It’s been said before, and we’ll say it again: leveraging the power of multiple mediums is one of the roads to Internet success. If you’re looking to get people talking, there’s nothing like having a strong presence over multiple channels. One of those — perhaps essential — is video. Voicing and portraying your brand effectively will require you to make multiple voiceover video decisions.
Perhaps the prospect of making videos makes you leery. After all, aren’t the usual channels still working just fine? Isn’t it the one-size-fits-all approach is a tired old concept? Yes and no. I’m not talking about becoming cloying or pushy — the market is over-saturated as is. The point at hand is about using every available tool at your disposal to reach your clientele or audience.
The combination of voiceover and video may just be what your brand needs to stand out! Sure, you can be as rote and by-the-book as every other failed voiceover video hopeful. Just putting out material does not ensure increased sales, engagement or publicity; creativity and zest do. See it as an opportunity to inject life, vitality, and the human element into your brand.
As the old adage goes: the only way to fail is to not try. Join me as I go over some voiceover video basics with you!
If you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
This post was updated in August 2021.
Going over the basics
Voiceovers are everywhere. You can’t go into a subway station, look at your phone, or watch an advertisement without a voice giving you guidance or prompting you to buy. As humans, we respond strongly to auditory and visual cues; the human voice (or an electronic approximation thereof) just makes our ears perk up and take notice!
The voiceover, in and of itself, is a production technique. It means the recording and overlaying of voice for different purposes. It can be used in practically every type of media under the sun; movies, audiobooks, video games, corporate or branding videos, etc. It can also be used in various forms, including explicatory or narrative. Think about the kindly narrator voice in children’s features or the matter-of-fact tones of explainer videos.
Some examples are probably better to illustrate the point. As mentioned, voiceovers are just a production technique, so their use encompasses a huge range of variation.
Voiceover video: got something that needs explaining?
One of the most widespread usages of voiceovers for branding is through explainer videos. Switchvideo.com sheds some light on the subject:
“An explainer video is a short animated video commonly used by businesses to quickly tell their brands’ stories in a memorable way. In 2007, these videos started gaining popularity when the company Common Craft created one explaining how to use the new social media platform Twitter.
With its simple graphics and straightforward language, the video garnered nearly 10 million views and people understood how they could use Twitter, resulting in millions of users. It ushered in the era of the explainer video. Since then, thousands of businesses big and small have found that incorporating a short, compelling video has helped them expand their brand presence.”
You’ve probably seen an explainer video when browsing YouTube. Maybe you were looking for the perfect app, pair of sneakers or tube socks, and there it was; a perfect, to-the-point cutesy little video with a narrator shedding light on a topic with simple terms.
These straightforward, small-serving videos are everywhere now, and for good reason! It’s a great way for businesses to convey their concepts in ways that are easy for laypeople to understand. The lure of the explainer video is that it works whether your business is making soda or selling niche products.
And the best part about this type of voiceover video is that it’s great for any educational purpose! Here, let me exemplify by sharing this video on how to breathe better. If you experience any of the benefits listed in it, you can thank me later. I know I experienced steady improvements!
Voiceover video: the serious, documentary type
You’ve probably watched more than your share of wildlife documentaries in your time. Hey, nobody’s judging! I’ve been known to enjoy my time with Animal Planet or NatGeo on occasion. And isn’t there something that always comes to mind when reminiscing about documentaries?
That’s right! It’s the warm, dulcet tones of a — probably British — narrator explaining some miracle of life or other.
Documentaries and narrating styles come in varying styles, sure. What I’m talking about here is merely a relatable cliché. If there’s one TV Trope that’s incarnated in one person, it’s Sir David Attenborough as the well-mannered “documentary voice.”
This remarkably resilient 94-year-old titan was what several generations grew up with when watching documentaries. He no-doubt lived up to his title of “the most-traveled man on Earth”! He’s probably lost count of the times he crisscrossed the world cataloging some natural beauty or other. Although he’s not traveling much these days, Sir David has remained active and records voiceovers from his home.
He’s such a good sport about his iconic status that he’s even jokingly narrated the beginning of Adele’s “Hello” video!
If you want a highlight of his incredibly storied, prolific, and gem-filled career, I recommend watching the video below. One of the reasons it’s great is because it also highlights different sound production techniques. Some documentaries require the voiceover video to be done in an omniscient narration style; some are recorded on location for authenticity’s sake. Sir David Attenborough is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the lucky few who has done it all!
Voiceover video: the voice from above
Some people are beyond it all. They just seem to float above the rest, living blessed lives, like Sir Patrick Stewart. That’s… not exactly what I’m talking about here.
The “voice of God” or the “omniscient narrator” is a common storytelling trope. It’s that voice that speaks about the events of the narrative but without being directly involved. It knows everything about the characters and their circumstances and comments on them with full knowledge. If the voice does not belong to any of the characters in the story, it can be seen as a stand-in for the author.
In some cases, the narrator can be the old wise character reflecting on the events of the story. In others, it can be the voice of a presenter that directly addresses the audience at points. Think about Rod Serling in the Twilight Zone, who commonly did intros and outros to episodes. If you’re a fan of retro TV, you should know the intro by heart at this point.
I’ll include Rod Serling’s opening and closing monologues for “He’s Alive”, a particularly poignant take on hate-mongering. In these voiceover moments, Serling, a mixture between a presenter and omniscient narrator, poignantly reflects on the episode’s events. The Twilight Zone itself served as a potent mixture of horror, sci-fi, and parable. There was always a moral of a reflective moment at the end of the story. With a voice as stately as Serling’s, it’s almost impossible not to heed his warnings!
Another example from this type of voiceover video is in Wes Anderson’s work. His twee, quaint narrator in The Royal Tenenbaums adds another layer of charm to the lovable characters. It’s as perfect an introduction as one could wish for.
The challenges of selecting a narrator
While examples shed light on some of the uses to voiceover video, they don’t exactly get you closer to having a narrator, do they? That takes some amount of doing on your part. You try to know your audience, craft a good script, and get crackin’. But how about finding that one-in-a-million voice?
Through years and years of conditioning, we’ve become accustomed to certain types of voices in different contexts. You may want to play it safe and think about going with the tried-and-true. Maybe you like taking risks. You need to know your market and, if possible, focus-group your efforts.
Thankfully, there’s a wealth of information available. We know how people usually react to male and female voices. That conditioning I mentioned above? It’s what keeps audience responses predictable.
That doesn’t mean that things are always going to stay the same, though! More brands and authors are taking chances on female voices, for example. Trying new things and going for more inclusive choices can be rewarding!
All the guides above provide great tips on how to select vocal talent. I recommend checking out “The Art of Vocal Selection.” It’s one of our great in-house guides to finding the tone, gender, and accent that best matches your vision.
For the rest? Just go with a voice-specific voice acting platform or a voiceover agency. There are also freelancing platforms if you’re feeling more adventurous.
The amount of talent out there is staggering. Just remember to look out for people with stacked portfolios who can walk the walk! A lot of people talk a big game, but you don’t want to jeopardize your project on empty promises. A good voice acting performance is not a flash in the pan; it’s a good voice pro’s bread and butter!
Voiceover video: concluding remarks
So, hopefully, you’ve come out of this article with some insights about the power of voiceover video. After all, the human voice is one of the easiest, most direct ways to create an instant connection. Whether for marketing or artistic purposes, it’s never a bad idea to harness the power of multiple media to create durable links!
If you’re thinking about dipping a toe into this pond, go for it, especially if it’s part of bigger multimedia outreach!