Author Archives: skylarkingzooby

Talking Telephone Numbers

Emma Carter, Jamie Zubairi

Emma Carter & Jamie Zubairi photo by Joseph Lidster ©Dark Shadows 2014 ©BigFinish Productions

Really interesting article about Telephone Numbers in Radio commercials I thought I’d re-blog here. Thanks Rushton On Radio!

I met the girl at a dinner party at a friends house. We got on magically. It was like the other people at the party just blended into the background. As she left she told me her phone number. “Will…

Source: Talking telephone numbers


Postman’s Park #Poem – @SoundCloud #audiobook

I wrote this poem while I was writing and exploring themes for Unbroken Line, the play what I wrote.

Postman’s Park is a cemetery in the middle of London where there is a wall dedicated to those who died saving others. Not uniformed people, just people, sometimes passing strangers. There are little stories that accompany the plaques which are touching and sad. It’s in the centre of The City (it’s very close to St Paul’s Cathedral) and a very busy shopping area. Some people sit in the park to find quiet amidst the blur of activity.

Postman’s Park Poem by jamiezoob #np on #SoundCloud

High audiodrama on the set of ‘Dark Shadows’

On Bank holiday Easter Sunday I made my way to Camden in north London for my first ever audio drama recording. I was pleased that Joe Lidster and Big Finish asked me to come in and voice a character called ‘Sketch’ for this Dark Shadows a long running series on television in the 1960s and 70s. It’s now been re-written as audio drama as starring Quentin Collins and Doona McKechnie.

This was my first recording of this kind since my days with Roger Norwood at LAMDA when we did some training at a studio in Primrose Hill somewhere. It was great watching the smooth toned Emma Carter at work, moving from characters and voices effortlessly. It was thanks to Emma that I felt at ease with the technique and just got down to doing what I do best: character voices.


The character I was voicing was interesting in that he had to transition from being  quite a low-status character with a foreign accent (Indian accent) who is a runner on a tv show and then reveal himself slowly to something more sinister. Going from one to the other in very few lines during the reveal was really fun and I’m glad that in my acting work because I work quite physically going from one physical characterisation to the next (and sometimes by degrees!) it was something that didn’t phase me.

But what happens to him? Who knows? Perhaps we’ll find out in other episodes!

I really wish I had snuck my smartphone on to record the transformation scene where Emma had to voice the sequence. No real spoilers there but it was one of the funniest things I’d seen. The things we do!

I had lots of fun working with another voice actor. Even though we had very little dialogue together, it is refreshing to do actual drama amongst all the corporate work that I have been doing lately.

It will be available later on in the year from the Big Finish website.

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Learning when to say ‘No’


Why have a real queen when you can get cheaper version?

Why have a real queen when you can get a cheaper version?

I hate saying ‘no’. To a friend, to a client, to a director. It puts you in the negative. It makes them think you’re being unhelpful or to good for them. Today I did just that, to a client. I hated it but I think sometimes you have to. Some people could say that it’s a lucky position to be in but sometimes you just have to say ‘no’ to jobs. This’ll probably jinx me for the next time but I’ve taken the risk.

I don’t know about you, but often when I get offered work, more work will come my way, either out of the blue or off the back of the first gig. In whatever field, be it business or creative (or creative business?) the buzz around a working person is positive and it keeps building speed. Have you seen it on television where a series, a soap, a one-off drama will have the same actor appearing either as a guest or as a recurring character. I’ve seen that about actors “Do they not stop working?” I think to myself. How lucky they must be!

In my 17 years as an actor I’ve seen that happen many a time. And I’ve experienced it. Like buses. Though often not for the same sector. Sometimes it’s all acting, sometimes voiceover work will come through, often interspersed with some one-off temping or a painting for a friend. I consider myself to be very, very lucky because I do a variety of things to earn a crust. I’d love to be able to specialise a bit more but I enjoy the changes. it’s doing them often enough which is the tricky part.

