Before we get into directing, let’s look at the crucial initial stage of recording a voice over – choosing your voice talent.
When choosing the best voice for your commercial, listen to a few different voice artists’ showreels. Ideally you want to hear close to the tone of voice you’re looking for before you contact and book your voice.
If you’re planning on recording a live session with the voice talent, also satisfy yourself that the voice over has experience of live recording sessions and a long line of happy customers. It may sound surprising, but some people cannot take direction well and don’t sound in the studio as they do in their demos. This is an unexpected scenario that can leave you out of pocket as you find and record a different voice over instead (but usually still have to pay the first one).
You can take the risk out of this situation by asking your preferred voice to record a few lines of a demo before you book them. This is a service that myself and many other pros offer free of charge.
By checking off these points, once you’re in a live session with your voice over, you’ll be able to trust them and their ideas – and because we do this all the time we’re worth listening to! We’ll likely be able to deliver your script exactly as you want it, quickly and with little fuss, leaving everyone happy.
That said, should you have a specific tone, pace or style of delivery in mind you’ll absolutely want to play a part in directing the session. So, here’s how to prepare to direct your voice talent.
Preparing to Direct a Voice Over Session
Before the session, read the script aloud to yourself. While it might make you feel self-conscious at first, the more comfortable you are reading the script (placing emphasis and pause where you want it), the happier you’ll be to relay your aims to the voice over artist during the recording session.
Reading aloud also allows you to check that your copy is written to time. Adverts for the TV and radio are cut to exact times — usually 19 seconds or 29 seconds for TV and 10 seconds or 30 seconds for radio — so you need to know that what you have to say isn’t too long for your air time slot, and that it can be read at a comfortable pace within that time.
Print out a copy of the script, or look at it on your phone and annotate it. The following annotation tips will help you remember to read the script as you intended when you’re in the session:
Underline words to emphasise them (but use this sparingly; if everything is emphasised then nothing is emphasised!)
Place a diagonal line between words to mark places to pause (e.g. “Often you want to pause / for effect.”)
Before the session make a note of a read you like from the voice over’s showreel and let them know at the start of the session (e.g. “I like the tone of voice in your upbeat commercials showreel at 22 seconds”)
When thinking of other companies’ advertising campaigns, are there any that sound the way you want your voice over to sound? If so, find the commercial(s) on YouTube and send a link to your voice over before the session.
When the Session Begins
As voice overs, we love to hear about your project and your aims at the beginning of the session. Let us know:
Some general information about the product or service you’re advertising
Who your target audience is
Where they are located geographically, if relevant, as this could affect the accent we use to deliver your script, in order to resonate more with your audience.
Next, in plain-English remind the voice over how you want the read to sound, for example: ‘cool and powerful’, ‘formal and professional’, ‘upbeat and friendly’, ‘natural, real and conversational’
After the first recording, be honest with the voice. Tell them what you think – tactfully! For example, “That was good but it needs to be more upbeat”, “That’s getting there, but can you make it sound cooler and give it more attitude”, “It sounded too much like a hard-sell voice over and it needs to be more natural”, “I’d like to hear it with more light and shade”
Soon you’ll have a number of versions recorded, and hopefully they’re getting better every time.
Now is a good time to look back at the script you practiced before the session, is the emphasis where you want it? It’s normal to ask the voice over to re-record single sentences at this point, and then after the session, an earlier recording can be edited and modified by adding in these new sentences.
As voice overs, we always expect to re-do key sentences and the tag line; this will give you a good number of options to choose from in the edit or when you cut to visuals.
Important – With all of this said, it’s surprising how often a client will use a voice over’s very first take, even after exploring different alternatives. This is because, as actors, we do this all the time and our intuition is informed by the hundreds of scripts we’ve recorded over the years for many happy customers.
When to Stop Recording
Eventually, time will run out. It’s likely you’ll book a voice over talent for an hour, but that doesn’t mean you have to use all of the hour. In fact, It’s more common not to for short projects like commercials.
My tip here is simply: Don’t be afraid to call it a day once you hear what you like. Decisiveness is a good thing! Recording new versions for the sake of it will only make it harder to decide which one to use, and can lead to a loss of perspective about what you wanted to achieve in the first place.
After the Session – Editing & Post-Production
When faced with all of your voice over takes, decide on a clear favourite, test it with your music or visuals, and then consider editing in any stand alone sentences that you recorded as alternatives.
