“And who am I? That’s one secret I’ll never tell.” What do addictively compelling television series “Gossip Girl”, “You”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Dexter” have in common? The answer is narration. To narrate is to create, for living is just being lived.
Audio narration brings to live characters though their innermost thoughts. A voice narrator can also clarify ambiguity, provoke thought and weave the cord that emotionally bonds the audience to a character. Indeed, audio narration is an almighty tool in the landscape of media and entertainment. But it’s not just the film industry that narration reigns. Today voice over narration jobs are in demand. They fulfill the production of audiobooks, audio descriptions, voice over presentations, documentaries, and even pre-recorded Powerpoint.
Are you a narration noob or a pro? We all have to start somewhere. Whether you’re looking into how to become an audiobook narrator or how to voice over on Powerpoint, we have all the tricks up our sleeves to help contribute to your success. Stick with us to learn the ropes!
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This post has been updated in October 2021.
What is Audio Narration?
Plain and simple, audio narration is the use of spoken commentary to convey a course of events to an audience. The audio is usually presented through drama, cinema, radio, books, presentations or television. Most projects of this nature require a narration script.
In the entertainment industry, writing a narration script calls for a touch of creativity and a tug of emotions. These can be based on fictional stories, such as fairy tales, video games, and action movies. Or on non-fictional accounts such as biographies. The narration can be conveyed through different perspectives. Examples include the account from the main character in the story, other characters, or even a non-personal stand-alone entity. A stand-alone entity does not participate in the happenings of the plot but merely recites the story. The narration can be done with just one narrator voice, or through multiple voices.
Audio narration can also be applied to more practical functions. Such that require less expression of emotions and more conveying of factual information. This is usually in the form of documentaries, training videos or voice over presentations.
The Applications of Narration
Jacques Lacan once said, “The narration, in fact, doubles the drama with a commentary without which mise-en-scène would be impossible.” Narration is an art form. The difference between a mere story and a legend is in the ability of the narrator describing them. It is not simply reading off a script but adding a deeper dimension to the telling of events.
Long before the invention of writing, people would sit in front of fires telling each other tales as old as time. As technology evolved, storytelling went all the way from books, back to that tradition. Generally speaking, audiobooks are spoken recordings of a book being read aloud. They were initially envisioned to be a tool for the visually disabled.
The craze for increased productivity is driving audiobooks as the latest successful trend. Usage has increased by 46% with an average of 220,000 audiobooks read daily in 2018. The market has been expanding lucratively with $240 million sold within a space of 8 months. Why? Because it’s a cure for the restless mind, allows for multi-tasking, and is more portable than chunky hard-cover books. As a result, audiobook narrator jobs are increasing in demand. There is even a prestigious yearly Audie Awards hosted by the Audio Publishers Association.
If you are one who is looking to tap into the industry, understanding the different types of audiobook voice over jobs is very important. Such includes knowing if you are only expected to read a factual script or have to do some voice acting of character dialogues. Setting up a diligent routine for voice care and a personal guide of work ethics is also a good practice.
Television and Films
Sometimes, all that glitter is not gold. In television and films, the narrator plays a nuanced role. The University of Hamburg published a handbook on narratology. It denotes that narration when applied to cinematic purposes is used as a co-creative technique. Its intention is to act as a special effect towards a story world.
When it was first released in 1999, the classic “The Matrix” movie was nominee and winner of a jillion awards all over the globe. Creativity can give birth to complex cinematic plots. Many novel ideas are intelligibly challenging can make or break a film. Narration helps to set things up more quickly in the audience’s mind by accelerating exposition.
Furthermore, narration can be a really powerful tool used to add depth and perception to a character. A great example is the award-winning television series “Dexter”. Serial killers are not easy to relate to as not everyone can picture themselves committing heinous crimes. The series was however successful in helping the audience strike a resonating chord with the main character. It was artfully done through the portraying of the personality’s inner thoughts. They include unspoken and typical everyday musings, from insecurities to wants and needs. Beneath the visual surface of the story, the audience can find a similarity in the imperfection of a character. This is what emotionally bonds them to the plot and makes the show so addictive.