Today I said ‘no’ to a translation job. It was 2700 words and had to be timed to video. Given enough time I’d have jumped a the chance but with the weekend coming up (I have a regular paid job at the weekend as an assistant chef in a cafe, which I am loyal to) so working on outside project without prior notice is out of the question. I couldn’t have given it my full attention especially since they wanted me to work out the timecode for each of the sections, translate within the parameters (see my previous post on translations for voiceovers) and then neatly packaged with my own voiceover. (Which I don’t think is ethically right – I could be translating anything for myself to speak, and creating more work and expense for the client). For a “package fee”.


I know someone out there is doing the translation gig, but I hope that they’re doing it for something closer to the proper fee (all my agents have a standard fee for translation, so I’ve based it on theirs). I don’t expect others to lower their fees when we’ve worked hard at  our job to maintain professional standards, equipment and relationships. There will always be someone who will do it for cheaper but they’ll probably need it more. This weekend there was not time in my schedule to be fitting in a technical translation, something that required a lot of headspace to get around the jargon.

Luckily I’d still kept the voiceover gig!

An agent once said to me: Only accept the jobs that fulfill at least two of these:

1) is it paid – and paid correctly?

2) is it high profile – is it going to be good for your career?

3) Does it feel artistically fulfilling?

I know in the realm of voiceovers we often can’t be choosers but sometimes.. sometimes we can.


P.S. in case you were wondering, the photo above was backstage before a performance of a monologue for the Solo Festival at Lost Theatre in London for a piece called “Queen of The Jews” in which I had to play Queen Elizabeth II who was considering to convert to Judaism by Ivor Dembina

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#voiceovers Do you get the belly gurgles?



When you’re in a studio doing a voiceover, do you often get the engineer querying a deep rumbling in the studio? I’ve used to be too embarrassed to admit that it was my belly gurgling. After about 30 minutes into a session, my stomach will start to rumble! I soon got over my embarrassment and started buying snacks to munch on the way to a session. I think it’s gotten so bad that whenever I have a voiceover session booked, my immediate thing is to buy croissants for the journey.

I was in a particularly long session at a studio the other day and I have gotten so used to this, I came supplied with croissants. About 4. It was a 7 hour session in the studio and, sure enough, after the first 45 minutes, I got the first rumble but we carried on.  Stefano, the engineer, must be used to this by now, we’d been working on this project and others for a while. We took a break after the first hour, as expected, so I was able to stuff my face with croissant number 1.

While I was on the break, it got me thinking… does any other voiceover artist have this issue? I’m sure I can’t blame my voiceover career for my growing waistline and I get a Pavlovian reaction of thinking about croissants when I get a voiceover booking. Sound engineers? What funny stories have you experienced with voices in the booth?

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Translations for Voiceovers

Do video production companies take into account the foreign markets when making their videos?

I’ve been doing voiceovers now for newarly 7 years and am getting to notice things about foreign voiceovers in particular. I speak Bahasa which is a language spoken in Malaysia and Indonesia and, with the current economic interest in the region, there is a growing interest about investing in the oil and gas industries as well as manufacture.

With this investment comes job, with jobs comes regulations and training. With that, comes e-Learning and instructional videos.

I have so far been involved in the translation and voicing of about 20 Bahasa Health & Safety and “how-to” videos for the airline industry, oil & gas, manufacture. There are some which are incredibly easy to voice, especially when it falls into the “e-Learning” category and there isn’t any video to sync to. The problems arise when there is already an existing video, voiced usually in English and all I’m given is the timecode to fit in the translation. Often I’m left frustrated and tearing my hair out as a simple sentence in English  will sometimes be almost a third longer when in Bahasa. I wonder if production companies ever take this into account when they know their client will be using their video for the worldwide market. It’s something to consider. I’m sure it’s the same case in Standard German with their portmanteau words. Bahasa, or any other language where almost every consonant is followed by a vowel, for example:

There’s something in the air tonight = Ada sesuatu di udara malam ini

might look like a sentence of similar length but if you consider that the English has 8 syllables, the Bahasa (in this case Malay) has 13 syllables. Fitting the amount of syllables within the start and end of a particular timecode starts to make the sentence sound ridiculous. The viewer will be have to first get over the hurdle of how ridiculous it sounds before they can start actually taking in the information, which may be about airline safety or toxic gases.

