Friday, March 19, 2010

Voice Over Ideas on Watermarking: 'Been There Done That' or 'Always'?

The question has come up many times before: 'Should I watermark my auditions?'. There are always varying opinions on whether or not you should, but I believe getting to the root of the problem as to 'Why people watermark(ed)?' will give more insight as to how to proceed.

Remember that any creative industry is made up of 'trends'. It has always been this way. Doing business online means following 'online business trends'. Remember that working online breeds fear because we do not see each other face to face.

Fear led to watermarking, and at the time, rightly so. 'Watermarking' was introduced when auditioning online became a 'trend' and a remedy for the fear 'What if they take my audition!' was in demand. "Not knowing who to trust' was common in the online voice over industry. So what changed?

Voice over professionals joined in communities who worked online together.
Voice seekers became voice talent, and voice talent became voice seekers.
They interacted enough times for voice seekers to begin thinking, 'I have worked online before. Why did he/she watermark? Do they not trust me?'. (It might seem like a sensitive reaction, but knowing that a watermark indicates a fear something may be stolen, it is understandable.)

Finally, watermarks done poorly became a 'trend' and great clients were simply tired of them. Voice talent who knew this responded by not using them anymore to meet a buyer's need. As such, out of any 'need' grew a new 'trend' to get work... Do not use watermarks.

I will admit there is a great deal of conflicting information out there. I sat in a class in 2008, and heard someone say, 'Don't audition online. They steal your auditions.', which surprised me because I knew the person never even did one online audition. You see, that is the funny thing... compared to 2004... we all know who is who, and what they do, because the online communities and social media makes this possible.

If you are still wondering, 'WHO DO I BELIEVE!' Do not fear. Believe the following:

The advice of people who get work online. You can find them in our forums.

If you fear you have to watermark when you see Project Details, Script, and Voice Seeker Details, you should probably pass on the audition.

The Voice123 process is just an audition process. Just like in casting directors' offices, they never used your in-house audition for final production.

If you fear the seeker will use a 96 kbps compressed audio voice over audition for final production, that is not a job worth the effort.

Fear is the one thing that can be erased through education and experience.

My personal opinion...Do not watermark. Change the phone number, if there is one, or slightly fade out the volume on the end of your audition. Most clients know who they want by that point, but hey...there are no absolutes to this industry.

If something gets you work, keep doing it, until it doesn't.

Best regards,

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
Voice123 Premium Forums
Steven's BlogTwitter: @stevenNYC123


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Steven.
I've always had questions about watermarking and your advice here
really makes sense!
I so appreciate you.
Excellent information!
Warm Regards,

Melissa Reizian Frank said...

Hey there...I have several thoughts on this. To begin with, I do ALL my auditions online. I get quite a bit of work from V123 and I've never met 99% of my clients face to face. That said, in my 10 years in the business, I have had one audition "stolen," that I know of...and I know that simply because someone at the site where the audition had been posted called the job poster, heard me on their voicemail, recognized my voice, and just called me to see if I had in fact been hired. I had not. I emailed the company and they took the audio down...but never did pay me to do it. jeez. Then last year, my son did an audition through V123 and a couple weeks later I got an email from the client saying that his audition had been perfect, they had USED it already, and please send them an invoice. Interesting. So there are folks out there who do not know, nor care, than 96kbps is not a wonderful broadcast bit rate.

Now, that said, I still do not watermark. Just as realtors will not show you a house before they've torn down the bold, floral wallpaper for fear that you won't be able to picture it any other way, there are plenty of clients who cannot picture your voice without the watermark... I recently had a conversation with a client (for a very high-price job, I might add) who did not understand why he had received many auditions with watermarks. He just didn't get it. And furthermore, he said some people were changing the name of the company (something I have done often if I think the audition script may be the entire script) and he just didn't understand why they were "reading it wrong." The internet has given all phases of the production process access to the auditioners...and they often have no filter of an experienced production house that could explain to them that watermarking is done for the protection of the auditioner. Instead, this guy just pretty much didn't consider any submission that wasn't the exact audition script with no watermark. Something to think about.

Melissa Reizian Frank
"Giving your project a voice"

Dave Grosso said...

Hi, Steven!

Having done a good number of auditions at this point, I've learned that actually the best 'watermark' is taking the extra time to do a full 'mini-production' for an audition. In other words, I always lay a music bed and even some sound effects if the posting calls for it for the final production. Let me tell you, it has been very successful for me, because it usually has given the voice seeker a clearer picture as to how my voice will fit with their project. On the other hand, it prevents them from using it, because it most likely has a different music bed than what they're using.

So, in all, I agree ... watermarking is a no-no. Besides, it sounds too close to waterboarding!

All the best to you and the rest of the Voice123 community!

Dave Hickman said...

Good piece, Steven. As you say, if you 'fear' you have to watermark, don't audition...that argument clinches it for me.


Jay Webb said...

Great comments everyone. I appreciate each of you taking time to voice your thoughts. I don't like to watermark because of various being that it takes extra time, another being that it could be distracting to the listener, and thirdly (and mainly), I really don't like changing information in the script because I can just imagine a potential client not hiring me because he thinks I'm a bonehead for not recording the correct info. My "fix"? I find some point at which I can simply fade out and do that. I give them plenty of audio to make their decision and then go out. I say "leave them wanting more." What do YOU think?

Jay Webb

Andrew Barovick said...

I can tell from the context of your post that watermarking involves leaving some kind of personal imprint within your audtion recording, but would you please explain exactly what the concept entails? I'm too new at this to have dealt with the issue yet. Thanks a lot.