Voice-Over Q&A

Is it voice-over, voiceover, or voice over?

Voice-Over is often referred to in different ways. Many use the acronym VO or V.O., and some spell it Voiceover and Voice Over. There is much debate over the definitive “correct” spelling, but according to the Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries, Voice-Over is correct.

What do you call a person who does voice-over?

Like Voice-Over, the individuals who perform them are also referred to by different names. For the sake of information (and SEO keywords), I will list them here:

  • Voice-Over Talent, Voiceover Talent, Voice Over Talent, VO Talent, V.O. Talent, Voice Talent
  • Voice-Over Actor, Voiceover Actor, Voice Over Actor, VO Actor, V.O. Actor, Voice Actor
  • Voice-Over Actress, Voiceover Actress, Voice Over Actress, VO Actress, V.O. Actress, Voice Actress
  • Voice-Over Artist, Voiceover Artist, Voice Over Artist, VO Artist, V.O. Artist, Voice Artist
  • Voice-Over Professional, Voiceover Professional, Voice Over Professional, VO Professional, V.O. Professional, Voice Professional

What are the different types of voice-over?

Voice-over comes in many forms. Really, any time you hear a recorded voice, whether you’re watching a commercial on television and you hear, “Beef: it’s what’s for dinner,” or you’re calling a 1-800 number and you hear an automated voice tell you to “Press zero to speak with a representative,” that’s voice-over!

Here is a breakdown of some of the various types of voice-over:

  • Commercial: Advertising on radio, television, cinema and the internet.
    • For example, a famous commercial advertising beef coined the catchphrase, “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner”
  • Narration: Narrating television, audiobooks, film, radio, etc.
    • For example, Morgan Freeman narrated the movie “March of the Penguins.”
  • Corporate: Voice-over work that is done for businesses, institutions and organizations that are used to promote, educate and inform customers or those being served, both prospective and present. Corporate narration can also be referred to as business narration or industrial narration. Examples include:
    1. Informational videos
    2. Web tutorials
    3. Employee training
    4. PowerPoint presentations
    5. Flash presentations
    6. Marketing pieces
  • Telephony/On-Hold/IVR (Interactive Voice Response): This is the automated voice that answers when you make a phone call.
    • For example, “Press zero to speak with a representative.”
    • “Thank you for holding. Your wait time is five minutes.”
  • Character/Animation: Voice acting for cartoons, video games, etc. This type of voice-over often incorporates different voices and sound effects.
    • For example, Mel Blanc voiced hundreds of well-known cartoon characters, including Bugs Bunny; “What’s up doc?”
  • Announcement: Also known as “Voice of God,” you hear this type of voice-over over the sound systems in public places or at live events. Examples:
    • At the circus, you hear “Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and girls! The performance is about to begin. We’d also like to remind you that flash photography is not permitted. Enjoy the show!”

Do I really need to hire a voice talent?

Do you really need to hire somebody to talk? YES! There is a lot more to recording voice-over than having a nice speaking voice. The most effective voice actors know how to command attention, evoke emotions, and communicate effectively with their voice performance techniques. Bad voice-over can sound inauthentic, annoying, or just plain boring. If you’re trying to market something, tell a story with words, or convey information, you need to hire a professional voice talent.

Should I expect full production from a voice talent?

The delivery of a dry recording of your script (just the voice) is standard. Do you want music or sound effects edited in? Be sure to ask the voice talent if they offer these services.

What audio file format is standard?

The three most common file formats are MP3, WAV, and AIFF.

MP3 the most requested format for voice-over because it’s great quality and saves space. For example, a sixty-second radio commercial saved in MP3 format is about 1MB, whereas 60 seconds of audio saved as a WAV or AIFF file would take up about 10MB.

The MP3 file should be encoded at the bit rate of between 128kbps (standard) to 160kbps (medium) to 320kbps (highest) for optimum quality yet maintaining a relatively small file size for delivery over the Internet.

How can I help the voice talent help me?

Be ready with answers to these questions:

  • What is the pacing of the script?
  • Is there a specific tone that you’re going for?
  • Are there words your script that require a specific pronunciation?
  • What information might help the voice talent make the best choices for voicing your brand? Describe the customer base, background of the project/company, etc.
  • Proof-read your script for errors and clear it with your legal department before delivering it to the voice talent.

How many words can I include in the script?

If there’s no time constraint, you can include as many words as you like. Note, however, that some voice-over projects are charged by the word, and challenging text may incur extra costs.

When writing a script with a time constraint, be mindful of the pacing.

Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 3.15.54 PM

Note that numbers (such as a phone number), symbols (@ symbol or www), etc., count as one word each.

How much does a voice-over cost?

Voice actors keep a rate sheet. Check out the GVAA Rate Guide, GFTB Rate Guide, or this Voice Talent Quote Generator to get an idea of how much your project will cost. Also, please be sure to inform the voice talent of your budget, as they will often try to work with you.

Factors that affect the cost of a voice-over:

  • Time
  • Production Costs
  • How the audio is used
  • How often it is heard
  • The size of the audience
  • Market size (local, regional, national)
  • Special requirements (character work, additional research, challenging text, etc.)
  • If the audio will be used in perpetuity (as long as it is available for consumption, and you are making a profit off of the voice-over).

How long does it take to record and edit a voice-over? (What is the turnaround time?)

The production of a voice-over requires a lot more than just talking. Between research, preparation, recording, and editing, it usually takes a voice professional at least four times the length of the finished audio to record and produce a voice-over.

Please be sure to inform the voice talent of any time-restrictions, and they often will try to work with you (additional charges may apply).