Introduction to recording voiceover

Voiceover audio is a critical part of many types of media presentations and applications, including, videos, elearning, podcasts, and websites. For example:

  • Elearning and multimedia programs often use voiceover to provide the main instructional narrative, establish a personality for the course or a section of a course, reinforce on-screen text, describe elements of visuals or elements of a dynamically changing display, provide a real-life context via the use of interviews or anecdotes from experienced instructors, experts, or customers, and present quiz questions and feedback.
  • Podcasts and other audio-only presentations can be used for news, training and entertainment. Audio programs can consist of scripted voice segments, interviews with performers, newsmakers, experts, customers, practitioners and others, along with role-plays or dramatic readings.These types of programs can also include the traditional range of standard radio-style audio production elements, such as background music in introductions and transitions, or other sound effectsto signal changes in topic or emphasis.
  • Video programs often use an off-camera voiceover to establish the main program narrative and storyline, provide the character’s internal voices, provide introductions and summaries, act as an announcer, provide interview comments to supplement the visuals, and establish other elements based on the type of video.
  • Computer-based presentations (such as PowerPoint) can benefit from using a tightly scripted professional sounding voiceover that is synchronized with the slides and in-slide animations, and audio segments consisting of interviews with executives, experts or other stakeholders, or statements from practitioners.Pre-recording the main Computerpresentation narrative can also help ensure a consistent and complete message is delivered each time the presentation is viewed. A live presenter can then back up the presentation by adding additional points to address questions and specific audience needs.
  • Website presentations can often benefit from a narrative voice to address a range of content presentation needs, or as part of a multimedia segment on the site.

Ongoing advances in technology continue to reduce the technical and cost barriers to producing and editing professional quality audio. High quality audio that previously needed to be captured in a commercial recording studio can now be recorded on PCs, tablets, and small digital audio recorders. Audio files can be instantly delivered and transferred via the Internet, allowing for a rapid media product development and distribution process, and a simplified revision process. This reduced cost and increased convenience make it more attractive to include voiceover within media products, prompting many designers and producers to increase the use of voiceover, creating more market opportunities for voiceover talent. More voiceover performers are entering the market to address this need, establishing office and home studios based on PC-based recording and editing, expanding the pool of voiceover talent that a producer can draw upon when selecting voices for their productions.

But quality is critical. Audiences have come to expect high fidelity, professionally produced and performed voiceover performances. So it is important to understand how to establish a proper recording environment, select the appropriate equipment, and understand the process for performing, recording and editing professional quality voiceover audio files.

A quality voice performance is the key element and objective of this process. Producers must determine whether to develop voiceover recording capability in-house, or obtain it from an outside professional voiceover artist. In-house capabilities can provide more convenient voiceover support for a lower cost, but a professional sounding voice performance is more difficult to achieve than a professional quality audio voice recording. But with an understanding of the issues involved in performing a professional quality voiceover, and some practice, most organizations and individuals will be able to create great sounding voiceover narration files for most applications.

This site describes how to produce professional quality voiceover narration for a reasonable cost by selecting the right equipment and software, and following proper professional performance and production techniques. The production approach can range from an independent voiceover provider operating from his or her home office/studio, to an internal staff member at an media or elearning development shop, to a dedicated professional voiceover studio. Equipment can range from a handheld digital recorder or notebook PC with a $100 USB microphone, to a full dedicated recording system with professional quality microphones and outboard processing, or anywhere in-between, based on the level of audio quality desired for the end product. The wide range of available options will help you to select the best equipment and technical approach available given your budget and capabilities.

And finally, understanding how to do a reading and what issues impact the quality of your voice performance is critical to achieving a professional quality voiceover recording.  Learning some basic voiceover performance techniques can help to greatly improve the overall quality of your voiceover performance.