Best Practices -
Voice Over Selection or Recording
It's not about tone,
it's about interpretation!
#1 at All Times
THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE! Your presentation (video, radio ad, etc.) is more about your audience – your prospects and customers. You need to appeal to their needs and desires. This may be hard to believe but they only are about your business as long as it presents them with viable solution.
Imagine yourself as the audience. Ask yourself “Will this voice relate to the people I want to appeal to?” Does it sound like it’s from a demographic that will resonate with the demographics of my audience? Does the mood of the voice match the mood of the copy? Does it sound sincere and respectful? If humorous, does it sound naturally funny, or forced? Is the voice persuasive and motivating?
Every voice is different. Picking the right voice for your project can be pretty subjective. It’s not just about the tone of a person’s voice, it’s also about how interpretation – performance - impacts the listener.
Here are some tips and best practices I’ve used during a lifetime of being behind a microphone almost daily, during a career that began in radio, moved into television news, recorded an audio book (whew) and thousands of voice overs from videos produced by my own companies and others.
Keep them in mind whether selecting a voice talent, or recording a voice over.
Need voice talent? Scroll to the bottom of this page for more information. There are also lots of online sites you can work with.
GET A LONG LITTLE DOGEY - Listen to a long passage from a single project to get a good idea of the talent’s range of expression and ability to interpret. Short “telescoped” demo reels common in the voice talent industry are often more impressive than the talent has the ability to be during a long read on a single topic. So ask for a complete voice track of a single project of a minute or more.
LISTEN FOR VARIETY – If enough samples are available, listen for a wide variety of performances, from rapid and excited to moderate and business-like, to humorous, even to slow and sensuous. The performer who can handle greatly different roles with equal ease will probably be among the better candidates for your needs.
AVOID “RIPS” - Listen for Repetitive Inflection Pattern Syndrome - reading every line the same way. RIPS Indicates the talent is more impressed with the sound of his/her voice than thinking about how to properly interpret client copy. Worse, it indicates an amateur.
IT’S ABOUT ACTING – Reading a narration isn’t about pronouncing all the words correctly in a mellow voice anymore. Those days are long gone. It’s not about having a voice with any particular characteristics. A well-read narration is really a well-acted narration that hits the mark on meaning. The reader’s interpretation should reinforce meaning – beyond the words themselves - through volume, speed, expression, nuance and texture. Just as every line is different, each line should be read differently from the previous.
I’ve always thought it quite similar to music. A technically good blues player will hit every note perfectly and do an excellent interpretation. But a great blues player can break your heart.
ASK FOR A DEMO READ - Any voice talent worth his or her microphone will be happy to read a few lines of your script for free so you can hear exactly how they’ll sound if they narrate your video. Take them up on it. If they can’t do it, think about moving on unless you’re dealing with a very well known performer you already know can do the job.
BRANDING – A distinctive voice – that stands out in a crowd – can help listeners remember your brand, especially if used for all or most of your presentations. The deep, raspy, authoritarian male voice used in ads for Duluth Trading Company has become part of the company’s brand. Don LaFontaine became the brand “voice” for the film trailer industry, recording more than 5,000 movie trailers. He also became an icon identified with the phrase “In a world…” Mark Elliot is identified as the “brand” voice for Disney movie trailers.
DON’T ASK the talent to read “…just like Morgan Freeman,” (or anyone else.) It’s a supreme insult. You want Freeman, stick a pry bar in your wallet and hire Freeman. He can be bought.
DON’T ASSUME A PARTICULAR GENDER WORK BEST – With some exceptions that should be obvious, my personal belief is that a great read trumps everything else.
WAIT UNTIL YOUR SCRIPT IS FINAL before having your voice talent record. This can save you money. It’s ok to find that person ahead of time, but if you keep coming back with enough “tiny revisions” or “little tweaks” to what was supposedly the “FINAL” version of the script, you’ll probably find extra charges on your FINAL invoice.
ASK ABOUT PICKUPS – A “pickup” is the re-recording of a section of the voice over, usually for some type of improvement. It might need to be clearer, slower, faster, louder or softer. A word may need the accent on a different syllable. Ask the talent before hiring about their policy regarding pickups. Most do not charge, as long as the words have not changed. If the words changed in any way – that is considered revised copy (creating a 2nd or 3rd “FINAL” version of the script and may be chargeable.
EDITED versus UNEDITED – The voice talent may or may not edit the voice over to remove bad takes, pops, etc., although most do. Double check. I’ve only had one voice talent send me a “raw” (sometimes incorrectly called “wet”) track. It’s not that big a deal unless you’re in a hurry or don’t want to pay someone to edit the track.
AUDIO TECHNICAL QUALITY – Ask 10 different sound technicians for their opinion on the quality of a recording and you’ll get at least 10 different answers. I won’t delve into a discussion of technical quality except to say listen carefully. The audio should not be distorted, have a narrow frequency response (as though it were recorded on a telephone, have background echo or other audio artifacts (hum, pops, whistles, etc.)
AUDIO FORMAT - Ask for a WAV or AIF digital file of the final recording. MP3s are fine for initial approval but have lower audio quality. An MP3 will usually do in a pinch, though all professional voice talents should be able to provide the higher quality file formats.
Need a voice talent?
There are lots of online sites offering voice over services and lots of voices to listen to. Dennis Dean is the "highly trained, professional Narrator Dude" heard on most Story Vision Videos. He's also available for and for your voice over needs, too, whether for video, radio, on-hold or other presentations. Usually $75 per minute, edited. Call him at 414-405-8197, click the button below or email: You can also try shouting. (Not recommended.)
About Story Vision Video -
Story Vision Video is an explainer video production company and is a world leader whiteboard video producer. We specialize in 2D color cartoon video, whiteboard video and motion graphic video production.
To start your video call 888-999-3150, email or click the Get Started button above.