten yet (such as Pyre, for instance). I change the color of each entry for dates that have passed, and change it again if I still have yet to see that movie or read that book. It’s a nice way to see all the things I’m looking forward to (plus even just seeing the names of a bunch of things you love is a positive thing).

The Audio Tracker is the Sheet I have for all the podcasts I’m listening to. The data includes how many episodes I have left to catch up, what the last episode I listened to was (the single most important metric), how many hours I’ll need to invest to catch up, and how many weekly hours the podcast produces. For podcasts I’m caught up with, I just change the color and keep track of how many episodes are currently released. This particular Sheet requires a good amount of upkeep, but it’s useful for getting an estimate on how much time it will take to listen to all the things I like.

The Timeline is very simple. It’s just a graph of all the major events in my life. I have lines for age, the grade I was in, the house I live in, the major events, birthdays, larger writing projects, etc. This one I mostly keep so I can pull it up every time I want to know how old I was when “X” was happening, or what house I lived in when this game came out.

I also write a few notes in a journal on my phone twice a day about my mood and what I’ve been doing. I do this so I can learn about myself and my energy levels. Things I do and do not enjoy, etc. For example, I took a few hours to clean all the clutter off my desk and put things away today, and I realized I felt amazing. If I had just been about my day without consciously taking the time to analyze how I feel, I may not have learned how important a clean workspace is for me.

This all may sound like a lot of work, and in some ways it is. But I enjoy it, it teaches me about myself, and I don’t do things if they’re too exhausting. Learning about oneself is a job never done, so I like to take the time to do it.

Life — Catching Up

Throughout my entire life, I’ve been late to the game in most of the things I experience. I’m always the last to read, watch, or hear about something, and all of my free time is spent playing catch up.

I’ve done the math. And I’m going to try to catch up by 2018.

It’s pretty daunting. I have five or six podcasts I want to listen to, and three books I want to be finished with at the end of the year. Four, if I make good time. But it’s going to take a lot.

Before I give you the numbers, let me just say that this is all free time. This is after school, work, writing, and D&D. For podcasts, it means listening in the car or when I’m playing video games by myself. So this is time I’m already going to have to be pushing for.

The worst part is, most of these podcasts have been running for years. Writing Excuses, for example, may only have fifteen minute long episodes, but the episodes are weekly, and the podcast has been running since 2008.

So, here are the numbers. In order to be caught up with all of these podcasts by the end of the year (minus the time I’ve already put into it, of course,) this is how many hours per week I need to put into it. This is also the order of priority I’m putting into this effort.

  • Critical Role — 15 hours
  • Writing Excuses — 2 hours
  • Voice Acting Mastery — 2.5 hours
  • Story Break — 3 hours
  • CoolGames Inc. — 3.5 hours
  • Hello Internet — 10 hours

Now, because there’s a lot of content, but I’m not super into it, let’s just take off Hello Internet from these numbers. I do want to get to it, but I don’t plan on trying to get caught up any time soon. So without that, that’s about 26 hours per week of podcast. Doable, if I try really hard. (Plus, it’s worth noting that I can obviously just focus on one podcast, but I like the idea of tackling them all simultaneously so I don’t burn myself out on just one.)

That said, Critical Role 15 hours per week? That’s pretty much one episode a day. I really want to be caught up, but I don’t know if I can do it. Besides that, by my calculations, the entire month of December would be spent watching episodes that don’t even exist yet! This wouldn’t take nearly as long if they just stopped production to wait for me.

A (very) rough estimate of the total amount of time I would need to be caught up right now is about 500 hours, and that isn’t counting future episodes that haven’t aired. As of writing this on Monday, between now and the end of the year is about 2800 hours. I would need to be listening to podcasts for about 17.5% of the time (again, only counting current episodes).

I don’t think that’ll be possible, because it’s too much to get through in a small period of time. But really, all I need to do is go through content faster than it is released. So while I’m perfectly aware that being caught up with everything by 2018 is an insane notion, I hope the aspiration will make the process go much more quickly.