If you need more light and shade and you have a good range of takes, try taking a paragraph from here and there and combining them into one recording. This can sometimes give a more captivating sound to the overall read.
On the flip side, sometimes you’ll not want to do any editing. A voice over read that’s recorded in a single take can sound very comfortable and natural, and edits will only interrupt the authenticity of the performance given by the voice talent.
At the end of the day, use your ear – whatever sounds best, use it!
for reading this article, I hope you found it useful.
I’ve written it from my many years of experience working as a professional voice over artist. I’ve recorded literally thousands of live sessions, either via remote connection (Source Connect / ISDN / Clean Feed / SIP Audio) or in person. Some examples include recording with Microsoft in LA, ITV in London, and on a day-to-day basis connecting with clients in their homes or offices who are creating new marketing content.
Finally, if you don’t want or need to direct your session, I can also supply audio by e-mail. All you need to do is e-mail me a script. I will supply two or three takes recorded in my professional home studio. I offer 24 hour turnaround on most jobs.
In this blog post, I go behind the scenes of creating audio for e-Learning courses.
What to Look for in Your Voice Talent
Firstly, choose a voice who records in a professional studio. You could hire Patrick Stewart, but if he made your recording in a shower cubicle using a smart phone you’d not be happy with the result!
Next, voice overs who regularly record e-Learning content are the best people to work with. Like myself, they are usually masters of editing and processing audio. They’ll edit your recordings and split them up into separate files (often for each slide that your course specifies). This means their work will drop straight into your training course or e-Learning program and you’ll not concern yourself personally with any audio engineering.
Hire voiceovers who have a good internet connection and are tech savvy. This way they’ll not struggle to promptly send you the the large number of audio files your training course likely requires.
Check the talent that you hire are regularly available. When you’re creating a lot of audio, mistakes in the script often need addressing. Hiring a voice over talent who is available everyday will ensure that those mistakes can be quickly amended and your project isn’t put on hold.
Do It Yourself vs Paying a Professional Voice Over
Many people think that they can record a good-enough voice over, especially if the project is on a budget. Not surprisingly however, the recording quality and sound of amateur voice overs is below par most of the time.
Additionally, amateur voices aren’t experienced actors. Remember back to your early school days when someone came in to read at story time? Some people had a knack for it while others would read all words as though they were the same. Which did you prefer?
The bottom line is that a professional voice talent will give the most interesting delivery of your message. E-Learning courses (and nearly all kinds of educational audio recording) are, by definition, long. If the message could be conveyed in a quicker way then it would be. It’s important to respect the fact that your audience are going to be listening for a long time, and so they deserve to hear a voice that doesn’t grate or become tiresome – and even better that keeps them interested beyond the first few minutes!
As someone experienced in e-Learning and audio book acting, I am trained for these marathons of text.
eLearning NarrationJosh Shirt Voice Over0:43
Medical NarrationJosh Shirt Voice Over0:29
English Language Course NarrationJosh Shirt Voice Over0:38
Audiobook NarrationJosh Shirt Voice Over1:54
I’m conscious during my performances of e-Learning voiceovers that they must maintain an interesting, clear and engaging tone, as demonstrated in this instructional video I recorded for Samsung.
Choose a Voice Who Can Act
E-learning courses usually have a variety of real-life scenarios aimed at demonstrating the case in point. These scenarios, designed to place the listener in a role play situation, strive to be believable so that the listener can experience and learn from the interaction. It’s therefore important that the voices they’re hearing can act!
Professional voices can often create and perform multiple characters as shown here in my characters showreel:
Characters - Video Game and AudiobookJosh Shirt Voice Over1:04
When you cast voice overs who are also actors your life will be easier:
Your project will require less planning when each voice can play multiple characters
Overall the number of voices you’ll have to hire will be reduced, saving you money.
If you’re looking for a voice that ticks all of these boxes, please consider me for your e-Learning project.
As an experienced voice actor and trained sound engineer with a good knowledge of the UK voice over industry, I can also offer a one-stop-shop for your e-Learning project. If you would like me to cast multiple talented voices and record and edit your entire project then please get in touch to discuss your requirements.
