Voice overs are common in all types of videos. A voice over is simply someone speaking while a video is playing, though the person is usually not in the scene. From commercials to feature-length films, a voice over is an excellent way to convey information to an audience that would otherwise go unnoticed. A good voice over is now something that anyone can do at home, thanks to advancements in microphones, computers, and audio equipment.
Method 1 Preparing Your Video For Voice Over
1. Create a script. If you’re doing commentary on something, such as a YouTube video, you should watch it several times to get a sense of what’s going on. A script is required for all other voice overs. You must know how much time you have to speak, whether you are responding to any characters or cues in the video, and what you intend to say. This script may change when compared to the final video, but a little forethought never hurts.
2. Recognize the function of your voice in the video. In general, there are two types of voice acting, each used for a very different type of video. The style you choose will be determined by your script and the video you’re shooting:
Overs are used in animation, films, and some advertisements. The goal is to sound clear but natural, as if you’re conversing with the camera/audience.
Hard Sell/Announcer Voice-Overs are used in commercials and live events to speak over people rather than to them. You’re grabbing people’s attention and delivering important information, and your voice is clear and authoritative.
3. Purchase a high-quality microphone and a computer for recording. Many laptops include built-in microphones that record moderate-quality audio, but purchasing a microphone is always the best option. You can purchase USB microphones that plug directly into your computer, or you can purchase a more expensive microphone and mixer for more high-tech options.
You’ll also need a computer programme that can record. Download Audacity, which is free for beginners. If you intend to record frequently, you should invest in a programme like Logic or Pro Tools to fully customise your voice.
Pocket recorders, such as Tascams, are also available for portable and efficient audio recording.
A windscreen, which prevents air from your breath from reaching the microphone, is an incredible and necessary tool that you can get for a low price online.
4. Rehearse your part until you have it down pat. You must approach voice-over work in the same way that you would an acting role. Each line you say is essentially the same as delivering a line for a movie, except you don’t have your body or facial expressions to help sell the line. The best way to practise is to record your voice and listen to it back while making notes on how to improve it. Above all, you must arrive at a state of clarity and conciseness. Each word must be easily heard and comprehended.
Emotive. You must express the emotion or idea of the line solely through the tone of your voice.
Consistent. This is especially true if you are portraying a character. The best, most distinct voice in the world is rendered ineffective if it is interrupted every 3-4 words.
5. ‘Take good care of your ‘instrument.’ Voice actors treat their throats in the same way that a good singer does. When you begin recording, you want to ensure that you have complete control over your sound, which comes from taking care of your voice box:
Avoid yelling and screaming whenever possible.
Stay hydrated with a liter or two of water each day.
Avoid heavy dairy on the day you record, as it creates mucus around your voice box.
Avoid cigarettes and alcohol, especially a day or two before recording.
6. Take note of the pitch and inflection. This refers to the pitch and range of your voice. Pitch variations are known as inflections, and they keep audiences engaged (it’s difficult to listen to monotone for long). Consider inflection to be the melody of your speech. Inflection can be used to emphasise key words, but keep in mind that emphasis affects audience interpretation.
Consider the phrase “the ball is on the table.” “The ball is on the table” means something different than “The ball is on the table.” Use inflection to help the listener understand what you’re saying.
Method 2 Recording a Voice Over
1. Place the footage you’re looking at on a computer screen. Make sure you can see the video from your recording area if you’re reading over a pre-shot video. You can also record the voice-over without the video, which simplifies the process and allows you to concentrate on speaking. If you need to react to the video, it is best to read with the video playing in the background.
When possible, press the play button on both the video and microphone recorders at the same time. When you begin recording, you will be perfectly synced up to the video.
2. While delivering your lines, you should stand. Standing allows you to speak with a clear, unencumbered voice because it opens up your chest cavity. It also allows you to be more animated, acting out certain events so that you can fully immerse yourself in the character.
You should be 8-10 inches away from the microphone. Roughly the length of your thumb and pinky if they are both extended out.
3. Make sure your recording space is quiet and echo-free. If you don’t have access to a sound-proofed room or recording booth, you can build one for yourself. If you don’t take the time to soundproof your recording, the echoing sound will appear and keep your voice from sounding clear. Many amateurs have discovered that recording in a closet is simple: your clothes will naturally dampen the sound, and you can completely close the door and floor with a towel or blanket.
The primary goal is to remove or conceal any hard surfaces that reflect sound back to the microphone.
