February 1, 2010 | last updated March 24, 2012 9:16 pm
Digital Diva

Have Video, Need Voice

Remember that book "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman?

Well, it just got a little flatter.

At least that's how I felt recently as I interviewed Mandy Nelson, a voiceover artist based in Worcester, who's seeing her business evolve in an interesting direction as the demand for online video increases in the business world.

My "world is flatter" moment came as Nelsen described a recent interaction with a customer. You see, thanks to her web site (dandysound.com), voiceover work comes to her at all hours of the night. Take MySwimCap.com, an Internet startup created by a Boston-based lawyer. The founder of the site e-mailed Nelson at 3 a.m. explaining that she wanted a narration for a promotional video and paid for the work via PayPal. In less than 24 hours, Nelson delivered the voice track. How's that for audio-on-demand?

Getting Started

Nelson's been in the business of recording voiceovers (or narrations) for more than a decade. She got her start working for a company called Marketing Messages out of Newton, recording movie times like Kramer on Seinfeld (non-Seinfeld fans should Google "Kramer movie phone" and they can get up to speed).

Over time, she realized she could easily work on her own and with the help of her husband Dan Nelson (who happens to be a sound engineer and occasional voice over artist) they set up a sound studio in their Princeton Street home.

And even though she's based in Worcester, Nelson does recordings with people all over the United States and the world.

While the Internet has allowed customers to find her at all hours of the night, it's also caused a major shift in the type of work that she does.

This summer, Nelson got her first web video voiceover job, and since then she's seen a steady stream, including two gigs last week. The majority are Flash animation videos with her voice explaining what the company does or what a particular product has to offer. And a majority of the videos have some sort of call to action, asking viewers to sign up for a free trial or an e-mail newsletter.

The move to video took Nelson and others in her industry by surprise. The voice talent industry has done its fair share of hand wringing, wondering what the technological shift will do to their business.

"We were all wondering, 'What's going to happen to us?' People don't want to pay for commercials anymore," she said.

While ad spending may be down, the thirst for promotion has only grown stronger. But now, companies are creating their own promotional videos and are hosting them on their web sites and YouTube instead of using more traditional media.

And that's turned out to be good news for Nelson.

But Nelson hasn't gone exclusively to recording audio for high-tech Flash animations. She still does phone recordings.

In fact, she's been the exclusive voice of Travelocity's phone system for more than three years, recording every flight number, greeting and troubleshooting question. If you call 1-888-TRAVELOCITY you can actually have a conversation with a recorded version of Nelson's voice. Even if you don't have any travel plans, it's worth calling to hear the Gnome Joke of the Day (Travelocity's "mascot" is the gnome).

Nelson's also devoted her vocal chords to democracy. She was one of 80 voice professionals (and some non-professionals, too) to record audio versions of the health care legislation filed in the U.S. House and Senate. She was randomly assigned pages of the bills and recorded every single word. You can learn more about it at HearTheBill.org.

That work ended up being quite meaningful for Nelson. Not only was she participating in the democratic process, but she was also honoring the memory of her father, who was blind, but an avid fan of politics.

"I know he would have loved it," she said.

Go to WBJournal.com/multimedia for links to examples of Nelson's work.

Got news for our Digital Diva column? E-mail Christina H. Davis at cdavis@wbjournal.com.

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