What is a Voiceover: Your Ultimate Voiceover Guide

What is a Voiceover: Your Ultimate Voiceover Guide

You might be wondering what is a voiceover and if it can apply to any videos you have or need for your business.

Voiceovers have been around for a long time, which is likely why they are found across multiple mediums. News outlets, filmmakers, social media influencers, advertisers, and even video game designers use voiceover to engage their audience. Beyond that, voiceovers can also boost your content’s production value.

While it may seem intimidating at first, creating a high-quality voiceover that resonates with your ideal audience is easier than you think. You don’t need a multi-million-dollar budget – or Morgan Freeman’s baritone voice – to get a good voiceover. In this guide, we’ll cover some essential tools and tips for using voiceover to bring your video content to life.

What is a Voiceover?

A voiceover is a recording of a person’s off-screen or off-stage commentary, instruction, or narration during a video or performance. They are most often performed by professional voice actors, narrators, or announcers. They can help tell a story, convey instructions or provide information that reinforces or explains a video’s visual content.

In a recent TechSmith.com survey, roughly 80% of respondents said they prefer accessing information through videos as opposed to text or audio. To meet increased demand for video content, more companies are using voiceover than ever.

According to Limelight’s State of Online Video 2019 report, the average consumer spends around seven hours per week watching various types of online videos. That’s a 59% increase since 2016!

There are few companies that have budgets big enough to hire Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough to do their voiceover. But investing in a professional voice actor, or the right equipment can make a big difference in the quality and impact of your voiceover recording.

what is a voiceover

The Two Types of Voiceover

Most videos use two main types of voiceover: narration and non-narration.

Narration voiceovers describe whatever is happening on-screen during a video – it tells the story behind the video itself. Non-narration voiceovers are typically used in videos designed to provide instruction and information.

Voiceover work can also fall into various subcategories, such as commercial, education, automation, lifestyle, and digital.

Examples of Voiceover Work:

  • Documentary narration
  • Reporters describing events as they play related video footage
  • Voice actor explaining a product’s benefits over a video of the product being used
  • Voice actors’ dialogue in animated cartoons, movies, and video games
  • A company’s pre-recorded message that plays while customers are on hold
  • Spoken instructions in a product overview video
  • A podcast or an audiobook

Your Step by Step Guide to Nail Your Next Voiceover

Think you’re ready to start using voiceover for your business? Here are some important things to keep in mind to help you land your voiceover the first time.

Get the Right Equipment

Knowing what equipment you’ll need will help you determine whether to record your voiceover in-house or hire a professional. A low-quality voiceover can ruin your video. Avoid the embarrassment of a bad video by investing in professional recording equipment. If you don’t want to buy new gear, you can hire a voice actor who has their own and knows how to use it.

Here’s what you’ll need to record a quality voiceover:

  • Microphone: It may seem obvious, but high-quality voiceovers have to sound crisp, free of any background noise or interference. Purchasing a quality microphone is a must. (Check out our top picks for podcasting equipment!)
  • Headphones/speakers: You’ll need a good pair of headphones or speakers to listen to your recordings and make sure everything sounds great before you share your video.
  • Audio software: Before you buy the most expensive and feature-rich software available, you’ll want to research your options. Some things to consider: How much will you actually be using it? How much training would you need to use it effectively? Will your computer be able to run it What’s the total cost (one-time expense vs. ongoing subscription)?
  • Computer: You’ll need a decent computer to run your new audio software, process recordings, organize your audio files, and combine your audio and video clips. If you have a few extra bucks to spare, consider investing in a more powerful machine that can handle larger projects and won’t become obsolete in a year.

Buying your own equipment can add up fast, and you don’t want to blow your project’s budget before it begins. If you’re already working with a voice actor, see what equipment they may already have.


Find (Or Make) A Quiet Space

You don’t need a professional recording studio to record a quality voiceover. You also don’t want your recording interrupted by a blaring siren or the neighbor’s dog barking. Finding a quiet space – ideally one with soundproofing – will keep your voiceover recordings clear and clean.

