What Is Voice Over?
Building a video content strategy is a major element of branding and marketing. And a part of that strategy is the voice that conveys all the ideas, principles, and values to your audience. That’s why the voice matters. A voice over supports the visual component of a video, clarifies its segments, sets its atmosphere, and creates a stronger connection with the viewer. The right voice can attract the audience and provide it with a real and immersive experience.
Before creating the voice over for your video, it can be useful to figure out the process and the elements, how to prepare the script, and to choose the right voice artist.
The Definition of a Voice Over
A voice over is a production technique where a recording of a voice is used off-screen for videos, films, video games, commercials, radio, and other media forms. A recording of a script read by a voice actor gives an additional context, provides a narration of a story, explanation of some information, and an insight into what’s happening on the screen.
Voice over specialists (artists, actors) provide their voice to use in a piece of media. Usually, professional artists have a great vocal range that allows them to act with their voice, change the pitch, make it sound like different characters, sometimes even animals. The main requirements for voice over artists are clear enunciation, proper pacing, and tone.
The diversity of fields in which a voice over can be used makes it an important part of any production. A voice over can improve or completely change the perception of the visual component, establish the mood, and create a contact with the audience.
The Importance of Voice Over
Sound is an integral part of any video, and it is just as important as the visual. The audience is more likely to stop watching a video if the sound is of bad quality or the voice of a narrator is monotonous, and the words are unclear. That’s why voice over has a great impact on whether the audience is going to engage with the video or even watch it till the end. It is also helpful for the viewers who perceive and learn information easier when it’s verbally spoken.
Choosing a suitable professional for this job may be tricky. A voice over artist should have the ability to express the necessary emotions just with their voice and the right voice characteristics for the viewers to feel interested in the story. The voice that you use in your videos becomes the voice of your brand and gets associated with it.
A voice over gives your video meaning, makes it more memorable and persuasive, helps the audience absorb the given information, understand it, and even act if needed.
Key Voice Acting Terms
Voice over industry has been developing for more than a century and, naturally, established its own vocabulary. When plunging into a new field, it’s always useful to learn some common terminology that professionals use every day to feel more confident. Here are some key voice acting terms:
VO means voice over and is used in a script to indicate the bits that a voice artist should read.
Copy is the script that is read by a voice actor.
Level is the volume at which a voice actor reads the script into a microphone. When an actor is asked for a level before the beginning of a session, they read at the volume that they are comfortable with, which is then used to calibrate the sound levels.
Popping is a plosive sound that occurs with a sudden burst of air into the microphone, usually when words start with P, T, K, D, G, and B.
Punch is emphasizing a word or a phrase with a sharp tone.
Session is the period of time from the beginning of the recording to the wrap.
Safety is an extra recording made at the end of the recording session after everything required is captured.
Slate is when a voice artist introduces themselves at the beginning of a tape.
Take is a single performance of a script or a part of a script, which a recording specialist then numbers and organizes to use during the editing stage.
Three-in-a-row is performing the same line three times changing the tone, intonation, attitude, or speed, making different versions.
These basic terms can help you to understand the professionals better and to be on the same page with them.
How to Do a Voice Over: Top 5 Steps
The process of a voice over consists of several major steps that help organize the work on the audio material. Let’s have a closer look at the voice over process:
Preparation is significant, as it makes the whole process easier. A well-thought-out preparation stage leaves no room for unexpected situations.
First, it is important to know where the voice over is going to take place. Professional voice artists record in special rooms equipped with sound-absorbing foam. There should be no unnecessary background noises, as good microphones pick up even vague sounds. The size of the room is significant as well, it influences the echo, and in a bigger room the sound appears more distant.
Second, good equipment is essential. A microphone, audio software for recording and editing, headphones, or speakers to listen back to the recorded material, and, of course, a computer that runs the software that you plan to use.
Writing a script means putting your ideas on paper, organizing them, making them sound as persuasive and effective as possible. First, outline the main aspects of your topic that you want to cover. Then, add details, and edit the final copy until you are happy with the outcome. Read the script out loud to make sure it is logical and natural.
Practicing the delivery of a script gives voice artists the confidence in the words that they are saying and helps to avoid unnecessary pauses and mistakes.
- Trial run
When the room and equipment are ready, and the script is completed, it’s time for the trial run. This step is required to make sure that everything sounds just the way it should. The pace, tone, and intonation are determined by the intention, and the impression you want your audience to have. During the trial run voice over actors record a piece of the script to check how the voice works and if the sound is clear. Sometimes it can be useful to put the microphone in different positions to achieve the desired result and avoid popping sounds. Artists make notes on the script to know when to make pauses or what intonation to use. Listen to all the variants of the trial recordings to choose the one that sounds the way you think is best to appeal to the audience.
