Cameron Baird - How I became a character voice artist

Could you introduce us to a few of your characters? How did they come about?

While at school I created a voice character called Josephine. She is about 89 and she came about by playing with what voice-artists now call voice placement. Josephine's voice is placed in the front of the mouth and her voice can only be done by creating a half moon caricature unhappy face.

That's interesting! Could you tell us a little more about how you place your different voices?

I learnt that when trying to impersonate cartoon voices like Kermit the Frog, the voice could be placed anywhere in the mouth. I found that to impersonate Kermit the Frog, I had to move the sound to the back of my throat and I would do a short 'erm' sound to start the impression.

Another character I created later on was called Gerald. I'm unsure exactly when I came up with Gerald but again his voice was created by facial expressions and movements in the jaw. Both Josephine and Gerald are very old and I did think of creating an animation about both of them, voicing both characters myself. That hasn't happened yet, but I still try to improve both characters and I don't think I will stop developing them.

Could you tell us a little about the process of recording cartoons?

Sometimes the client might give you a description of what the character is like and an accent, for instance: A rat with a cheeky side to him, american accent. At other times you can get a script with a picture of the animation character, and the script might have character information.

It might be worth auditioning for more than one character or saying in your cover letter to the company, I hope you don't mind but I've also attached another character I would like to play.

Exploring your voice and keeping it flexible is very important for animation work, so working on any age of character is important.

What advice would you give to actors who are starting out?

From what I have learnt so far, my tips and advice for actors starting out would be:

  • Believe in yourself and have confidence that you will do a great job. A casting director may well have made their minds up in the first few seconds [of an audition]. So just go for it!
  • Keep vocal exercises up and practice everyday, remembering the techniques and exercises you have been taught.
  • Keep going to auditions or auditioning for voice-overs and don't give up.
  • If you do intend on doing voice-over work as a professional career it is worth researching about home studios as it can cost quite a lot to go into studios. I have my own small home studio for recording voice, but as I am also a singer and songwriter I also use it to record my songs. My current set up is my PC with Mixcraft 6, Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 and a Rode NT1-A Microphone - which I personally think is the best microphone for recording voice. I also have an Editors Keys Portable Vocal Booth.

In my experience, it also helps to read books which explain about how the voice works and how you can achieve different objectives. I recommend The Actor Speaks by Patsy Rodenburg, Voice-Overs - A Practical Guide by Bernard Graham Shaw, Speaking Shakespeare by Patsy Rodenburg. If you are interested in Voice-over for animation, I suggest getting the book Voice-Over for Animation by Jean Ann Wright and M J Lallo.

What's the best advice you've heard?

Do your best, you can't do any better than that. Just go for it! Thank you very much to Mandy Voiceovers for asking me to do this mini interview.