Use a microphone with a “hyper-cardioid pattern.” This means that instead of echoing around inside, the sound is moving through the microphone and out the back.
Make an effort to sound conversational. You should sound like you’re conversing with someone, not reciting something.
4. Put on your headphones. You must be able to hear your own voice as you record, and you must be able to quickly play back your audio to listen for errors. Invest in good headphones, preferably over-ear, to get the best playback of your voice over.
5. Speak in a “larger-than-life” tone. This sweet spot is difficult to achieve, but it is the foundation of all good voice-overs. Because your voice loses some of its character when recorded, emphasising emotions and enunciation restores the natural energy of your voice. To test this, record 3-4 lines at different levels of energy at the start of the recording. Play them back and adjust your voice to find the one that sounds best in the recording rather than when you say it out loud.
You don’t need to speak loudly into the microphone; just be clear and emotive.
6. Concentrate on strong, varied inflection. The rhythm and tone of your speech are determined by inflection. Many beginners like to begin by ending all of their sentences with “up” tones, as if they are asking questions. However, good inflection is about varying your voice to sound natural and dynamic. Much of this stems from “acting out” your lines as you speak. Audiences, for example, can “hear” smiles because they change your tone of voice slightly into a happier register.
7. Never use the word “uhm” or any other filler. These words should only be used in the voice-over if your script calls for them. “Uhm,” “ahh,” and “uhhhh” are all commonly overlooked in everyday conversation, but they will be glaringly obvious in a recording, when the audience is only focused on your voice. Concentrate solely on reading the script. If you need to take a break, simply remain silent. It will take some practise, but listening to your own recordings over and over will help.
Method 3 Perfecting Your Voice Overs
1. Understand that too much voice over disrupts the flow of a video. Films are inherently visual mediums, and if you can’t tell the storey with your visuals, you might want to consider another art form. This isn’t to say that voice over isn’t useful. Rather than beating the audience over the head with exposition, you should use it to get across points that cannot be communicated through video.
Robert Downy Jr.’s narrator in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang provides great, sarcastic commentary about the locations and fills in necessary backstory, allowing the film to focus on comedy, action, and events rather than telling everyone’s history.
The narrator of nature documentaries such as Planet Earth knows to remain silent for long stretches of time, allowing the stunning images to take centre stage.
2. Experiment with different line readings. Don’t just re-record the same inflection, pauses, and emphasis over and over. Try out new readings of the line, aiming for three or four versions that you like and can play with in editing. This is a huge help if you are the editor, and it is also a valuable addition for the commercial or movie director. This gives them more freedom when editing and helps you find the best way to portray the voice you’re playing.
Keep an eye on your speed. Take note of how quickly you speak. While you’re recording yourself, make mental notes of how fast you think you’re speaking. Then, play back the recording. Were you correct? Keep in mind that different voice overs will necessitate different speeds (think of an energetic hip hop dance club commercial vs a relaxing massage commercial).
3. Breathe as quietly as you can. Breathing properly for voice-over is similar to breathing properly for singers. A large, audible breath in the middle of a sentence is unprofessional and distracting, as are gasps of air at the beginning of each sentence. Take short, controlled breaths and turn away from the microphone when you need to take a deep breath.
Breathing is much easier to remove from recordings than it used to be, but avoiding recording it in the first place saves everyone time.
Concentrate on breathing in and out through your chest, moving your belly with each breath as if you were a singer.
4. Make changes to the script so that it flows naturally. The lines on the page don’t always translate well to the microphone. If you’ve tried every line reading technique imaginable and it still sounds like verbal sludge, try cutting a few words to make it flow better. If the script doesn’t sound natural when you’re saying it, feel free to adapt, adjust, or edit it on the fly. However, make sure that your new changes are minor enough that the original goals of the script are not jeopardised.
Make sure to read the entire script before making changes; you never know when a minor detail will reappear.
5. Discover how to be a sound engineer. It takes a lifetime to master this skill, but it is well worth it for a career in voice over. Because your voice will change due to the microphone, you must be able to make it sound as good as possible. Sound balancing is difficult, but you can start by using a free programme like Audacity and looking up tutorials online to help you find specific effects (like movie-announcer voice, gender switching, etc).
If you’re serious about audio, you’ll need a programme like Pro Tools or Logic to mix and master your tracks.
At the very least, experiment with your voice’s EQ and volume, which will allow you to subtly balance the tone of your voice.
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