Right now, things are unusual. As many of us around the world self-isolate, staying connected and informed is more important than ever. However you are affected by coronavirus and the current lockdown it is likely that you need to communicate clearly with your staff, customers or students – and that’s where I can help.
In this blog post I’ll look at my training course voice overs for medical professionals, students and employees, and my voice recordings for on hold phone systems. If you are looking to run a commercial, please see the showreels page for complete examples of my work.
As a professional UK voice over artist with over a decade of experience, I can communicate your message in a clear, confident and assured way. I am working from my pro home studio and offer same-day turnaround on recordings. You can rest assured you’ll receive broadcast-quality audio that’s ready to use in your project. Contact me to learn more.
Medical Narration for Professionals
I have vast experience recording technical, authoritative voice overs aimed at academics and medical professionals on the front line of the health care industry.
COVID-19 Voice OverJosh Shirt Voice Over0:47
Some of my previous formal narration work (which I record with a neutral accent) has informed doctors and nurses worldwide on how to administer study drugs and evaluate their effectiveness.
Medical NarrationJosh Shirt Voice Over0:29
Medical Narration for the Public
Roche are a leading pharmaceutical company that operate worldwide. To communicate with the general public, they asked me to record a friendly and informative voice over for this video presentation and they found my work a perfect fit for their project.
Online Training Course Voice Overs
Videos and eLearning courses are a popular way of communicating with people working remotely. By combining an animation or presentation with a professional voice over, you can educate and inform a spread out audience in a very effective way.
For this instructional video, I deliver information in a knowledgeable and insightful way to guide dentists through the process of removing a “Trate Superstructure”.
eLearning NarrationJosh Shirt Voice Over0:43
IVR, On Hold & Voicemail Recordings
IVR & On-Hold MessagingJosh Shirt Voice Over0:40
Now that many businesses are closed and their business hours unusual, IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and on hold messaging is often a business’s first point-of-contact with its customers.
I have a great deal of experience recording professional voice overs for voice interfaces and answer phone messages.
I hope you found this article useful. I look forward to hearing how I can help your business communicate in these unprecedented times.
When choosing the best voice over for a college or university advert, select one that sounds educated yet approachable.
Because universities and colleges are diverse places, you’ll probably want to choose a voice that has a clear and neutral accent that will be appealing to all prospective students.
It’s also worth choosing a voice that sounds young with an air of accomplishment. This way, undergraduate listeners will identify with the voice and they’ll also be encouraged that the college is reputable and prestigious.
Keeping the above in mind, here’s a radio commercial voice over I recently recorded for UTC Sheffield:
Clients choose my voice for projects that need to sound upbeat, intelligent and friendly, and because I have a neutral accent, my voice doesn’t conjure images of a certain place and it speaks to a universal audience, much of the same way that educational institutions do.
Voice Overs for Streaming Services, and How They’re Different
For the commercial voice over above, I performed a projected ‘announcer voice’ – designed to stand out in an ad break – but it’s a different ball game when I record for Spotify, DAX and YouTube.
On streaming services, the voice is not sandwiched into a large and loud commercial break (as it is on TV and radio) – instead it is often on its own. The listener is also likely on their own (perhaps listening during their commute or while working out). So for these instances, more of a conversational, one-to-one tone is appropriate.
It’s important that voice overs for streaming services don’t shock or agitate the listener by being too loud, yet they must still be interesting and charismatic.
Educational Voice Overs
Here’s a voice over narration I recorded for Imperial College London, informing and welcoming new students:
Voice overs for colleges and universities make up a large part of my work as a professional voice over artist. Perhaps my clients can tell that another significant part of my work is educating people: through e-Learning courses, audio books and English language courses for high school classrooms. In fact, in real life I also occasionally educate in the fields of music and technology!
If your project needs a British voice that sounds youthful, clear, friendly and intelligent then I’d love to hear from you.
Corporate videos are an engaging and effective way to tell stories and communicate messages.
Promotional Video Voiceovers
I recently recorded the voice over for Node 4’s ‘Services Gateway’ video:
The session was directed by their video production company who linked up with my studio via conference call. After the session I delivered a high quality WAV recording to the client.
For live voiceover recording sessions it’s common for me to connect with clients by Skype, ISDN or Source Connect. I’m also happy to record scripts myself and simply deliver the audio by e-mail when it’s finished.
If you are making a corporate video and need a voice over then I’d love to hear from you.