You’ve probably heard of voice-overs but have never really thought about it. For some, you’ve experienced its usage in games, movies, commercials and many more avenues. For others, you might be weighing the options of pursuing a career in this industry.  So, lets us learn about a few voice-over basics.

As a career path, voice-over acting has been around since the dawn of radio dramas. The craft is so old that it even predates screen actors. Yet its popularity was stagnant until the spread of the internet to the typical individual. It is now ubiquitous in all our communication devices. From the radio to our cell phones, you name it.

If you are a creator making videos, chances are you also require voice-over recordings. Despite the misconception among some people, visuals are not more important than audio during production. Research shows that most video watchers tend to stop watching a video having lousy audio. This stoppage is higher in videos with disturbing sounds than in lower-quality videos.

When keeping an audience engaged and interested, great audio isn’t just important; it is necessary.

So, what is a voice-over, let’s find out, shall we?

But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:

This post was updated in May 2021

What is a Voice Over

Another name for voice over is sound acting. It is also known as off-camera or off-stage commentary.

Sound acting is not only an art, but it is also part perspiration and a whole lot of practice.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes voice over as occurring in two ways. Either It is the sound of an unseen narrator speaking, or it is the sound of a visible character expressing unspoken thoughts. Creators usually pre-record the voice for later use in a motion picture.

Therefore, a voice-over is the use of voice in television, filmmaking, theatre, and television as a production technique whereby the vocal sound is not part of the narrative. Information is read from a script and spoken by either a voice talent specialist or by someone appearing elsewhere in the production set. The off-camera commentary uses either synchronous or asynchronous dialogue.

During the synchronous dialogue, a voice actor narrates a video simultaneously as an action is taking place. As for the asynchronous exchange, the voice is prerecorded then placed over the top of a video. Documentaries and some news reports commonly use asynchronous dialogue to explain specific information.

You can use a voice over in:

  • Promos/trailers
  • Live events such as award shows
  • Tv programs
  • Dubbed foreign voice over in language films
  • Documentaries
  • Voice over films
  • Radio or audio dramas
  • Toys and traditional games
  • Video games
  • Commercials
  • A phone message and interactive voice response
  • Voice acting for animation films
  • plus, many more areas

The type of techniques and skills needed will vary in each of the areas above. For example, the skills and techniques required in a documentary are quite different from those of a video game.


Types of Voice-Over

As evident above, a voice-over applies to a variety of genres. Hence, depending on the area of expertise, voice actors will have different monikers. These include:

1. Voice actors

They perform in video games, TV cartoons, ADR, animated movies, foreign language dubbing, radio dramas, and puppet shows.

2. Voice-over announcers

These announcers introduce segments of radio broadcasts or live television. Examples of the sections are talk shows, promos, sporting events, and award shows.

3. Voice over narrators

The narrators specialize in medical videos, documentaries, business videos, audiobooks, explainer videos, and educational videos. Some also act as audio tour guides.

4. Voice over artists

These are versatile performers able to operate in any of the above types. They are also used to welcome visitors onto a website or as sound guides in a GPS.

When you encompass the four types together, they are called voice talent. Voice talent, therefore, refers to all kinds of voice-over performers.  Agencies and companies use this term when hiring sound actors.

Now that we’ve covered the different types let us look at the characteristics of a good voice over.

Characteristics of a Good Voice Over

Despite the use of narration and voice-over interchangeably, they aren’t the same in technical terms. Narration refers to telling a story based on the current action. In other words, it is the use of an audio vocal to describe all the work happening on screen at the moment. On the other hand, voice-over is more instructional in nature and may not necessarily represent much of the on-screen action.

Regardless of the differences, the two seem to share similar characteristics that will work for you. However, having a “good voice” isn’t compulsory, as many of you might presume.

