Multiple narrators within a program

I often receive requests for recording multiple narrators for use within a single program.  This usually works out fine, but the approach raises a number of issues that the designer/writer should consider:

  • Adversely impacting comprehension:  One narrator typically gives the program a cohesive and consistent voice.  The viewer becomes familiar with the voice, aiding comprehension.  Multiple narrators can create a slight increase in cognitive load, requiring increased concentration in order to adjust to the new timbre, accents, speaking rhythm, pacing, etc.
  • Increased variety:  Multiple narrators can create an increase in the level of excitement in the presentation, by providing a new voice at various points within the program.  For example, shifting from male to female, or through various voices, can increase the overall impact of the program.
  • Increasing Production Safety– using multiple voices throughout a program can allow you to revise or add to the program at a later date with minimal impact (even if the original narrator(s) are no longer available).  Since the audience is used to hearing several voices, they will not perceive a new voice to be out of place within the narrative.
  • Consistency – make sure that the voices are not to dramatically different.  For example, too much variety in accents, pacing, timbre, level of “professionalism”, etc. can be distracting, as the audience will be required to concentrate to interpret what each new voice is saying.

One approach to increase the impact of multiple narrators is to use specific  voices for specific areas of the program.  For example, one voice carries through a single topic or section , with the new voice signaling a change in topic or section  Or you can have specific voices for topic overviews or summaries, and another for topic presentations, with another for questions and interaction prompts/instructions.


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