Hopefully the first of many, this is Behind the Microphone – an interview series with some of the UK’s most recognisable voices.

Kicking off the series is voice over artist, Gina Mellotte. Gina spoke to imediamonkey about what it’s like being a continuity announcer for Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster [ITV1], her home studio, having her name credited next to the likes of Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross, and plenty more.

How did you get into voice over work?

I worked in TV Production before I became a voice over, where I got invaluable experience in the business and occasionally did some VOs for various people/companies. I got the taste for it and realised that it was something I really wanted to try, so I did. I was often told I had a great voice for it – which made me even more determined!

I made a showreel and sent it to all the TV production contacts I knew. A VH1 Producer wanted me to voice a few promos and from those jobs, others came through, then another and another and it went from there. I was very lucky. About 5 years ago I was offered a place on the books of Just Voices, which was just incredible, as they are one of the best agencies in London.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that you would pass onto budding voice overs?

I think in this business advice should come all the time, because it’s an industry that’s always changing track. I was given great advice when I first started from a lovely producer, who I still work with occasionally, and it was about interaction with the Director/Producer during a session. Always listen, be open to changes during a session and don’t be afraid to put your own twist on a script even if it’s not asked of you. Obviously it should be pretty obvious from the direction and the script itself what is needed, but it can be a team effort between client and voice over, and that’s very useful for all concerned, but never assume you know everything or better than the client!

I would also advise any budding voice over’s to practice, practice, practice. It’s never too late to learn and grow as a voice over, however long you’ve been doing it for.

How would you describe your voice?

Well, I have quite a deep voice. It’s fairly husky at times, which in turn makes it quite sexy sounding!

How have others described it?

It’s been described as just that by many over the years! As well as received pronunciation, clear and smooth and strong!

What’s your immediate reaction when you feel a sore throat coming on?

I shut up, and drink hot water with fresh lemon squeezed in!

You’re one of the continuity announcers for Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster [ITV]. What’s that like?

Being a continuity announcer on ITV1 is a real honour, because yes, it’s the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster. It’s great to intro some of the country’s biggest shows, like The X FactorBritain’s Got TalentDownton Abbey and the Rugby World Cup.

I’m one of six announcers, and we regularly announce to millions of viewers. If I think about that every time I do a link I’m not sure I could do it, so I try not to! It’s just me myself and the booth, but it’s great fun.

The live aspect brings a different element to it, naturally. You’ve got to be on the ball, and always ready for last minute changes, because that’s live telly for you.

Describe a day in the life of a continuity announcer

I’m a peak time announcer, which means I do the late shifts – they start at 4pm and finish at about 11:30pm, depending on what’s on. I come in at 4 and take over from the day announcer.

The scripts need to be written, and we need to look through the media plan for important things that need saying about a programme, or for the end credits. We have billings and program notes that are sent through, which give us ideas and help of what to say in the links. Our scripts are checked by the Producers and then we’re ready to speak to the nation!

There are often changes during the shift, because of shows over running, or if there’s a live show, but we’re ready for that and can change things at the last minute if needed.

The late shift announcer has to write and record the overnight announcements too – which start at about midnight and go until Daybreak at 6am – so we have a system that links that with transmission once we’ve recorded them. The day announcer starts at about 8:30/9am for the first live link at 9.25am, before The Jeremy Kyle Show.

One of the most important things with voice over work is, of course, the equipment you use. Now you’re fortunate enough to have a studio in the comfort of your own home. What exactly have you kitted it out with?

My studio is in my bedroom cupboard. It’s very small but works perfectly!

I have a Mac computer, a compressor, a sound card, a RODE NT2-A condenser microphone, pop shield and the walls are covered with ‘egg carton’ type foam, to buffer the sound. My ISDN Codec sits outside the cupboard, because the fan is too loud to be in the cupboard with me. I often say I have to go back into the cupboard, which raises a few eyebrows.. if people don’t know what I’m talking about!

What’s an ISDN line?

An ISDN line is an internet service, and basically a telephone-based network system that operates by a circuit switch, or dedicated line. It can transmit data and phone conversations digitally over normal telephone wires.

I have a codec machine that this ISDN line connects through to my studio so I can speak to producers ‘real time’ through my headphones and they record their end, anywhere in the world!

Continuity isn’t your only voice over work, though You’ve also voiced adverts for the likes of ASDA, B&Q, Thomas Cook, Westfield London, the BBC, Disney and Vodafone. What’s the process of voicing an advert, starting from the initial contact to being broadcast?

My agent will get a call from a client – who’ll pencil me for a job – and then they’ll either confirm that or not. If they confirm me, a time is set and I’m told which studio to go to – or they’ll arrange an ISDN link-up to my studio.

It’s great giving clients the option to either record from my home, or in a studio in London. We then record the voice over at the time that’s been set and the Producers then go away and make the advert, and it ends up on the TV and/or radio!

You’ve been the voice over of the Philips British Academy Television Awards and the Orange Philips British Academy Film Awards for the past few years now.. What is it like having such a big part in two of the most prestigious events in the television and film calendars?

Well, as you can imagine, all I can say is it’s been an absolutely honour being chosen to voice the BAFTAs – both TV and Film Awards. I’ve done it for the past few years and I have absolutely loved it. The Producers who I’ve worked with are some of the best in the industry, and they’re so great to work with. I’ve been given a credit right under Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton – that’s huge!

Do you prefer pre-recording your audio, or do you get a buzz going live?

Well, as you’d expect, they’re both very different. Doing live continuity means you only get one shot at it. I’ve often done a live link and wished I could do it again, but you can’t, you’ve just got to learn from it and do better in the next link.

Pre-recording audio might seem easier, but actually, when you’ve got the beauty of being able to do something more than once, sometimes you can lose the spontaneity of it. I’ve got into the habit of, when I record a script for a client, I make sure I record it about 3 times, in 3 different ways, to give them the choice (if they haven’t asked for a certain direction).

I’d say both have their advantages and disadvantages – I like both!

Who are some of your favourite voice over artists?

One of my favourites is Jessica Brohn. Her voice is just silk in my opinion and she always sounds cool, relevant and expressive. She can lift any script off the page and make it sound perfect for the product.

Can you say who your favourite client is?

I have many great clients, I’m very lucky, so I can’t really single anyone out. I work with big companies and single Producers – it’s very diverse.

How vital do you think having an online presence (website, social networks) is to your work?

Well, I think in this day and age it’s very important to have a website. I have one and it’s a great tool. My agent also advertises me – along with the other voices in the agency – on their website and I subscribe to two other voice over websites, which has and continues to be incredibly useful.

I make sure I don’t overdo it on the social networks, though, where work is concerned. Being too pushy, I think, can have the opposite effect. We’re in an internet/smartphone age, where you can access anything on the go, so having a website is as must!

Where can people go to find out more about you?

I’ve recently had my site re-designed, thanks to Mylo Design. You can find audio examples of my work, my contact details, and my agents details, along with a little bit about me too at ginamellotte.com.

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