Tutorial: How to Give Voiceover Direction

The original version of this blog was posted on screenlight.tv/blog

The online video production world is amidst a drastic revolution. Video producers around the globe are now expected to perform almost every component of video production, from writing, shooting and video editing. This is why it is not only important to know the technical side of production, but to also be a master of directing and storytelling. In the video below I give you tips for how to direct your voiceover artist and I bring in a remote voiceover artist, Sean Caldwell, via Source Connect to demonstrate. Sean is one of the many voiceover artists I found on Envato Studio, a community of designers, developers and creatives ready to fulfill your custom orders, including voiceover talent. First, watch the video: 

Here is a recap of tips you can use to prepare for your voiceover direction: 

It’s all about the emotional journey.Voiceover artists are really focused on emotion and the emotional journey that they are giving to the audience.Try to use words to describe the feeling you are going for. Is the project cheery and energetic, or is it more reassuring or compassionate? Sometimes sending the musical track that accompanies the voice helps evoke that emotion as well. Try to prepare these in advance. I usually add this in the goals/key messages section of my video plan.

Style is informed by purpose. What is the goal of your video? Voiceover artists like to know what the purpose of your video is. Is meant solely as a form of Information transfer or to cause the viewer to take the next step? Or is it more conversational and explanatory? Sometimes it helps to share with them the video plan so they can see the intended audience and the overall goal of the video.

Share a sample. If you lack the vocabulary to describe the style and emotion, share a voiceover example on the web that best evokes the overall feeling you are going for. Or record your own “scratch” track with how you would like it read.

Are there regional pronunciations or any difficult words? It's always helpful to share a pronunciation. And sometimes useful to share what certain syllables rhyme with. You can also provide an .mp3 recording of someone saying the difficult words.

What is the pace? This is often determined by your medium and if you have a time-limit. Are there locked in visuals the artist needs to match? If so, send it to the artist in advance. If you have the ability to edit their voiceover, tell your voiceover artist that it is okay to send the full recording. Be prepared to say what you liked about the feeling and emotion of the read if it was too long. Simply ask for that same emotion, but at a quicker pace or vice versa.  

Give positive feedback, but also be honest. If you didn’t like something, tell them! And tell them why. Voiceover artists simply want to provide the best voiceover product they can.

Take good notes on your end. The talent is concerned with performance and recording the session (unless it's an ISDN or Source Connect session where you record on your side).  Some talent will keep notes but that can take them out of the performance and places them in an “engineer-like” mindset, rather than an “actor's” mind-set.

Tell them to eat a bite of apple or drink Throat Coat Tea. If their voice has too much texture & smacks, tell them to take a bite of an apple and if they are groggy tell them to drink some Throat Coat tea. They will be impressed by your knowledge and it will likely make for good conversation. Whatever you do, do not recommend milk as it produces excess mucous on the vocal cords.

File Format Delivery & Sample Rate. Do not ask for a .Mp3 file format as you want an uncompressed audio file. Have your talent send a .WAV or .AIFF file audio file format to you. There is really no know difference, they are just designed by different companies. Cheryl Ottenritter, an audio engineer from Silver Spring, Maryland, describes the difference between .WAV and .AIFF well, “It’s like choosing between Pepsi or Coke, up to your personal taste.” As for sample rate, the most commonly used for digital online video is 44.1khz  or 48 khz. I typically ask for 48 khz, however, to the human ear it really doesn’t sound much different.

Try using Screenlight for post-recording review. After voiceover talent sends you the audio file, upload it to Screenlight and then send to your client to review. Your client can add time-coded comments directly to the audio file on Screenlight making it easy for you to communicate back to your voiceover talent if a re-record session needs to take place.  

As the video production world transforms, more and more, clients are going to hire professionals who have all skill sets, from directing to editing. I encourage you to go out and start using these tips with your voiceover talent. These tips will enable you to work successfully, remotely, with anyone from around the world.

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