This is when you record the whole voice over material with the prepared equipment and following the trial run. There are some details a voice actor needs to focus on during this stage to make a recording of good quality.
Speak at the pace that makes your speech comprehensible, pronounce the words clearly. The tone makes a great difference. Choose the tone that corresponds with the message that you want to convey, not too monotonous and not too excited.
There’s no recording without some mistakes, you can edit them out later, or even put together different versions of the recording.
Editing is the final step of the voice over process. It starts with listening to the recorded material and making notes on what you think sounds good and what needs editing. You can get rid of the pauses that take too long, make slow bits faster, edit out mistakes, and put together the bits that you like best. You can also adjust the volume to polish the audio if your software allows. Edit until you are happy with the outcome.
How to Write a Voice Over Script?
A script is a key element of a voice over process. And a good script makes the work easier, as well as helps to tell the audience all the necessary information in an engaging and interesting form. Of course, practice makes perfect, and it’s almost impossible to create a perfect script at a first try. There are some techniques that make a voice over script easily comprehensible and memorable for people. So how can you improve your scriptwriting skills?
- Outlining the script
Start writing a voice over script by indicating the main ideas and issues that you want to include in the narrative. Make a list of all the key points as well as of some phrases, words, and collocations that you want to use.
Now you can write the first draft of the voice over script based on these lists. There are going to be numerous revisions and changes to the first draft to improve it and make it fit in the time limit. Read out every version of the script to make sure it sounds natural, meets all the initial requirements, and covers all the outlined points.
- Keeping the target audience in mind
Writing for a target audience means talking to them in their language. Make sure you know who your video is aimed at so that the voice over script is written in the language that they speak. Age, background, profession – everything matters. Keep the viewers in mind when writing and revising the script and adapt it for them.
- Using a conversational tone
Unless your video is a lecture, try to make it simple and enjoyable. And even a lecture can be easy to comprehend if you engage the audience in a conversation. Try saying what you are writing out loud so that you hear how it sounds and how it is perceived. You are talking to your audience so make it a two-way conversation. Make a natural dialog that the audience wants to participate in.
- Making sure the topic and the desired tone match
Depending on the topic of your voice over script, ensure that it is in a suitable tone. For example, you don’t want to use too expressive words for sensitive topics, or slang for formal topics. Think about the audience as well, if it’s professionals, they know the terms of their field of expertise, while other people are likely to require simple definitions of these terms.
- Writing clear copy
Simplicity is key to understanding. The final copy of the voice over script should be clear and easy to comprehend, leaving no possibility of confusing or misleading the audience. Avoid unclear meanings and tenses, complicated sentence structures, repetitive thoughts. Make sentences and paragraphs easier to comprehend by dividing them into smaller bits. There should be no uncertainty in what a sentence means.
- Using double spacing
This one is to make the job for the voice over artist that is going to record the script easier. Double spacing helps the voice actors to focus on the text they are reading. It also gives them a practical option to make notes or write pronunciations of difficult words if needed.
- Using simple punctuation
The text of the script is for the voice over artist’s eyes. So, there’s no need to insert punctuation that has only decorative purposes or may mislead the voice artist. The script should be a clear instruction for the voice over professional. Limit the use of punctuation to periods, commas, exclamation and question marks. Any other directions can be communicated verbally for the voice artist to make their own notes.
- Including transition words
Every piece of information has some important points that need to be highlighted. And for auditory comprehension, it can be simply achieved by means of transition words. These words make it easier for the audience to follow the structure of the text, as well as to pay attention to the points or steps of the text and distinguish them from one another. Transition words help to structure and memorize the given information.
- Writing out the phonetic spelling
Check your script for the words that may be unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce or have different ways of pronouncing them. These words may include your brand name or some specific field terms. A good idea would be giving the script to a person outside of the field to see what words may cause problems. Make sure you include the correct pronunciation of these words into the script or an attached glossary. It can also be useful to give the voice artist your contacts so that they can ask you the correct way to say a particular word or hear how you say it.
- Avoiding abbreviations
It’s typical to use abbreviations and short forms of words in written texts. However, this may cause misunderstanding with a voice actor. It’s important to write the voice over script exactly the way it should be read on the recording.
