Voice-over is all around us. It’s a guarantee that you have encountered voice-over as part of a video; commercial, entertainment, educational, or otherwise. The purpose and implementation vary depending on the medium and genre – so if you are producing a video that could benefit from the inclusion of voice-over, how can you know what works?
The best way is to match format with convention. So, let’s explore the top 4 voice-over formats for video so you have an easier time matching voice to your project.
What is voice-over?
When you think of voice-over, your mind is likely cast toward a singular poignant example of voice acting from a film, animation, or game. But this is just scratching the iceberg. In the most obvious terms, voice-over is all about adding voice over a video or media piece. It’s as straightforward as that!
With the overwhelming wealth of consumers wanting to see more video content from brands, there is no better time to focus on harnessing this medium. Different types of media benefit from distinct styles of voice-over with specific characteristics, which we should explore.
The explainer video format has become popular in the digital age. The concept is where a video breaks down a complicated concept into a form that is easy for viewers to follow and digest. Typically, this is accompanied by animation or motion graphics as the explainer video walks the audience through the idea and explains it.
Simple enough. So how does voice-over slot in?
Well, the voice artist in this circumstance is the one doing the explaining. It’s too much to expect written content to capture the audience sufficiently all by itself; actively focusing on subtitles can detract from the video. A voice-over is an excellent way to interplay with the visual animation to guide the viewer through the concept, one step at a time.
As you can see, explainer videos can effectively convey ideas in a calm and nurturing manner. When working on voice-over for an explainer video, it’s important to never come across as aggressive; you are trying to walk beside the viewer on their learning journey – not drag them as they kick and scream.
This is doubly important for medical content, which generally will have a core message that is sensitive and intimidating for viewers. Working with your viewer and their sensibilities is vital, which will be reflected in the chosen voice-over artist as well as the script.
A narrator is a classic use of a voice-over artist. Harkening back to the days of audiobook cassettes on long drives in the 70s (even further back to cavemen around a campfire, if we want to stretch the meaning of voice-over), a reader, a listener, and a story are intrinsically linked. So it is no surprise to see that audiobooks are increasing in popularity, year-on-year.
Narration for content can be popular in a variety of video-based projects. At its simplest, narration is all about detailing what is happening – which is vague but the essence of the idea. A narrator voice-over can be helpful in an abundance of videos. Adding voice-over to PowerPoint presentations is a prevalent concept. It makes the act of putting together and “presenting” a PowerPoint much simpler as you can do it remotely and in a storable format.
It’s more common than ever for content to use narrators; even outside of strictly video, the narration voice-over is an essential element to audiobook and radio production. Being able to detail the plot, context, and character motivations through audio can be an excellent element to harness to augment the messaging of media content.
B2B content is increasingly popular and requires tailored voice-over content. A good corporate voice-over should be open, clear, and informative to reach and connect with people on a professional level.
Where explainer voices are designed to break down complicated jargon and terminology for audiences who may be uninformed, a corporate voice-over should presume some degree of expertise in the viewership. Being too educational runs the risk of the speaker being received as condescending, which is insulting if the professional being pitched to is an expert in their field.
You wouldn’t break down the meaning of a supermarket to a CEO of a supermarket conglomerate.
Using a qualified voice-over for corporate video content is an effective way to go the extra mile in any promo piece to ensure other organisations see you only deal in excellence.
Voice-over aimed at film, tv and video games tends to trail more into voice acting than any other category. The performative aspects of voice acting are more varied and less conventional than a standard voice-over project.
The range and style of a voice actor’s performance are driven by the emotion and context of the story. The entertainment of the viewership is paramount here; this usually depends on the authenticity and emotiveness of the acting, as opposed to the information being transferred most coherently.
It is difficult to detail exactly what is included in this voice-over type, as it is inherently not restricted by convention. It can be used in the most unusual ways to produce abstract films, or it can be used similarly to a standard narrator as a character expresses their internal monologue.
Interestingly, many feature films make extensive usage of voice acting in the form of Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR); the re-recording of dialogue and scripts to be overlaid on a video for cleaner audio. Famously, The Lord of the Rings trilogy used ADR for nearly 90% of the spoken content!
These options are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to voice-over. While some of the top video voice-over formats are laid out above, there are so many more applications that are beyond the scope of this article.
How do you record a voice-over for a video?
At its core, this is a multifaceted question. The simplest, and most ill-advised, option should be obvious – which basically is that you do it yourself. Anyone can get a microphone and speak, to be inserted as a new video layer. For the layman, this is a bad plan, as professional voice-over is noticeably distinct from amateur-grade work.
There are many stages that a project must go through to eloquently add voice-over. First and foremost, preparation is key, preparing scripts and designing your video to include a narrator or voice talent is essential. For example, a medical explainer video may benefit from showing off actions in the video’s animation while incorporating these actions into the script; so that the voice-over is describing what the animation represents.
Ensuring that the voice-over matches the video, thematically, is also essential. Decide what tone you are wanting, be it authoritative, comedic, nurturing; this will help you in the casting process. There is a wide array of voice-over casting services who can professionally put together lists of talents in any language, style, or accent. Multilingual voice-over has the potential to open your project to any global market!
Working with professional studios is a great way to catch things you would have missed solo, not to mention that the quality of industry-standard equipment is second-to-none. Access to countless international and foreign speakers also means you can authentically connect with global markets with extensive translation services to tailor your voice-over messaging to any audience.
Ryan Spanger is one of Melbourne’s most respected and sought-after video production professionals. Ryan founded Dream Engine in 2002, and specialises in helping medium to large corporates, government departments, and the non-proﬁt sector to connect with their audience more effectively by using video.