Here are elements for great voice audio:

1. Adequate Pacing

To understand pacing, you need to examine some of the conversations you’ve heard. In the dialogue, some people will be telling an exciting story only to rush through it due to excessive excitement. Such a fast-paced conversation can leave you dazzled and unable to remember once they are through narrating. Others have even put you to sleep as they drone on with a story that has no end in sight.

Pacing is thus the speed of an articulated voice. If the voice-over is too fast, the audience will have difficulties comprehending it. But if it is too slow, it will bore the audience, putting them to sleep. Therefore, the best voice over employs a pace that is both deliberate and natural.

If you want adequate pacing as a voice actor, start by writing out the play. Practicing a script before every recording can help create a more natural pace. Remember also to use occasionally pausing as another measure to pace setting. Pausing will provide the listeners with a break, helping them to process relevant information.

2. Clear Enunciation and Pronunciation

If you want to be understood, you’ll have to speak clearly. One way is making sure you articulate each word correctly. Make sure also to avoid shouting, mumbling or over-enunciating words.

Be taking a deep breath and relax. Nobody is expecting you to sound like every other professional voice actor. Make sure you are speaking naturally and clearly; then the rest will follow.


3. Balanced Volume and Audio Clarity

Have you ever heard a murky recording? Could you understand it? How long did it take to discard it?

Clarity of sound is an essential part of audio. Likewise, the volume has to be at a comfortable level. Too much variation can cause distortion making the audio unappealing.

A voice-over having a fuzzy sounding will be challenging to understand. Not only will the audience be easily distracted but also, the absorption rate of information will significantly reduce. The next logical thing to listeners is to move on.

The volume should not be too high or too low. If it is too little, people will find it hard to hear. But if it is too high, it will annoy the listeners due to distortion.

4. Audible Vocal Tone

Just like in pacing, your tone must be pleasing to the human ear in addition to being natural. The worst mistake you can do to this characteristic is sounding fake. Trying to sound like a game show host will only make people judge you more harshly.

Likewise, avoid sounding robotic. People want an authentic sound that they can relate to as humans. Robotic voices are annoying, especially when done incorrectly. Even Alexa is trying to sound more human than robotic.

With these four characteristics, you are on your way to becoming a professional sound actor.

What is the Role of Voice Actors?

The work of sound actors is basically to read and interpret words on a script. The role can be for a short-term project as well as a long one. Commercials are more of small projects. But as for video games, they are big projects taking many months to produce. This variation tends to make the work of a voice actor quite interesting.

In Great Britain, Equity, a British trade union, recognizes voice acting as a specialized dramatic profession.  This due to the long-standing history of the BBC using sound actors for documentaries, films, and radio dramas. In the US, SAG-AFTRA is the union supporting American voice actors.

Note that voice acting is different across the board. Thus, many voice actors tend to specialize in one or two niches. However, there are a few actors called all-rounders. All-rounders can perform different characters and voices. These all-rounders can, therefore, access a wide variety of work due to their skills.

How to Get Started in Voice Over

First of all, check whether your personality and voice are suitable for this type of work. A professional voice-over company will be the best option for screening your abilities accurately.

There is no need of spending your time and money advancing in a career as a sound actor only to find out later you this is not the path for you. Hen, investing some time and a few bucks at the initial stage will be a worthwhile venture.

One of the main reasons people are getting involved in this industry is due to its offer of a flexible lifestyle. A flexible lifestyle allows them to choose their working hours most suitable for them. Moreover, they are their own boss, working from home. To top all this, most of them tend to enjoy what they are doing with their life.

Nevertheless, you are to approach voice over acting as a business. Being disciplined with your time will go a long way in helping you make money. Additionally, sharpening your technical skills is necessary for producing fantastic work. Finally, be sure to understand the industry so that you can market yourself effectively.


As we’ve seen in this article, voice-over work cannot be understated. It is more in use than ever. Its ubiquitous nature is providing numerous career opportunities in the various fields related to communication.

Would you like the service of a professional voice actor? Then submit a project at Bunny Studio and get in touch with our quality team. Your professional voice over is one step away.