- Making sure the descriptions and punctuation align
Language of the script is not all. You need it to be convincing, in the tone with everything that is happening on the screen. Pauses and exclamations at the right moment make the video a perfect piece of work that grabs the audience’s attention and leaves an impression.
- Being conscious of passive and active voice
Pay attention to the use of passive and active voice in your script. Active voice is when the subject is performing the action, and passive voice is when the subject is being acted upon and becomes the target of the action. There’s a reason why different genres use one of them more than the other. Generally, passive voice sounds more detached and is used to emphasize the action. Active voice, on the other hand, is a better way to communicate ideas, thoughts, facts, and sounds more persuasive and certain. That’s why it may be advantageous to use active voice for voice over scripts, as it resonates with the audience, provides clarity and reliability.
Writing a script is a big part of the whole production. These techniques make the process of creating a script easily organized and improves the script itself.
What Does a Voice Over Artist Do?
First and foremost, a voice over artist is a professional that uses only their voice to attract and engage the audience. There are no facial expressions, gestures, or props that could help them convey the ideas and views or show emotions. This profession is not as easy as it might seem and requires voice over training and some unusual skills that may be hard to master. Voice over artists tell stories, communicate important information, connect with the viewers or listeners through the tone of their voice.
What is important to know about voice over artists and their profession?
- They can help you find the perfect voice to reach out to your audience and link with it. Depending on your target viewers, different voices appeal to different people.
- There’re voice artists that speak different languages. If you are planning on expanding your business and audience outreach, you’ll need voice overs for foreign markets.
- Voice over actors have a great range of voice qualities. Whether you want your ideas to sound exciting, friendly, convincing, they give you just that. A voice actor’s range of qualities and the skills that they are constantly improving give them the ability to hit the right tone for any type of message.
- They also have perfect pronunciation and prosody. It’s necessary that the information is articulated and communicated clearly, so that the audience understands and follows every word of it. Voice actors use proper intonation, stress the right words, and speak in a rhythm that is sure to appeal to the viewers.
- Pacing is an important part of a voice over. Voice over artists know what pace to use to make the speech natural. Not too slow so that it becomes boring, and not too fast so that it becomes hard to follow. The speech pace should align with what’s happening on the screen as well.
Professional voice artists can express anything with their voice and know how to use it to make the narration interesting and easy to follow.
Who Is the Perfect Voice Over Artist for Your Video Project?
Considering all the aspects of a voice over artist’s work it can be challenging to choose the right one for the video you are making. Even with the great voice ranges not every professional may be suitable. How to find the talent that is going to perfectly convey your message to the audience? There are some tips on what to pay attention to in the search process.
- Clear and Consistent
As it was mentioned earlier, a voice actor should have impeccable pronunciation. It’s important that the sentences are delivered clearly, there’s no mumbling or stumbling over words. Every word of every sentence should be distinctly heard and understood. Usually, voice professionals have a lot of different vocal exercises that they practice before every reading of a script.
- Attentive to the Details
Every person has their own little noises that occur when they speak. But professional voice over artists should be aware of all the tiniest imperfect qualities of their voice and able to control and overcome them.
Voice professionals should be confident in their skills and in full control over all the attributes of their voice. They can manage the volume, tone, pace, pitch. The voice artists should also be confident in expressing different emotions, flexible, adaptable to any changes in a script. An important trait for a voice artist is the bond with the character that they give their voice to. If they really feel the character, they are able to improvise if needed or even share some ideas on how the character would act in a given situation. Confidence is key to a convincing and interesting communication with the audience.
- Has Good Conversational Skills
Voice actors can’t communicate with the audience if they have no or limited conversational skills. Good voice professionals are friendly, polite, responsive, show empathy, and use the right words. They talk at a comfortable pace, not too slow and not too fast. It is better to engage voice over actors that speak the language that the script is in, this way they have no language barrier and sound more reliable.
- A Team Player
Collaboration is an important part of the whole process of making a video or any other media segment, as well as during the voice over stage of production. Especially if you hire more than one voice over artist. They should be able to work in a team, easily communicate and coordinate with other specialists engaged in the process.
- Not Necessarily a Celebrity
Some think that engaging a famous voice can help to gain a new share of the audience. And though it may be partially true, it can be damaging to the brand as well. Usually, using a voice of a celebrity or an influencer may shift the focus from the brand and the product to the person reading the script. And in the future the brand is going to be associated with them, no matter what they do.
