Do you love anime? If so, chances are you’ve wondered about the voices behind some of your favorite characters. I know I certainly have! That’s why I was so excited to attend the Triad Anime Con in Greensboro, North Carolina earlier this month. Several of the guests have worked on shows that I simply love, including Fullmetal AlchemistAttack on Titan, and Ouran High School Host Club.

While there were a plethora of great panels hosted throughout the weekend, one of the most fascinating was lead by three of the voice acting guests: Tiffany Grant, Chris Patton, and David Matrang. The topic? Voice acting! This team of professionals covered a lot in their hour-long session, but I’ve narrowed it down to 10 key points aspiring voice actors may find interesting.

Voice Acting is Acting

For those of you interested in voice acting, the bit you should pay closest attention to is “acting.” Grant, Patton, and Matrang explained that they are actors first. Additionally, they all began their careers in theater.  If you’re interested in the field, that’s where you should start.

Theater is a Glamorous Profession

Except…not really. Or, at least, not always. Especially in the early stages of an acting career, it’s sometimes difficult to find continuous work – or even paid work, that matter! It’s relatively easy to be cast in a show, but getting paid to perform isn’t so simple. That means taking on odd and not-so-pleasant jobs is sometimes required.

Diversifying is Important

Voice actors, even successful ones, aren’t just voice actors. In fact, Grant, Patton, and Matrang shared that diversifying is incredible important. They all regularly do commercials, industrial jobs, and even audio books, as well as the occasional theatrical stage show. At the end of the day, bills have to get paid and voice acting won’t always hit the mark.

Always Say “Yes”

Similarly, when jobs arise, it’s a good idea to jump on them. It may be a small part, but one or two line roles can lead to more significant work in the future. Additionally, small gigs pay, even if it isn’t a substantial amount.

Home Studios are Driving the Market Down

It’s easier than ever to create a home studio with your own mics and sound equipment. While that’s a great thing, it’s also driving down the professional voice acting market. Grant, Patton, and Matrang all felt that they were doing more work than ever before, but that the field has become “crowded” and booking numerous gigs doesn’t mean financially what it once did.

Not All Actors Can Be Voice Actors

Voice acting is highly technical, arguable more so than any other form of acting. Not only must performers deliver lines in an emotionally compelling way, but they have to do to the “beat” of already established animation. Directors tend to give extremely technical notes with little-to-no rehearsing. Further, voice acting is very solitary. The recordings occur in a sound booth with no other actors present, so working off others in a scene is impossible. While this style of performing works for some people, not everyone enjoys it or is capable of even accomplishing it.

Not All Voice Actors Belong on Stage or TV

The reverse is also true, however. Just as some performers make better voice actors, others a far more comfortable on stage or camera. If this is a field you’re interested in, it will be important to experiment with various formats before identifying a preference. Grant, Patton, and Matrang also mentioned the time commitment difference; filming a single scene in a movie or television show can take days, while many voice acting gigs can be wrapped up in less than an hour.

Following Mouth Flaps Isn’t Easy

The most difficult part of voice acting? Following the mouth flaps. Once an anime is brought to the United States, a translator will create a new script in English. These scripts are given to the actors, who must then match the words to the mouth movements already established in the Japanese version. This can be quite difficult, in some cases, and requires a lot of practice.

Cold Reading is Essential

Additionally, cold reading is an absolutely essential part of voice acting. Because scripts aren’t usually distributed with a lot of notice, there’s not a lot of time to memorize lines the way traditional performers do. Sometimes, the most prep a voice actor will get is watching the episode through a single time before the recording session begins. The ability to read lines accurately and in character right off the bat is probably the number one most important skill a voice actor needs.

First Takes are Usually the Best

With that, Grant, Patton, and Matrang all agreed that the first take is usually the best one. Directors will sometimes run through a single section over and over again, but ultimately opt for the first delivery of lines. This is often the case for at-home audition recordings as well. If you plan on sending voice demos to various companies, keep this in mind. The first run through is often the most natural and genuine.