Insight Finding Your Voice

Voiceover is a powerful tool in bringing your messages to life. Whether you’re producing a corporate video, a training tool, or a promotional video, a well written, professionally delivered voiceover can help to explain complex concepts, tell a story, or reinforce a brand message.

Join us as we explain the steps involved in creating a voiceover for video production. And, to illustrate each point, we have enlisted the help of some of our favourite voice artists, so you can listen and really hear the effectiveness of the voiceover!

Donald Pirie

Step 1: Developing a Script

Before you record a voiceover, you need some words to say!

When we develop a script we are not just thinking about the information you want to get across, we are also thinking about how we want it to sound. And that means we need to understand your audience – who are they, what are their expectations, and what do we want them to think, feel or do when they watch your film. It’s important to get this right before you pin down other elements of the production, not just the voiceover but also the visual content. This is even more important if the film is animated, as the soundtrack provides the timings for the animators to work to.

At Signal we will often use our in-house recording studio to record a “guide voice” delivered by a member of our own team (our Managing Director, Jamie Baikie, is particularly good at this!). These rough recordings are useful on two fronts: our editors and animators can use it in the early versions of their edits; and clients can make changes to the script once the rough edit is completed, and before it’s sent to the voice actor.

Step 2: Choosing a Voice Artist

There are many professional voice actors available, so it’s important to consider the target audience… is gender or age significant? What about nationality, or regional accent? Do they need to sound warm and friendly, or measured and professional?

And there is also a difference between a narration, and a characterisation. You wouldn’t ask Trevor MacDonald to perform Hamlet and you wouldn’t ask Meryl Streep to read the news!

They are both good at their jobs, but one is a specialist in conveying information with authority and clarity, and the other will inhabit a character, driving emotions.

Finally, don’t be seduced by the lure of a ‘big name’. Recruiting a recognisable ‘name’ might add kudos to your film, but they will come at a price. And while having a familiar face is one thing, having a familiar voice is another. There are literally hundreds of talented and experienced voice artists whose names you might not know, but who will do an excellent job.

All of these parameters inform our casting choices, and that’s why we will provide examples of the voices we think are right for your job so you can be involved in the casting process.

Blanche Anderson
Jamie Baikie

Step 3: Recording the Voiceover

Final recording should be done in a purpose-built, sound-proofed recording studio. Videos are often watched on screens with sophisticated sound systems or by viewers wearing headphones so unless the recording quality is high, any flaws, hisses or outside noises will be easily heard on the soundtrack.

One of our Directors will sit in on the recording session to ensure the script content is correct and will monitor the recording to ensure consistency in tone and style of the performance. Particularly important if it features technical jargon or has unusual pronunciations.

Many voice artists have their own home studios and, if we cannot attend the studio in person, we often oversee the recording remotely using Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Skype.

Sessions are booked by the hour which in most cases means we can do retakes, and record variations in style, and the speed of delivery. Experienced voice artists can add a new dimension to your film, by injecting emotion or humour, and variations in speed, style, and accent.

Step 4: Inserting the Voice into the Video Edit

The final step is to combine sound and vision in the video edit. This is more involved than simply dropping the voiceover onto the pictures. Often minute changes in timing will need to be made, and the voice will need to be mixed with other audio elements such as music and sound effects.

A good soundtrack reinforces images, creates mood, drives emotion (and is useful for distracting from visual inconsistencies – film makers occasionally, unfairly, compare it to wallpaper!) but a good voice performance will enhance the overall impact of your video content. Done right, well-chosen music combined with a professional and engaging voiceover can have as powerful an impact as the images.

Diana Speed

Thanks for listening and thank you to the wonderful voice artists who helped us create this insight. Check out Diana Speed, Donald Pirie, Blanche Anderson, and our own Jamie Baikie to see more of their incredible work.

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