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Presenting...The Voice(over)

First of all an apology. If you've clicked into this article expecting to read the latest news of Welsh legend Sir Tom, crazy tech-geek, X Factor's Olly and America's Jennifer Hudson as they look to unearth the latest singing sensation without (at least initially) so much as taking a sideways glance at the'll probably be disappointed. There'll be no big red buttons or electrically spinning chairs here - sorry.

But whilst we're not (usually) talking about singing voices, what we are talking about is highly important in the world of promotional video.

See hear

It would be nice to utilise all our senses, but a good voice-over does at least help make the best of two of them. With video you have visuals and audio at your disposal, and whilst it's fair to say that it's sometimes best to make the visuals do all the work, it often makes sense to simultaneously feed information through both the eyes and the ears.

The sound of (at least) music

Thinking specifically about a promotional film, you'd almost never make it 100% visual. Although, who's seen these spooky silent TV adverts? On-screen visuals with no vocals and no music, complete silence! I can only think they're designed to force your eyes to the screen when you've stepped into the kitchen during the commercial break or you've got your eyes down checking your social media - you think the television must've gone wrong!

But usually, a promotional film will at least have an appropriate music track (although they still need to work to a certain extent when seen without audio, as they will often play silently in social media feeds looking to tempt a click to play with sound).

Talking (without) heads

Where a film wishes to get across just a few key points along with its visuals, a nice catchy background track (or whatever's appropriate) along with some interestingly displayed on-screen captions can be very effective. But if you'd like to get across a little more information, requiring the viewer to read it all will mean they'll miss lots of the visuals, wasting some of the benefits that a promotional film holds over a simple written article. This is where a voice-over makes sense - you may never see the person whose voice you're hearing, but their vocals become an important part of the video's overall effect.

Can anyone do a voice-over?

Well, given that there are professional voice-over artists, some who command £150+ per hour, we can see immediately that it's not something that everyone will make a good job of. For one thing, not everyone (in fact, it seems, not very many at all!) actually wants to do it! When it comes to providing the voice-over track for a video production the excuses for not being the one to do it can be many and varied!

What makes a good voice-over voice?

Let's just say hear and now that, whilst not everyone would deliver a good voice-over, there's no need to emulate the stereotypical voice-over you might be familiar with on TV, radio and film. And trying to do so might put the whole thing at risk of sounding comical, ending up like a version of Steve Wright's famous "Voice-over Man" from Radio 2! Whilst people like Peter Dickson undoubtedly have their place (building up artists on the likes of The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent), when it comes to a company's promotional film it's probably more important to involve someone who knows the company, who's a part of it and is passionate about it.

Iwan Thomas recording voice-over
Iwan Thomas voices for Techniquest

Of course, it's important that the voice-over vocals are easily understood. This will likely discount people with particularly strong regional accents, which could also provide a distraction, although not always - witness the very strong south Wales accent of Steffan Powell, heard on BBC Radio 1's prime news service, Newsbeat; attitudes to accents have changed over the years and the days of the "BBC accent" are long gone.

So the listener must be able to understand the vocals without needing to concentrate too hard, but it's perhaps at least as important to sound interesting. If the voice-over is mono-tone with no feeling and the speaker sounds like they're not interested in what they're saying, well, why should you be interested?

Oh, and it's usually important to carry the voice-over along at a decent rate, viewer get bored quickly these days remember!

One take wonder?

One thing to note is that there's plenty of room for error when recording a voice-over. Your voice-over script may last for a minute, two minutes, longer, but there's no requirement for it to be delivered word perfect in one go. Not only does that mean we can record and re-record, but also that a script can be broken down into sections, meaning that just a paragraph or even maybe just a sentence must be nicely delivered and recorded per take - it can all be put together later (keeping an eye out to ensure each sentence still "flows" naturally from one to the other).

Nathan Booth records the voice-over for Daleside Vets
Nathan Booth records the voice-over for Daleside Vets
In a nutshell...

In a nutshell, when it come to recording a voice-over we're looking for someone who's easily understood with a passion for what they're saying, meaning they sound enthusiastic and engaging as their words flow nicely into the microphone. But they don't need to be a candidate for the next News at Ten anchor. Is that you?

Hanna Wright, Techniquest voice-over in Cymraeg
Hanna Wright from The Urdd delivers Techniquest's Cymraeg (Welsh language) voice-over

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