With the onslaught of media we’re engulfed by in current times — really, how many times have you checked your various social media since you woke up today? — it’s no surprise that our content-rich environment has flooded our perception and made concentrating on just one thing a difficulty. This is where the beauty of audio narration comes in.
Not everyone has the time or inclination to read books, manuals, think-pieces, blog posts or articles about complicated subjects, but everybody in 2019 can multitask like a champ. It’s pretty much hard-coded into our DNA after all these years. The right audio narration is now one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to get the entirety of your content into people’s minds: be it through audiobooks, audio ads, explainer videos, narrated training courses or magazine articles, etc.; properly managed audio can bypass even the most ardent procrastinator’s filter and be an exciting tool for learning, selling or even entertainment on the go!
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This post has been updated in August 2021.
What, then, is audio narration?
Audio narration is also commonly known as a voice-over. It comprises these key aspects:
- A recorded voice used as a commentary in a variety of media such as television, radio, internet ads, VOD (video-on-demand) services, advertising, etc.
- The voice is not part of the original environmental audio, as it’s used as an overlay.
- Ideally, the voice-over narration is performed by a trained voice-over artist or capable professional.
- In some cases, they can be used as a description of the on-screen events – as in movies where they are directly spoken over the film’s dialogue – or in others to augment or explain what’s happening.
Let’s talk about some of its benefits!
- It’s versatile and immediate.
Got an explainer video for your new hot product? Better get cracking on a suitable narration that answers your client’s most frequently asked questions and also represents your company’s ethos and personality. What better way to build a personal relationship with your clients than an audio narration that jumps out of the speakers and builds trust and rapport? You can’t get that through text or images alone!
- Voice-overs are also concise and authentic!
Is it the same to read an article about a dramatic political event, or to have the author (or a passable actor) dramatizing the contents and instilling them with feeling and gravitas owing to a professional, well-worn cadence? Is it the same to read an explanatory piece than have its effects augmented by a good reading? You may be already nodding to yourself in acknowledgment of the right answer.
- It gives people the best of both worlds.
People are consuming all types of media at record speeds, but when was the last time they unplugged completely from their devices to immerse themselves in the imaginary world of a book? Yeah, we didn’t think so either! Audiobooks have quickly become one of the main ways in which people consume books; a recent report by Pew Research has suggested that about one in five Americans is listening to audiobooks instead of regular books or ebooks. Authors of every stripe and in every step of the popularity ladder are turning to voice pros in order to have a good audiobook out as quickly as possible because it means reaching so many more potential readers!
- Is learning through audio effective? You bet!
Though understandably, we may sometimes find ourselves on the purist side of the street, attempting to defend reading as legitimate and listening as “cheating”, recent research is very clear about how listening and reading comprehension are actually correlated. Who knew? Apparently, reading a book and listening to it is almost indistinguishable to your brain, or at least it is in the issues that count: understanding and learning.
Is it for me?
Audio narration (or a voice-over) is an increasingly valuable tool for marketing and sales purposes. It’s an art form that’s as ancient as radio. It quickly accelerated its growth as a marketing device since the beginning of the television age. With the advent of streaming, podcasts and other audio-on-demand services that benefit from the quality and affordability of digital media, voice-overs are now pretty much ubiquitous in our everyday milieu environment.
If you’re still asking yourself “Is this for me?” you may as well ask yourself “Do I want to effectively market my products and services?”As we know full well that the answer to that question is a thundering “Yes!” you may also be asking yourself the obvious follow-up questions “How do I get in on this sweet action? What are my options?”
We’ve got you covered!
Just start recording?
Recording a voice-over sounds simple, right? You just need a working mic, an empty room, Windows Recorder, and some chutzpah, right? It looks like you’re on the fast track to self-producing some quality audio content for your target audience! Just hit “record” and you’re good to g—
Yes, of course, if budget is an issue, you absolutely have the option of recording in-house (as many companies and startups do). This is doubly so if you or your staff have agreeable voices that could conceivably carry your message across. It also means you will have voice talent familiarized with the product.
Still, beware! Even if there’s some potential for major voice-over talent in your company, navigating the possible pitfalls and fully understanding and making use of that talent are two different things.
What if my audio narration goes wrong?
