It's gonna happen, you're going to get a job with a scratch track already recorded. What are you supposed to do with it? Should you try to match it? Do your own thing? How do you manage the clients' expectations? Let's talk about it.
What are voice actors supposed to do with scratch tracks? - 5:58
Hey guys. Welcome to another edition of the Gift of Gab. Thank you so much for joining me. Today, I would like to talk to you about scratch tracks. What is it? Stick around and find out
Something we see a lot as voice actors is what's known as a scratch track, and if you're new to this industry, you might be wondering, what is it? Why should I care about it? How does it affect my work? So let's talk about it.
First of all, sometimes you as the actor might be asked to record a scratch track. Unfortunately what this means is, you might not be the final choice for the actor who is ultimately going to be used in the final production. It kind of sucks, it basically means you're a placeholder. I know it's a little weird, right? It's kind of strange. It happens a lot when a production is usually pretty big budget and high dollar, and they're looking to hire either a celebrity or a notable voice and they don't want to waste a lot of time in pre and post-production, so they bring in a less expensive, more reasonably priced talent (that would be you) to get a lot of the logistics worked out and a lot of the timing within the script worked out, and yeah, you record the entire project, then they use that to create what's known as a rough cut. Then at some point, they bring in the ultimate or final voice. Technically you're never really heard, you're never really used. You are, however, paid for your time and you are paid for the session, you're just not paid the big money for the usage that the end actor might actually see.
Another, and this is really really common, and probably the thing that Ii think you're more likely to see, a client will go ahead and record a scratch track of their own for their project for reasons I still don't totally understand for as long as I've been doing this. They think, bless their hearts, they really really really think that giving us or providing us with a copy of their scratch track is gonna help us do our job and anyone who has heard a client recorded scratch track knows how bad these things are. I mean, they are atrocious! Now look, on one hand, yeah, there is something helpful in the sense that they're showing us the video, they're showing us the visuals, they're showing us what the end product might look like and maybe what the timing will be about. But the voiceover that they're showing us, that they're letting us hear, oh my god it's so bad! It is so so bad. It's usually someone on staff, it's it's very monotone, it's been very poorly recorded, right? The audio quality is really bad, it was done on a cell phone or somebody's, like, USB desktop mic.
For someone who's been doing it a long time, we know how to tune it out. We know how to not let that influence what we do or the audition that we provide or the final session. But for someone who's really new, it might be hard to listen to that and not think, "Gosh, is that what they want? Is that -- is that what they expect of me or is that what they're wanting me to sound like?" It's hard to not let that influence what you do. That's what you have to avoid. You can't let that really crappy scratch track influence your job. You have to know that you're the artist here. You know better. You've got a job to do and trust your gut, trust your instinct, and know that your artistry has to kind of override what it is that they have presented you with.
Another thing that happens a lot with those scratch tracks is because the person who recorded them doesn't really understand timing and emoting and all of what goes into just the emotions of the acting, the timing is off because they read really flat and everything can be kind of boring and kind of monotonous, and so once we actually put some life into the copy, well guess what? It throws the timing off. Then they have to make a lot of adjustments on the fly in the session. Again, don't let that negatively impact you, and don't let that sway you, that is not your fault. The client should have had some foresight there, they should have kind of seen that coming, that's not your problem, but it does happen a lot. I had that happen just last week where, yeah, we had to really do some pretty heavy-duty in-session editing and adjustments to the video, because the timing ended up being really really off as a result. Ultimately, yes, when they come to the table with a client-recorded scratch track, you will be completely replacing that audio and the final product will feature your voice - yay! - and again, it's really common. This happens a lot in a lot of sessions. I think just about anything that comes with video now is prone to have a scratch track attached to it in some way. I hope this helps, I hope it clarifies some stuff and the next time you see a scratch track you'll have a better understanding of how to work with it and what it does.
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Gabrielle Nistico, Gabby Nistico, The Voiceover Vixen, The Business First VO Coach, #VoiceoverVixen #VoiceOnFire #BusinessFirstVOCoach Voiceover, Charlotte, North Carolina, Voiceover Demo, Voiceover Coaching Advice, Working Actors, Los Angeles, New York, How to Be a Better Voice Actor, scratch tracks, stand in, copywriter, big budget, celebrity voiceover, notable voice, pre-production, post-production