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Voiceover — The Effective Storyteller

Published on April 17th, 2015

Voiceover is an effective technique that is used across various platforms, such as television, radio and online clips. Described as a narrative method, it is the audible script verbalised by an unseen actor.

Internally, companies often use this system of voiceover recording on videos for meetings, presentations and onboarding; this is because the clear narration relays organised facts as easy-to-follow information.

Externally in telecoms, it can be used it to create friendly and relatable automated bilingual messages. Simply by offering the service in different languages via number dials, it can be used to support the needs of their customer base and maintain the flow of commerce.

In terms of television, organisations are able to exercise creativity, whilst saving money in the process. Take, for example, the time and expense that goes in to filming one advertisement for a new product: in order to market it worldwide, the organisation can use the same footage, each time amending it to include voiceovers that vary linguistically. This means the company is able to transmit the desired message to audiences across the world without having to reshoot the entire commercial.

Statistics also support the ability of voiceovers to increase engagement. For instance, when an advertisement for a new biscuit in China was released, only 34% of respondents were able to connect with the envisioned message. When the advertisement was altered to include the voiceover, “delicious, but does not leave the mouth feeling dry”, that number went up to 53% and when the audio was further adapted to, “really delicious”, it increased to 61%.

Similarly, a particular personal care brand also benefited from the use of narrative audio. When testing two editions of the same advertisement, the version that included supportive voiceover resulted in more than double the intended response rate: 44% compared to 17%.

Film or documentary producers, however, often use voiceover to innovatively take the audience on a journey: through different timelines — past, present or future — or to create suspense and generate interest through film trailers. In 1928, Walt Disney’s “Steamboat Willie” featured the first ever cartoon voiceover, setting the pace for a combination of moving images and audio.

Radio’s first voice was Reginald Fessenden, who, in the Christmas of 1906, broadcast from an impromptu studio to encourage those who were at sea. Today, within radio, this method is also used for advertisements, promotion of events, DJ chart shows, general hosting and storytelling.

There are some important factors to take into consideration when going through the process of recording. The studio environment and equipment used is essential, as it will have a direct effect on the quality of sound and how well the audio is edited together. Therefore, studios that do not cater to noise cancellation will result in a disruption, regardless of how small, in the flow of the audio.

The script needs to include clear direction for the actor, such as highlighting where an emphasis should be placed on particular words or changing the tone of voice at different points of the text. That aside, the voiceover actor should be someone who is experienced and able to handle the challenge of pronouncing industry-specific words. They may also be encouraged to adapt the text through improvisation, so that the script has a more natural conversational style. This all helps the speech to be convincing and draw the viewer or listener in.

A requirement for this technique has opened up doors for linguists to step in to new job opportunities, particularly as freelancers. Voiceover artists can work on a diverse range of projects and subject matter. Nevertheless, it is a competitive industry and so show reels of previous work are seen as a great way to market capabilities.

So as more and more businesses aim to expand from local to international, new technologies will need to be incorporated to reach new target groups; voiceover is certainly one option that can aid in doing so!

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Posted on: April 17th, 2015