The Internet is, unfortunately, rife with hundreds of times more failure stories than success ones. That’s just the law of averages for you! Or to quote the inimitable Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park:
A badly-done voice-over has an even bigger effect in the opposite direction than a well-done one:
- Brand devaluation. It makes your product look worse by association.
- From a client’s point of view: “If they produce subpar content, how good can their product be?”
- It makes you look like you didn’t want to invest the necessary effort and resources into a good end product.
- An amateur recording is a very high-risk endeavor. The rewards are the same as if you take the leap and invest in a tried-and-true professional.
- It still takes significant time and effort that left without proper managerial or production oversight could yield bad results, and you’d be left wasting precious personnel, man-hours, and resources that could have been properly focused on their areas of expertise without a tangible, marketable result to show for it.
If you want to take your chances, though…
Fret not! A quick primer on what to do!
If you still want to go the in-house route, here’s the absolute basics on how to get some quality recordings going.
- Find a staffer that’s got good reading skills and preferably some vocal training.
Understanding how to correctly use your voice for long periods and to read with the proper pauses and inflections is a must for content not to come off as amateurish. You will need a solid, workable script as well.
- Invest in a good-quality condenser microphone.
Sure, yeah, headset mics that you’ve got lying around for telemarketing calls may do a serviceable job, but nothing cries out “cheap” to a prospective customer more than narration that seems to have been recorded with a cellphone mic.
- Get acquainted with audio-editing software.
Audacity is a great starter. It’s free, open-source, easy to use and customizable. Once you get going, it’s better to scale up, though!
- Have a good makeshift studio in place.
Insulation is not a must but preferred. Try to steer clear from places with a lot of outside audio or interference. Trust us, no one likes flubbing their lines or re-recording because Grandma’s Cocker Spaniel keeps barking at traffic, or because construction crews or noisy neighbors keep forgetting you’re making narration history!
- Get to know Noise Reduction plugins.
Nothing says “bad recording” more than ambient sounds, pops, hisses, crackles, and the “echo-chamber” recording effect — trust us, we’ve been there. A good way to reduce this is to edit your audio after recording with a “Noise Gate” plugin. These significantly reduce sounds over a certain specified threshold — especially those nasty mouse clicks. Here’s where you can find the Audacity version.
If, though, you want to aim for the stars, massively reduce risk of failure, sleep well at night and play in the Big Leagues, let us roll out the red carpet for…
Hiring a Pro for your voice-overs
This is, of course, the recommended course of action for the discerning entrepreneur-with-a-plan. Now, here are just some “pros” of “Pro” outsourcing:
you get what you pay for. That’s generally a professional with a well-established career. Also, prioritize a portfolio you can view. You can explore and hours-upon-hours of content for you to match up to your editorial intent and preferences. You will still need to give them a script to work with.
- Your pick.
Voice-actors and actresses come in all types; you can find deep-bass voices suited to poetry readings, commercial superstars, young up-and-comers, seasoned veterans and everything in between! The final say in who you want is up to you; safely choose from a wide variety of voice types, capabilities, versatilities, experience levels, and budget options.
- Most likely, they know what you want!
They know your audience and can provide quality work with minimal direction and a very good turnover rate that prevents projects from eternally languishing in the “development hell” pipeline. This doesn’t mean that you cannot engage with them, quite the contrary: they’ll relish any specific indications and will go out of their way to help you craft engaging content. They’ll just know how to do it better and quicker.
- They have invested so you don’t have to.
Remember all that stuff about a studio, microphones, programs, plugins, suitable voice talent, etc.? Throw that out the window! You either like their voice for your project or you don’t and move on to the next selection. It’s that simple.
You don’t even have to go very far to find them! Outsourcing platforms offer the services of verified voice professionals with minimum hassle and quality guarantees that ensure you get a more-than-solid return on your investment. Of course, you can either choose to contact professionals directly for contract work (although it’s usually very expensive), or go with platforms such as our very own Bunny Studio to scroll through a curated list of Pros that cover many budgetary specifications, voice types, and languages.
Ready to start with audio narration, start right now with Bunny Studio
Here’s hoping we’ve given you some great reasons to get started with applying the benefits of voice-overs to your content! Whether you’re chancing the thrilling process of learning how you or your staff can become voice narrators, or investing in a seasoned Pro that will get the job done your way, there’s no denying this simple fact:
Rocking a good voice narration will enrich the experience for all your listeners and make your content soar above its competitors!