It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single director in possession of a corporate video must be in want of a voiceover artist.
Which may well be true – but what kind of voice artist?
Some people would argue – and with a reasonable amount of clout – that a good professional voice is versatile enough to do most things. And they have a point. But when I hear that someone is “looking for a voiceover for a project” – I always want to know more.
Because I think finding the perfect voice is a little bit like falling in love. When you find “the one”, you know.
Now, I’m going to assume you’re already on-board with the idea of a professional voice and why getting, say, Karen-from-Accounts-with-the-lovely-voice to read your script might not be the best move.
An experienced voice artist is great at helping your business or product to sound better (literally) – and ultimately make you or your client more sales:
- Pro voices know how to tell a story;
- They can change their tone, dial up the right words and land your message in the right way;
- And they can do it to time and picture – and still sound natural and connected.
Chances are, they’ve got their own studio but, even if they don’t, they’ll know what to do in a studio.
If they have got their own studio – professional voice artists can deliver broadcast quality sound in the right file format – straight to your inbox. And you can even link up with them via software systems like Source Direct or Cleanfeed and direct them yourself wherever they are in the world.
As I say , there are some amazing voices out there who don’t have a studio and that’s ok too because studios are pretty easy to book. And the more experienced the voice, the less studio time you’ll need.
Although, little aside here, as I’m writing this, it’s the second half of 2020 and we’re in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lots of “home studios” have sprung up recently to enable voices to work from home and, honestly, not all of them are quite there yet in terms of broadcast quality. So, if you haven’t worked with a voice artist before and you’re not sure about their sound – it’s perfectly ok to ask for a short sample from their studio.
Anyway – that apart – professional voiceovers know what they’re doing, make you stand out for all the right reasons and have the right set of tools to save you time, money and a whole load of stress. So I’m going to assume you are definitely in the market to choose an experienced voiceover artist.
But there are SO MANY of them.
How do you work out who is the right voiceover for you in that sea of voices?
Well, that is slightly trickier… but not impossible.
For instance, let’s imagine your project is an audiobook, a medical narration or a museum guide.
Who are you making it for? Why are you creating it?
The answer to these two questions is really key to working out what kind of voice you might need in order to bring it to life. Because you see, it’s not for you. It’s not for you or your company or your client.
The person it’s actually for is your listener or your viewer.
Of course, it needs to fit perfectly alongside your brand and what your company stands for too. It’s doing a dual job for sure – but the listener (or the viewer) is the most important factor.
And that is why it’s so important to find not just any voiceover but the right one – the one who connects with the listener.
When I was creating promos for the BBC, we would choose voices with the viewer of a particular programme in mind, whilst also being aware of the overall channel brand. So, a drama on BBC Four would probably need a different voice than the kind of voice we would need for a BBC Three drama. And for a channel like CBeebies – the pre-school channel – that was different again and depended on whether we were talking to the children or the parents or carers. In fact, we often used the characters to voice the child-facing promos – Rastamouse or Tree Fu Tom – but we used an adult voice with a different script for the promo that aired on BBC One and spoke to the parents. (Though pre-school promoting is even more complex as you’re almost always actually speaking to the adult in terms of the information but the child to entertain…)
But, back to your audiobook, medical film or museum guide. This is really no different.
This medical narration. Is it aimed at doctors or Pharma companies or the patient? The kind of voice that could land your message to a consultant or doctor is going to be different from the voice you’d choose to talk to a patient or even a junior doctor.
Of course, an experienced voice can ring the changes and alter their delivery. But what if you’re talking about dementia to an elderly couple or teenage pregnancy to a fifteen year old? Would the same voice work? Or what if your printing and graphics business is based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and offering a local service? Knowing who you’re actually talking to will make a difference to your choice of voice.
You need to decide who your listener is – and work out what voice would work for them.
Even for an online game, it’s still the listener or viewer. The characters and storylines will probably appeal to a particular type of player. So what will they expect the heroine to sound like? How would the God of War in their head talk?
Often the character-based genres like gaming, animation and audiobooks have this bit nailed – as do the commercials and videos that have a really clear idea at the heart of them. But all voiceover scripts have a character role within them, even if it’s simply that of a teacher, narrator or company spokesperson.
And having your listener top of mind – as opposed to your product or your business brand – can be incredibly useful when you’re choosing a voice.
Getting this bit right can help you to narrow down your search from the get-go – preventing you from getting distracted and making your search much easier. Writing down what kind of voice might work for your particular listener – a warm, soft Southern Scots accent or an energetic and sassy Glaswegian for instance – can really help with focus. I find it useful to close my eyes when I’m listening to voices – it really helps me to tap into their unique sound.
Who you’re talking to, why you’re talking to them and what you’re hoping they’ll feel or do – that’s the most important part of whatever you are creating.
The easy thing would be to think “oh I’ll find a generic voice that appeals across the board” but then you run the risk of not speaking to anyone properly. Even if you don’t want to get into the whole accent debate – remember that all voices have an accent. I have a standard modern RP voice, often thought to be accent-less. But it isn’t – it’s an accent like any other. Yes, it works for lots of stuff but so do hundreds of other accents. And my voice wouldn’t be the first choice for something that was aimed at the youth market – unless I was being used ironically. Which is fine. Because I’m great for posh chocolate and luxury cars…
What you need to work out is – what would your perfect listener want to hear?
What would be the right voiceover – not just any voiceover?
Samantha is a full-time UK voice artist with a broadcast quality studio. And she’s also the host of Talking Creative – the Art of Voiceover Directing – a podcast for creatives and voice directors.
If you fancy listening to this blog post as a podcast, you can listen here .
Or if you’d like to see if I’m the right voice artist for one of your projects, do check out my voice reels here. I’d love to hear from you!