It may seem like a simple question, but voice overs take many guises and have many purposes. Put simply, a voice over is a recorded message spoken by a person, imparting information to a listener. During a day I might record a voice over for a tv commercial selling 'this fantastic new product that will change your life!', I might be the voice of a telephony system telling you to 'dial 1 for accounts' or I may inform you that you are on 'level 4' in a lift.
As a professional voice over artist you are required to be flexible enough to voice all different types of scripts, although you may find that your voice is more suited to one or another. You may also find that you prefer certain projects to others. For example, I love to voice for character based projects like radio dramas and animations. This is why a voice over artist will have many different voice reels to showcase their range and tonal flexibility. You can check out mine here!
When a script pings in to my inbox in the morning I have to gauge what tone of voice it requires. Often the client will specify how they want the script to be spoken so it is suitable for their audience. You may get notes like 'we want it to sound fun, friendly and conversational' or 'this needs to be clear, corporate and engaging'. Sometimes, you don't get any direction and have to figure out the tone required for yourself. I do this by reading the script, looking at the language used and maybe googling the company in question, then record, send and cross my fingers - I haven't got it wrong.. yet!
Here's a list of many different types of voice overs and where you're likely to hear them:
Commercials (TV, Radio, YouTube Pre-roll, VOD - video on demand e.g 4OD - , social media etc.), explainer videos(on a product website, at a trade show or point of sale stand), IVR - Interactive Voice Response - or telephony prompts(on a phone line), E-Learning/Medical Learning (in places of education or through work/training), announcements(in-flight/on board, in store), audiobooks(downloaded off of sites such as Audible.com), movie trailers(on tv or in the cinema: "In A World...!"), documentaries(think David Attenborough!), animation (cartoons on TV or movies such as Finding Nemo), products (talking toys, bluetooth devices), gaming(characters voice for video games, played on a computer or gaming console), ELT - English Language Training - or Translation(similar to E-Learning), Supermarket Checkouts ('unexpected item in the bagging area' apologies, that is a voice over artist!), ADR - Automatic Dialogue Replacement - or Dubbing(used throughout TV and movies to add in or dub over a voice) and I can't forget Siri!. I am sure I will have forgotten some. If you can think of one that I have missed out then do let me know in the comments section below!
As the world goes more online, the demand for voice overs increases as most companies have an online presence that requires an explainer video or introductory message. There are also more places than ever to advertise a product; I have voiced campaigns that have been totally focussed on promoting through social media, like Snapchat and Instagram as that is where their audience spends most of their time. This is great news for us voice over artists as we love to be kept busy!
I hope this has gone some way to help clarify what a voice over is and where you are likely to hear them. Now your ears have been opened to the world of VO I promise that you will start hear us everywhere! Do leave any questions or comments in the section below, or if you have an idea or request for a future post I'd love to hear them!