Voice over documentaries are a form of audio narration. And who demonstrates the successful effectiveness of such narration better than Morgan Freeman? Morgan Freeman’s iconic god-like voice is what has set the stage of examples on great voice over productions. Documentaries such as “Cosmic Voyage”, “March of the Penguins” and National Geographic’s “The Story of God” are some of his signature works.
Ethan Canin rightfully said, “Nothing is as important as a likable narrator. Nothing holds a story together better.” We don’t often take conscious notice of the narration in a documentary, but a poorly narrated one can easily lose viewer interest. The right voice is very important. One will not find credibility in learning things from a documentary with a teenage girl’s tone. So it is important to match your narrator’s voice and professionalism with the genre of your documentary.
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world. It inspires imagination and creativity, especially in the budding young minds of children. Animation covers Japanese anime, Disney cartoons, and Pixar’s animated films.
A good strong audio narrative allows the audience to immerse themselves in the film. The narrator’s voice can strongly portray emotions. He or she can manipulate the audience’s emotions by allowing them to feel what the characters are feeling. Audio narration by storytelling or character dialogue can bring to life a two-dimensional world into one that effectively entrances its viewers.
Voice Over on Powerpoint
Everyone has experienced that forehead-slapping situation where they forgot to include an important point in an earlier presentation. Business or education, Powerpoint has become an essential tool in the world of presentations. Voice over Powerpoint, is, however, a much lesser-known but very useful tool for presenters.
When the winds change, we might fall victim to an unexpected cold. Narrating a recorded voice over on Powerpoint is an awesome solution to beating the odds of a failed presentation. Most noteworthy, you can re-record any errors to make your presentation perfect every single playback. Naturally, there is an art to creating such voice over projects. Such include drafting a script that is non-identical to your on-screen text and using a tone of voice that can captivate your audience. Such voice over recordings are really not as technically daunting as they may seem. If you are looking for more information on how to record one, refer to this article on Voice Over Powerpoint for more in-depth knowledge.
And now we go back to the basics of why narration was invented. That is, to function as a special aid for the visually impaired. Audio descriptions are an optional form of narration. Not to be confused with dubbing, the narrator audibly describes everything that happens on-screen. This includes the physical action, facial expression, scenario and even the attire of the on-screen characters. This results in the experience of becoming almost like listening to an audiobook. You can find a selection of television series titles and films with this special feature on Netflix under the subtitles and language settings.
FOR THE WRITER:
Narration Script Perspectives
There are many things that affect the outcome of production, especially in a fictional genre. Aside from the voice quality and narrative tense, one of the most major element is the perspective. Here are the different perspectives narration can be created in.
The First Person Perspective
When told as a first-person account, the production can create a very close relationship between the narrator and the viewer. First-person refers to someone participating and telling the story, often as a character’s voice. Pronouns such as “I” or “we” are often used. This technique can make a story highly relatable to the audience by interjecting an off-the-screen world of rich inner thoughts, emotions, secrets, and opinions of the narrator. These are also known as the stem-of-consciousness voice. It helps to deepen the personality of the narrating character with the sharing of intimate details, otherwise not disclosed on-screen. In some cases, the narrator tells a story through a series of letters or diary entries. This is known as an epistolary voice.
Because it is told from the perspective of one’s experience, the plot is steered in the subjective record of the narrator’s situation. As a result, the narrator might not have a full view of the entire picture of what is happening at different moments in the plot. Sometimes, an unreliable narrator’s voice may be used. This might mean an unbelievable story or person. Such that creates an air of speculation and mystery that drives the excitement in what is the actual truth of the plot.
Here’s an example: It’s the first of January. I wake up regretful, groggy and hungover from last night’s massive new year’s eve party. After washing up and getting dressed, I gingerly step onto a weighing scale. I need to lose some pounds! >>
The Second Person Perspective
This is told in a “you”, or rather, the audience’s or onlooker’s perspective. That means that the audience is included as a character in the plot. The second person perspective is more challenging to write from and thus less popular than the first-person perspective. This technique is, however, a popular choice when it comes to creating ad narratives. This is so because it plays the “in-your-shoes” role in making the listener see why he or she needs to buy a product.
