Vocal Brands: Put the emphasis on the right syllable

April 1, 2014

After having dived into the murky lagoon that is audiobook recording, I’m fascinated in how voice actors and actresses are truly brands within themselves. Some are more widely known than others. A few are one-hit wonders. Others are so versatile you wouldn’t even realize just how many pieces of media they’re in.

If you’ve ever watched a movie trailer, especially for an action or thriller flick, you’ll have heard the “Movie trailer voice”. In a world...one man must fight to survive, blah blah blah. Everyone is familiar with that voice. It’s a brand within itself, despite technically falling under the domain to two voice actors.

Don LaFontane and Hal Douglas both had their time voicing movie trailer narration. They were effectively the Coke & Pepsi of voice brands for trailers. They were omnipresent, and stylistically identical. Truth be told, I still have trouble telling the two voices apart.

I’ve learned that branding your voice is more than just being clever or imitating a funny character. And a majority of the time, the general public won’t even realize the time, effort, and money put into what’s put before them. Just as there is no one method to managing a corporate brand, there’s no one style of voice acting.

Then there are animated shows and video games, which can use the same or similar voices a dozen times across a dozen works. Those voices are the watch battery brands of the industry, they’re integral to making multiple things work, without being a downright commodity. They’re also best when used for certain projects, just like certain watches require certain sized batteries.

While it’s difficult to squeeze different tones or emotions into their own brands, I think of it as: Certain voices just make the most sense when used for happy dialogue, or how certain VAs tend to get typecasted to certain characters due to their personality / ability to convey emotions and make a character their own. Basically any VA from Funimation comes to mind, as their cast is diverse but can span a dozen projects using similar voices. (I still picture Haru from Fruits Basket as Yusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho because of Justin Cook voicing both characters in his own brand of “short-tempered punk”.)

What voices do you recognize in media? What style of vocal branding have you found effective? I’m a fan of Funimation’s “You should be watching.” whispered call to action.

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