- The One You Like
As simple as that. All you need is to like the voice that is going to become your brand voice. Even if you have a selection of several voice artists that you already like, think, how you want your brand to be perceived, which voice, in your opinion, is going to connect with your target audience. It’s okay to ask for an additional voice recording take, just to be sure that this is the right and perfect candidate for a voice over.
Types of Voice Acting
There are four main types of voice acting, and the choice depends entirely on the story you are creating, your target audience, and the effect you want it to have on the audience. Let’s explore every voice acting type in more detail.
- Male Voice
Male voice overs are typically used to deliver more authoritative and commanding messages. It could be anticipated to appeal more to the male viewers and listeners, but that’s not necessarily true. Though if the audience is primarily men, it can be a natural choice.
- Female Voice
Female voices are perceived as more friendly and trustworthy. They can also be used for a calming atmosphere.
- Cartoon Voice
Cartoon voices are mostly used to appeal to the young audience. Cartoon characters usually have exaggerated expressions and personalities. This may also include animal voice over. For this type of voice acting an artist should be able to make a variety of sounds, like high-pitched, squeaky noises, etc.
- Commercial Voice
This type of voice acting is mostly used to promote services and products. For commercial voice acting, the artist should have the ability to attract attention and influence people with the right tone. Voice professionals can evoke a feeling of urgency, dramatic emotions, or activate other senses depending on the type of product or service they advertise.
When the message that you want to communicate has already taken the shape in the script, the choice on what voice should be used out of all the voice acting types comes naturally.
Categories of Voice Over
Depending on the form of media and its purpose, the type of the presented content, there are several categories of voice over. Each of them can require different sets of skills and types of voice acting.
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about voice over. Animation is either computer-generated or hand-drawn imagery, appearing as moving images to tell stories. Every character on-screen is given a voice by a voice artist. This sphere of voice over gives artists a wide range of different voice acting approaches from dramatic to comedic. And animation is not just cartoons, animation can be a part of movies, TV shows, web shows, etc.
As mentioned before, commercial voice over is mainly used for promotion of products and services. These are usually short advertisements presented on TV, radio, and web. A voice over artist provides the information about a product or a service to the audience and conveys the tone of the brand. Every product or service has their target audience with its own demographic profile, background, field of expertise, interests, and a voice over artist should match these criteria for a commercial to be successful.
Voice over narration is used to narrate the events that are being presented on the screen. The narration is either a character providing their point of view, sharing their thoughts, or a third party giving their commentaries, telling a story. The most common examples of narration are documentaries, cartoons, movies, TV and radio programs, etc.
Books in an audio format are becoming more and more popular. There’s a great range of different types of audiobooks from essays to fairy tales. And every type requires a suitable voice that keeps the audience interested and has such qualities as good stamina, breath control, and good articulation. Some authors prefer to narrate their own books, but usually it’s a job for a professional voice actor capable of playing various roles by themselves.
- Video Games/Interactive
With the great variety of PC, Mobile, and Console games, the industry of video games is now one of the largest in the world. Game production is a complex process involving many professionals from different fields. And video games voice over includes not only speaking but making multiple original sounds that require a lot of effort, for example, falling, fighting, training sounds. Sometimes video games use motion capture to make the characters in the game more realistic, in this case artists use not only their voice but their body movements as well.
Virtual reality is another quickly evolving and expanding industry mainly related to video games. And here voice over makes the experience of the virtual world more real and convincing.
E-learning consists of instructional and educational content that nowadays can be used in numerous areas, such as learning websites, social media, video platforms, educational institutions and many more. Learning a new skill or gaining knowledge everyday has become a common practice. The voice in e-learning supports the information on the screen and is especially useful for auditory learners. E-learning can be presented in the form of videos, podcasts, computer programs, mobile apps, etc. It can include everything from a video on the correct pronunciation of a word to a whole video course.
A lot of companies of different sizes can apply this type of voice over in many ways. Nowadays almost every organization uses videos as a part of their training program for employees, tutorials for specific jobs, making it a part of e-learning. But that’s not all, some companies use videos that require voice over for external communication, in presentations, conferences, exhibitions.
A trailer is a commercial advertisement for a future movie, TV program, series, video game. It consists of the selected scenes of the promoted media to attract and tease the audience. Usually, the scenes in the trailer are the most exciting, funny, or just interesting bits that get the viewers hooked. And voice over in trailers is used to set the atmosphere, introduce to the story and the setting of the video or other media.
Promos are short announcements advertising shows, series, and segments mostly on TV, radio, and web. A voice for a promo should be energetic and optimistic sounding as its main goal is to engage the audience, make it watch or listen to the advertised media only with a short message. A voice artist should also match the demographic of the promoted show or series. Another element of promo voice over is that it should maintain the channel or network branding.