Before making your own DIY recording studio, decide if you want to hire a voiceover artist who likely already has their own studio or if you want to do it yourself.

Don’t Skip the Script

You could try to Mad-Lib your voiceover recording and hope for the best. Or, you can plan ahead and craft a script that’s ready for a voice actor to pick up and record. A well-written script will save you time and money by helping you avoid mid-project revisions or multiple takes with a voice actor. It also gives your voice actor the opportunity to rehearse a script that they won’t have to relearn in the studio.

A few tips for writing a successful script:

  • Start with an outline of all the key points you want to hit.
  • Think about your target audience. What do they care about most? What do you want them to remember about your product, brand, etc.? Create your narrative based on their interests, values, desires, etc.
  • Focus on clarity and approachability. Using clear, conversational language can help engage a broader audience.
  • Always use an active (not passive) voice.

You’ll Never Regret a Trial Run

Testing your script is as important as all the work you put into writing it.

You don’t have to be a professional voice actor to test out the volume, cadence, tone, and clarity of your own voiceover recording. Set up your equipment, get into character, and record for at least 30 seconds to ensure your recording sounds exactly how you want it to.

Start the Show!

Before you hit record, remember to:

  • Test your equipment and recording quality.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. (It may feel like you’re speaking too slow, and that’s okay!)
  • Speak intentionally, using inflections and pauses as needed. Tone matters.
  • Breathe. Take a breath when you hit record. Take another when the recording stops. This will give you extra space to edit your recording at the beginning and the end.

Tips for Editing Voiceovers

  • Listen to the full recording from start to finish. This will give you a clearer sense of the production quality, script clarity, cadence, etc.
  • Relisten to the whole recording. This time, take note of things you’d like to change or edit. Jot down timestamps for each segment you’d like to revisit or rework.
    • Keep an ear out for prolonged silence, intrusive sounds, or strange speaking patterns.
  • Use your editing software to balance the audio and clear up any issues you noticed.
  • If you find many issues in the first recording, consider re-recording instead of spending endless hours editing the initial take.
video editing

Common Voiceover Pitfalls

Adding a voiceover to your video may seem easy, but preparation is the key to ensuring a high-quality final product. When businesses try to “wing it” and take shortcuts, it shows. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when adding voiceover to your production.

Not Hiring a Professional Voiceover Professional

Hiring a professional voiceover artist may not be necessary for every video, but it’s important to know when and why you should. After all, voice acting is hard work that can often require a trained professional.

A few reasons why many businesses hire a professional voice actor:

  • Voice actors have specialized experience that can make your script shine.
  • The right voice actor for your project will help attract and engage your ideal audience. Hiring a professional allows you to select the best voice for your video and make your decision based on:
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Accent/dialect
    • Intonation
    • Range

If one of your colleagues has a great voice, consider asking them to help with your voiceover projects until you have the budget for a seasoned pro.

If you’re thinking about an automated or digital voice instead of a real human – don’t. Despite the ongoing advancement of text-to-speech technology, nothing beats the real thing. A 2019 survey by Voices.com found that 91% of respondents agreed that hearing a real, human voice is more powerful than any synthetic or computer-generated voice.

Not Giving the Script Enough Thought

Three main factors will contribute to your voiceover success: a professional voice actor, a well-edited recording, and a great script. Without a great script, your message will be lost on your target audience.

There’s no shame in hiring a professional copywriter to enhance your narrative. Especially if you’re having trouble conveying your message clearly and simply.

Even the best voice actors can’t make a poorly written script sound good… or make sense. Always be sure to put in the time, thought, and energy needed to finalize your script before hiring a professional voiceover actor or service.

When done right, using a high-quality voiceover will improve your audience engagement and boost your content’s production quality. As you and your team plan your next video project, consider booking a professional to bring your production to new heights with a quality voiceover.