An example can be seen below: It’s the first of January. You wake up regretful, groggy and hungover from last night’s massive new year’s eve party. After washing up and getting dressed, you gingerly step onto a weighing scale. You think to yourself, “Time to lose some pounds!”
The Third Person Perspective
Here since the starting age of storytelling, the third-person perspective is the most conventional and traditional way to tell a story. This is the all-knowing perspective of the big picture. The narrator can relate to the thoughts of any character and know the backstory of the entire plot. This is almost like the director’s or author’s perception. Because there is no need to build character depth, transitions can be told very quickly through the timeline. In addition, this perspective allows the injection of irony in cases when the narrator knows something other characters do not.
Here’s an example of how the perspective will sound. It’s the first of January. Elise woke up regretful, groggy and hungover from last night’s massive new year’s eve party. After washing up and getting dressed, she gingerly steps onto a weighing scale. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief, thinking it’s time for her to lose some weight.
FOR THE VOICE ACTOR:
Good Narration Practices
Felicia Day said, “Voice acting is very different from live-action. You only have one tool to convey emotion. You can’t sell a line with a look. It’s all about your vocal instrument. Doing voice work is also great because you don’t have to get your hair done.” It’s hard to find good narrators. If you are a voice actor, you will know that the going can get tough, but the process can be fun and rewarding. Beginner or pro, here are some tips from the seasoned on how to develop that great narrator voice.
Understand the Basics
No matter your voice gender, qualities or age, here’s step one. Know all the fundamental building blocks to great voice recording.
Enunciate. The most important thing for any voice actor is to come across understandable and crystal clear. That is unless, of course, if you are doing an impression of Chewbacca!
Understand the nature of your project and speak at a reasonably intelligible pace. Normal conversations usually fall between the range of 120-150wpm. Radio and audiobook recordings tend to be narrated at approximately 150-160wpm.
Don’t rush through your script. Apply pauses when necessary. Pauses can help make a dramatic point and also allow the listener to absorb information.
Make sure you speak at an audible volume. It is important to do a microphone test before doing an actual recording. Varying volume can help place emphasis on certain parts.
Speak in varying pitches. Monotonous voices tend to be less compelling and will make you lose your audience.
Look After Your Voice
Yes, we’re talking self-preservation! No voice equals no income. There are some sure-fire ways to keep that golden voice polished and agile.
1. Start off your day with a warm cup of tea.
Honey with chamomile, peppermint or a squeeze of vitamin-rich lemon is always good.
2. Always warm up your vocal muscles before recording.
Doing so helps you to improve speech clarity and expands your pitch range. Here’s a detailed guide on how you can create your own very own vocal warm-up routine.
3. Hydrate between sessions.
Aside from keeping your throat moist, a couple of sips between recording can help to prevent voice breaks and mouth noises.
4. Avoid whispering and clearing your throat.
They are actually detrimental to voice health. The abnormal vibrations they create can tire out your vocal muscles and make your voice hoarse in the long run.
Take breaks in between sessions. Listen to your body and stop recording when you feel hoarse. This is especially so when you do an unnaturally pitched impression or vocal fry.
6. Have a Back-up
We’re only human and sometimes lose our voices to a cold or cough. If so, here’s an article on how to get your voice back quickly. A good narrator has a back-up who can help them meet deadlines in any situation. Affordable and reliable voice over platforms like this one can act as your proxy while you recover so you never miss a deadline.
Whether you are required to do an impression or keep to a single tone in your narration, planning ahead is important. Audiobook or film, you can never get a full picture unless you finish reading the entire script before recording. Knowing the plot can inspire you on how to better execute different parts of the script with varying volume, pitch, and accents.
A great way to do so is to mark out parts in your script with some personal notes. Denote when to make longer and dramatic pauses, which phrases to place emphasis and when to increase vocal volume. By understanding the full narrative can you inject emotion into relevant parts of the plot where necessary. A monotonous narration is dry and uninteresting. It results in the loss of your audience very quickly.
