The voice over talent in your production can make it the perfect piece you had envisioned from the beginning, or, conversely, it can be its demise. Finding the right voice over talent to narrate or act in your piece is just as important as knowing your target audience and where you are planning to use your piece. So whether you are producing a commercial, a video, a slideshow, a documentary, or anything else, you need to incorporate voice over talent that is the perfect fit.
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This article was updated in May 2021
What Exactly is Voice Over Talent?
Voice over talent is the art of providing voice overs in a number of mediums. Whenever there is narration or dialogue off-camera, that is voice over. Voice overs can be in documentaries, animated videos, or commercials. They may be used for narration in a television show or movie (think How I Met Your Mother). Voice overs also make up audio, like commercials on the radio. Basically, when you don’t see the actor, it is considered a voice over.
The voice itself has a huge impact on the feeling and tone the piece conveys. Whether it is an audio commercial, a documentary narration, or a voice for an animated character, the chosen voice will dictate a lot about the finished piece.
Certain characteristics of the voice over talent vary with the project and the character. Examples of these variations are age and gender of the voice actor, the dialect or accent, and even the emotional impression that the actor conveys. However, there are a few standard characteristics in any voice over actor that should be applied, and those are things like clarity of speech, ability to read a script, and the capacity to portray the desired tone and emotion.
Matching a Voice with the Tone of the Project
The most important element when it comes to voice over talent is matching the voice with the project. As 90 Seconds explains, for example, a voice over for a public service announcement needs to leave an emotional impact. On the other hand, a voice over for a commercial for a vacation cruise needs to show excitement and enthusiasm for the product.
Some basics when it comes to finding just the right voice over talent are things like the age of the actor or their gender. But other things to consider are factors such as tone and tenor of the speaker, dialect or accent, and the cadence and richness of the voice. Think about the character or tone of the project and match the voice to that. And that can run the whole gamut from the voice of an over-caffeinated young mom to that of a trustworthy older man or a child suffering from a cold.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to try a couple of different voice actors with different characteristics. This way you can see which one works better. You may have an image of something but in reality, another voice may convey your message better. It may even be a case of the same voice actor reading the script in a few different ways. In essence, the voice over talent will make your script come alive and convey the message you are striving for.
Now that we understand the purpose of voice over talent, let’s take a look at some variables. This may help in choosing one voice over the other.
Male versus Female Voice Over Talent
One of the first ways to narrow down your voice over talent is by gender. Sure, gender stereotypes are shifting and maybe it’s not as defined as it once was, but this still has an impact. Each gender can convey a different mood.
The first consideration, according to our article on the topic, is to consider your target market. For instance, usually, a product geared more towards a male population will sell better with a male voice, but sometimes a female voice over talent will work the magic. It all depends on the product and the target audience. A good guideline is that the voice should match the majority of your target audience. However, there are always those exceptions.
Even though constructs are shifting of gender bias, it’s still a real thing. That is why voice gender does often matter in your productions, especially advertisements and PSAs. For instance, to convey authority, people still trust a male voice more, like insurance commercials or a political ad. A female voice, however, portrays calm feelings and is often used in stressful or hectic situations, like the voice on your map software.
Debbie Grattan explains why female voices are a little more desirable and trustworthy. One reason is that female voices are perceived as helping rather than commanding. This instills trust and comfort at the same time. Even though some people may prefer a male voice, it’s easier to find a female voice that everyone likes. This reasoning could go as far back as the womb and the comfort the mother’s voice provides to the unborn baby. It isn’t to say that it’s always best to use a female voice; it just may be helpful to know this when deciding.
Business2Community shares more information on the difference in the two voices overs. Male voices are perceived as more neutral and authoritative, whereas female voices are more intimate, emotional and comforting. Overall, people seem to prefer female voices. However, that does not mean that there isn’t a place for male voice overs, as you can read in our article.
Language, Accents, and Dialect in Voice Over Talent
The interesting thing about accents and dialects is that sometimes they can be a big deterrent, but sometimes this can be the magic touch. The majority of voice over talent consists of a neutral voice. A neutral voice is more far-reaching and appeals to a wider audience. The exception here is the British accent. According to Debbie Grattan, a British accent is the most appealing, even more so than an American voice. She also adds that the perfect combination, in general, is a female voice in a British accent.
Sometimes, though, a regional accent is desired. If you are looking for a local spot and want to appeal to a certain region, you may want a voice over talent with that accent or dialect. For instance, a southern drawl may help sell barbecue. It is a good way to connect with a target base by adding the familiar and friendly.
You have to be careful, though, and not exclude or put off any of your target audience by using voice over talent that has a strong accent. Also, if you do decide to use an accent or dialect in the voice talent, make sure it’s genuine and realistic to help connect with the desired audience.
More Considerations When Choosing Voice Over Talent
Yes, the gender and the dialect do matter in voice overs, but so do other things. The most important thing is to connect with the audience in as many ways as you can, and here are a few more ways to do this.
This article shares some keys in looking for that right voice. A big part of that audience connection revolves around some subtleties in the voice. One of the main characteristics to strive for in any voice over talent is clarity and articulation. The audience needs to be able to understand the information first and foremost.
Another key factor is authenticity. This goes back to the accent and dialect but is more than that. The voice over talent needs to be natural, like a conversation with a friend. The voice shouldn’t sound forced or rehearsed, just natural, authentic, and organic.
One more important voice consideration is consistency throughout the piece. The speaker should maintain the same speed and tone throughout. Vocal trends should be left out, like the infamous millennial upspeak, where intonation goes up at the end of every sentence. The audience will appreciate a smooth, pleasant, consistent tone throughout.
What to Look for When Hiring Voice Over Talent
The cello is the musical instrument that is said to be the closest to the human voice. And the cello makes a beautiful sound when it’s played correctly. However, when it is not, it can be grating and hard to listen to. The same goes for the human voice. Think about it, when you are listening, more than watching, you pay attention to the voice. If it’s pleasant to the ear, you’ll keep listening, you’ll pay attention. If it isn’t, you’ll turn it off and find something else. No one wants to hear that grating sound of an annoying voice.
So now that you know what gender you want your voice over and what dialect or accent, if any, you are looking for, you’ll want to pay attention to the pleasantries of the voice. Is it easy to listen to? Do you want to hear more? Will you remember it? Now if you are looking for a voice over for a specific character, you may want a certain characteristic, so seek that out. This leads you to acting skill.
We’ve covered things like consistent pacing and articulation, but you also want a voice over talent with acting skills. Any piece you are offering is essentially an acting job, whether it’s a commercial, documentary, or anything else that needs a voice. If your voice over talent has acting skills and experience in this profession in addition to a great voice, that’s a big plus.
To Sum It Up
Like most things, finding the perfect voice over talent isn’t as simple as it may first appear. Not only do you need to consider gender, dialect, and accents, but all those other things, too. Your voice over talent should be an experienced professional who knows how to act and maintain a consistent, clear voice.
When you have that right talent, though, your piece will shine. Think about some of your favorite ads, movies, and voices, and maybe channel some James Earl Jones or Ellen Degeneres. That perfect voice over talent is out there, you may just need to find it.
We’ll make it very easy for you, though! Submit a project at Bunny Studio now and find the right voice talent for you!