When I am translating for voiceover I am always aware that someone is going to have to speak this at some point (often me) so the translation should match the lenth of the English. I’m often in vocal booths editing words out of someone else’s hard work in order that it should fit the client’s specification. Which increases my time in the booth as well as my fee and the cost to the whole production.


Often it’s the case where the voiceover client has the the video production company as the client, so there’s nothing the sound engineer can do.

I would love a situation where production companies producing the video made a slightly longer edit for the foreign markets their clients are selling to. It would help the voice doing the work as well as the person having to take the information in. What is the point of sitting your workers in front of a Health & Safety video if they can’t take it seriously and, by extension, feel that they are not being taken seriously by their employers?


Doing what I love best

Doing what I love best

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Voicereel Demo

My current voiceover demo reel

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Recorded Poem

I wrote ‘The Came On Bicycles’ are few years ago as research for the first Skylarking. I decided to record it and put it here so people can here what a well-spoken Malay accent sounds like.


The Value of Training

I’ve recently started a new audio editing training course. Refining my skills and learning new ones, making sure that I’m not making basic mistakes. As someone who has learned my craft by listening to other voicereels and wondering ‘How did they achieve that?’ and fiddling around with various audio editing software. Doing courses has been really helpful. I’ve been really lucky in that the course I went one was part of an initiative that my local borough (Southwark) are really keen to promote and encourage artists and The Arts in the area.

This week I will have started a new client’s commercial demo voicereel. Her session was really fun and relaxed – that’s what I can offer as I record from my home studio and we were able to expand on the sides that she found, chop them up creatively to give her a wider range of commercial styles. We’d also found some for using her ‘small boy voice’ which was really fun to record. We’d discovered this as she was mucking about over the mic and that got me excitedly thinking of another category that she could record for. I’m quite jealous of anyone who can voice young boys – there’s market for them out there and not many women can. Louise was one that could! Look out for her reel in a few weeks time when it’s up and running.

I’m glad I undertook the relatively short course. One day a week for four weeks is sometimes a little tricky to commit to when you’re freelance but training is important to me. What is nice is the fact that I’ve been able to learn about aspects of editing that I didn’t think I’d need. Effects, for example – how many times in a corporate VO have I needed to use any reverb or presets? With Louise’s demo reel I needed two very different types of voices for the same segment, two different atmospheres, her using two different character voices wasn’t enough. Having just learnt how to manipulate the sound digitally, I came up with three different variations of the same take. And using the multi-track option on Adobe Audition, I was able to easily come up with the same effect on the three different takes that she gave of the same read, without the fiddly editing of each segment. It came at the right time.

Recording Demos

I thought it was time to update my drama demo as it was feeling a little in need of refreshing. Because of the nature of the work, most of my voiceover home recordings are corporate and have a certain tone which I’ve been working with with some efficiently. The text of most corporate voiceovers don’t usually deal with emotion or conveying a story. (I say that, some really creative corporate voiceovers have been like little stories, or I had to play certain characters). As I haven’t been working with drama scripts for several months I knew that I’d have to have some help.

Today my actor and voiceover friend Amanda Gordon came by to help me record these demos so that I can concentrate on the acting side and not have to worry too much about pushing buttons. I have already recorded a version of these but as an experiment, Amanda offered to direct me on these pieces. From what I have heard already, doing a compare and contrast listen to the tracks, I really like the suggestions that Amanda has made: “Slow down”, “tell ME the story, make me see the images that you’re making”.

Really helpful suggestions. I guess it doesn’t matter how experienced you are as a voiceover artist, it really does help having an outside ear when you’re recording your own demos. Someone in the business whom you can trust who can talk to you straight as both a friend and professionally.

Having listened to one of the recordings I can hear the subtle changes in variety and colour that my voice has after her direction. I hope I can post these up here when I’ve finished with the edit and mixdown.

Happy voicing!

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