Do Authentic Impressions
Some voice over narration jobs requires you to do a dialogue that involves a character impression. This is usually the case for films and audiobooks. Impressions help to add depth to different characters in a plot. Learning how to do different impressions can expand your acting range and allow you to cast for more jobs.
Say you are required to do an impression of a Russian voice. The best way to start is to listen to sound clips of Russian conversations. Take note of how to pronounce the quirks of certain letters. Take for example, how the letter “R” is rolled and how the letter “L” is always lengthened in syllables. Above all, thoroughly research dialects as different regions in Russia can sound differently. So always ask when you’re not sure.
Doing impressions can be taxing on your vocal cords so make sure you take sufficient breaks in between. If you wish to learn more about how to do an impression well, this instructional article is a great place to start!
FOR THE DIRECTOR:
Choosing A Narrator’s Voice
You hear a narrator a lot throughout a film or presentation. Because so, choosing a highly listenable and likable voice is extremely important. In general, narrator voices should sound fairly authoritative yet approachable. The narration script often, especially in documentaries, should allow the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Picking out a narrator’s voice can sometimes be a challenge. Here’s a guide on some factors that can help you make a decision.
What is Your Project Type?
Is this an audiobook or an informational sales kit? Storytelling audiobooks might require a voice actor with more vocal range. You may need to find someone who can speak different accents in varying voice pitches. A voice actor who can transform into any personality that can captivate your audience. If you are looking for someone to narrate a voice over for a business presentation. You simply need an authoritative voice that can clearly and effectively deliver a message in a single tone.
Who Is Your Audience?
Anything worth doing requires understanding the demographics of your market. This goes both ways for marketing projects as well as film and television. What age, gender, and interest are your viewers? Only by understanding your audience can you predict the right voice to cast in your project. A younger crowd prefers voices that are exciting, casual, upbeat and enthusiastic. On the other hand, if you are looking for a voice for your brand, choose a trustworthy, approachable and authoritative voice.
Should you be working on a first-person narration of an audiobook or film, you will already know if you require a male or female narrator based on the character. If you are however looking to narrate a commercial, it’s important to understand the science behind preferences. A study showed that men prefer women voices with higher (but non-annoying) pitches. Meanwhile, women prefer masculine voices with lower pitches. Refer to this full article on choosing narration voices for more details.
What is Your Budget?
Do you have a substantial budget to hire a celebrity voice? Psychologically, people tend to trust a voice they are more familiar with. This includes one that they personally know or someone whom they hear all the time in the media. If you do not have a huge budget, it is still possible to hire a professional narrator through affordable platforms such as this one. You can pick from a wide range of accents, languages and voice ages. Recordings come ready-to-use and are of high-quality clarity. Not sure what you’re looking for? Here’s a great article on how to describe voices to inspire you.
A Useful Tool for All
A voice actor conveys emotion, expression, and movement solely through a voice. We all have limits. Voice acting and narration is not easy, and everyone could always use a little help from time to time. Projects are hard to come by. Unpredictably, a project might include a small recording section of a difficult role. One that is beyond your vocal range reach. In such cases, you might need to outsource the part to another voice actor.
In other cases, you might be looking to outsource your entire audiobook project or voice over Powerpoint to a voice narrator. Outsourcing is a tricky business as you never really know if one is reliable until you’ve hired them. The first step would be to request and listen to sound clips of potential voice actors. Always look for narrators that come with great testimonials or feedback such as this one. That way you’ll know that you’ll not be disappointed whether it’s the sound quality or meeting deadlines.
All’s Well Ends Well
Todd Henry said, “A strong, authentic, compelling voice is the expression of identity, guided by vision, and achieved through mastery.” Narration can be a challenging tournament, and no one is born perfect. But like everything in life, practice develops perfection and stamina. As the audio narration industry booms, so do the demand for more specific skill sets. Constant self-improvement and the expansion of one’s vocal range is key in making voice over narration jobs accessible. Lastly, have fun and enjoy what you do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life! No matter if you’re a writer, director or a voice actor looking for a narrator, follow this guide to lead the world with a resonating voice!
Find the perfect voice for you today at Bunny Studio!