A Guide to Voice-overs

How are voice-overs used?

The job of the voice-over is to narrate the video, explaining the visuals or telling the story.  This is often the element of the video that ties the whole thing together, and really delivers the messaging. In an animated video, the visuals support the voice-over and illustrate the message. In a live action film with a voice-over, often the voice-over is adding extra meaning to the visuals – explaining what is happening on screen, or adding extra information that you wouldn’t get from just the pictures.

Social Commerce Walkthrough from Square Daisy on Vimeo.

Before you record your voice-over

The first thing to consider when thinking about your voice-over is the script. The voice-over will define the length and pace of the video so you should plan for this at the script writing phase. If you want your video to be around 2 mins at a steady pace of 2.5 words per second, we find a good script length is 280 words, which isn’t really a lot! This is why the script should be carefully considered, and refined to communicate all of the key messaging in an engaging and informative way.

It is important to remember at the scripting stage that the written-word and spoken-word can be very different. The subtleties of spoken punctuation do not always translate to the regimented world of written grammar, and abbreviations like ‘etc.’ and ‘e.g.’ just don’t sound right out-loud. Additionally, long and technical words don’t always have a place in a voice-over – remember the person watching and listening to the video need to be able to understand exactly what is being said and not to get distracted by complex vocabulary.

We see a lot of scripts and work with a lot of voice-overs, so we’ll work with you to ensure that the script is exactly right before it is recorded.

Now the script is sorted, it’s time to choose a voiceover artist

The voice-over artist is the person who reads and records your script for you. We have a panel of voice-over artists who we work with regularly, however there are many more options available online if you need something specific.

You should think about how you want your organisation to ‘sound’ and consider the tone of voice outlined in your brand identity guidelines. Do you want the voice to be formal and corporate, bright and jolly, friendly and approachable, or maybe soft and reassuring?

Think about a voice that will resonate with the audience. Does it matter if the voice is male or female? Should they have a regional accent? There are thousands of voice-over artists out there who have demo reels and examples for you to listen to before you choose them. Most artists will also be able to manipulate their voice and change the tone to suit your needs, some may even be able to do different accents.

Raven Housing Trust – The Voice of the Customer from Square Daisy on Vimeo.

Writing a voice-over brief

Once you have selected your voice-over artist, we establish their availability and book them in to record. It’s really helpful to put together a voice-over brief for the artist to work from; this includes the script, background on the company and guidance on the tone of voice required as well as any contentious pronunciations. If your brand name or a technical term is difficult to explain with phonetics, we can attach a recording of the word being said to the brief, or arrange a call with the artist so that they are comfortable with the words before they record.

Recording and Mastering

Many voice-over artists have a studio in their home so that they can record flexibly, but often they may have to book in time at a studio elsewhere. A sound studio is a professional space with dedicated equipment for the best possible recording. They use sound insulations so they pick up very little external sound like traffic and ambient background noise. They are also often padded and have soft furnishing which reduces echo and reflections or ‘bounce’.

All of this preparation and kit will minimise the amount of post-production needed.

The artist will read through the script many times during the recording session. Although the final voice-over will only be 2 minutes in length, the studio session could be up to 2 hours. Sometimes the best take of one sentence is in a different reading to the best reading of another sentence. In a case like this, the artist will listen to the various recordings and cut together the best possible sequence.

Next, the audio will need to be mastered, or edited in post-production. This is a series of edits to remove any rumble, hiss or hum from the track. Sometimes, the ‘ess’ sound, also known as ‘sibilance’, is too distracting and this can be reduced with a de-esser. The track will also be compressed; this means the volume of the words that are more difficult to hear are raised, and reduce the volume of the louder parts making the whole voice-over more intelligible to the listener.

Finalising the voice over

Most voice-over artists will build a round of amends into the price, meaning if there are any mistakes or small script tweaks you can get these changed. It is better to nail down the script before it goes to be recorded as every time the artist needs to book studio time you are likely to incur extra charges due to their time, availability and studio costs.

How much does a voice over cost?

The price of a voice-over will depend on the artist’s level of experience,  as well as factors like how many words the script is, how much project management is required, how many amends are built in and how the end result will ultimately be used. For a standard corporate video which will only be hosted and viewed on the web, you could expect a 2 minute voice-over to be between £150-£300 for BSF (basic studio fees). If it is going to be broadcast, or the expected reach is greater than the average corporate video there may be usage and royalties to be considered.



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