A word in your ear...
We live in a world surrounded by media, so much so that we often don't notice the voices that surround us day in and day out. Since starting as a professional Voice talent, the sheer number of voices that we are exposed to on a daily basis really brought to my attention how little people really realise about how accessible getting a professional Voice Over now is.
With the advent of digital recording and the new level of access to recording equipment, the range of Voice Talent available has grown at an astounding rate. With this growth voices are being used more often and in new ways. No longer are voiceovers limited to TV ads and Radio.
So what is Voice Over? simply put it is any occasion that you hear a recording of a real human voice.
Audiobooks: Since the development of iTunes and more recently apps like Audible, audiobooks have had an explosion in popularity, perhaps one of the least known aspects of this has been the release of many very short books or abstracts of longer articles and quick guides.
TV Commercials: These are what many people think of first when asked about Voice Over, getting a radio or tv commercial produced used to be a major undertaking and cost thousands, with the increase in quality of digital video, small production companies are now able to produce TV quality commercials keeping costs down, the same is true of animations. Adding a Voice over to the background is a simple element and is more affordable than ever.
Radio Commercials: Despite the advent of digital radio and online streaming, traditional radio is still hugely popular with ads filling a percentage of the time between songs and shows. Radio ads at one time became so expensive to produce that many radio stations were forced to let go the voice talents that used to be available to create a variety of different ads which is why at many local radio stations all the adverts sound like one person did them all... the big secret.... they did!!! Now it's much easier to access a reliable professional Voice talent with an increasing number of us able to do all our own sound engineering or working with freelancers, so that the only thing you end up paying the radio station for is the air time and not the overpriced production packages.
Narration: One of my favourite areas of Voice over is Narration, we're all aware of David Attenborough doing the BBC nature documentaries, of Morgan Freeman on the Discovery channel, but most of the programs we watch have a narrator explaining the images on screen, even simple things like a voice saying "David met Sue at the train station, which lead to this fascinating encounter" and it's not just TV documentaries. There are countless online videos, E-learning programs, Youtube videos all with voiceover.
Characters: Character voice over is much as it always has been and is usually what people think of when a person says they do Voiceover. There is however a difference between "Doing Voice Over" and "Doing Voices." Character Voiceover crosses over into Audiobooks and involves the Voice actor performing various different characters trying to create a unique tone for each character, some of these you might hear in radio plays, some you might see in cartoons and animated programs. Sometimes companies create a character for their explainer videos for all of their products and will choose a Voice Actor to perform that character for them.
IVR and Phone Systems: Interactive Voice Response systems can be the bane of customers lives, how often have you tried to call a company and ended up in a web of "To speak to this department press 1, to reach that department press 2" and ended up screaming at the phone that you just want to speak to a real human being. The voice over IVR sits between a computerised voice and a real person. It is at least a recording of a real person and in the situations where you are dealing with such large call volume that you have to have a system in place it can at least give a company a human feel so hopefully by the time your customer reaches a member of your staff they aren't at the point of a towering rage with the intention of ripping their face off with their words.
Apps/Programs/Games: With the introduction of smart phones the world changed, for a long time apps were limited on the amount of space they could take up and so sound was restricted often to a little bit of background music and the odd sound effect designed to let you know you had successfully selected what you wanted. However as phones memories get larger and programming becomes more sophisticated, apps and programs are starting to reintroduce a voice element, whether it's in tutorials or as part of the storytelling in games.
This list is far from exhaustive, I've worked on most of the above examples in some form or other as well as recording presentations for people in business, who know what they want to say but aren't good at delivering their own presentations. It's so easy now to take your script and then time your powerpoint presentation to a voiceover so that when you get to a meeting you just have to hit play and all the stress of presenting to your boss this years number is removed.
At its heart modern Voice Over is designed to make peoples lives easier and less stressful; more than that, modern Voice Over is designed to bring something of the human element back into a digital age. For all the advances of computing, the human voice still contains levels of possibility and nuance that take communication to the next level.
Working directly with Voice Talent is now so easy. You can go to people directly through their websites, there are freelance sites and there are specialist Voice Over sites that are now filled with hundreds of thousands of different Voice Talents and there are still the traditional agents representing a great many Voice Actors. I hope that this article has given you some information about some of the possibilities in the world of Voice Over.