We do not usually pay attention to this aspect of everyday life, but announcements surround us almost everywhere we go. One of the definitions of an announcement is that it is a massage, a piece of information given through a public address system. We hear them on the subway, in theaters, in shopping malls, convention centers, planes, etc. A voice artist should have a friendly and comforting voice to make this type of voice over.
What to Expect from a Voice Recording Session?
A voice recording can take place either remotely, from home with the necessary equipment, such as a personal computer with suitable software, a good microphone, in a room with good acoustics, or at a professional voice recording studio. It may depend on the scope and the budget of the project. How does a voice recording session go at a professional studio?
- First, it’s important that a voice artist prepares for the session with some warmup exercises. An artist spends several hours at a recording studio and should be able to use their vocals without any difficulty.
- It’s preferable for a voice over artist to wear clothes that make no noise to the studio, as professional equipment picks up every little detail. If needed, they can bring a bottle of water to drink during the session, and a pencil to make notes on a script.
- If a script is given to a voice professional in advance, they read it and practice several times beforehand, put down pronunciation of difficult words, make any other necessary notes, or prepare questions for the client.
- At the beginning of a voice recording session a voice actor enters a glass-enclosed booth, where a sound professional adjusts the microphone for their height.
- The next thing is a volume level check. The artist is asked for a level, volume at which they are going to read the script, and a sound engineer adjusts and calibrates the volume for the rest of the session.
- When reading the script, a voice artist is given instructions and directions through the headphones. They are given the emotional state that they should read the script or its fragments in. Voice artists may also be asked to do different takes with a different expression, pace, tone, etc.
- At the end of a session, a voice over artist may be asked to do some safety segments for the recording or re-record some takes according to the changed parts of a script if there are any.
- A voice recording session is over when the client and the sound specialist are happy with the accomplished work and the result.
Tips for Recording Voice Overs
Voice over work can be quite challenging and requires a lot of practice to develop and excel some necessary skills. But there are some tips that help to improve the quality of a voice over from the very start.
- Find a quiet room
This is the first thing any voice over artist, a professional or an aspiring one, should do. A quiet room is a necessity for voice overs. Soundproofing and acoustic are essential parts of a quality recording. The room needs to be free of any exterior noises and echo as good microphones pick up all the details even in the background. Some professionals use special acoustic panels for the purposes of better sound isolation.
- Do vocal warmups
A vocal warmup is an important part of any voice over session. This includes preparing the breath, preparing the articulators and resonators, changing pitch, and preparing the material that is going to be recorded, rehearsing the difficult parts of it. Warming up ensures a healthier voice and increases vocal range as well as eases and stretches vocal cords.
Clarity and good articulation are crucial for listening comprehension. The audience should fully understand the information given as the audio part of the content. That’s why voice over artists should distinctly enunciate and improve their vocal articulation.
- Watch your pacing
Professional voice over artists know how to occupy the audience’s attention with the right pace. The balance between the fast and slow information delivery is significant. The viewer should not get bored or get distracted and lose the plot. The correct pace of speaking can also help to indicate urgency, create tension, or, on the contrary, soothe the audience. Pace is an aspect of speech that can be improved with constant training.
- Use quality equipment
Quality equipment is significant for both home studios and professional voice recording studios, as it makes a great impact on the post-production process and the final product. In perfect conditions (in a soundproof room with good acoustic), a quality microphone can pick up every detail in the voice. And quality headphones help to identify any imperfections.
Do You Need the Help of Professional Voice Over Talent?
The choice in favor of a professional voice over depends on the scale and the budget of your project. Whether you go from making your own video content to a bigger scale production, develop a marketing plan for your brand, or want to promote an important message, product, or service, turning to specialists can naturally be your next step. There’re undoubted advantages to hiring professionals. Experts in the field know how to engage the audience, set the right tone, make people feel what you want them to. A suitable voice along with the visual can engage the viewer in the necessary way, make them feel excited, inspired, reassured, concerned, etc.
Engaging a team of professionals in video production means that every step of making video content is well-thought-out, the production workflow is efficient, and the result is what you expect it to be or maybe even better. A company that is experienced in the field understands the process and knows every single stage, element, and all the possibilities that video production can give, as well as knows how to communicate your message in a favorable way.
If you want to advance the quality of your content, make your brand more recognizable, improve audience experience, hiring a professional video production company is a perfect solution.