How to create a great web video: The voice over

by Matt Byrom on 06 February 2012
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So the planning for your video is well underway, and you need to make the next important decision: who will become the voice of your campaign? It’s easy to get a voice over wrong, and a mumbled audio track on a swish video is the last thing you want - particularly when you’ve spent so much time planning the rest of your marketing campaign.

Find your voice

The first step is to liaise with your video editor and come up with the look and feel of the video. You’ll begin to get a feel for the way they’ve structured the storyboard, and you’ll be able to decide what your ideal voice over would sound like. Are you looking for someone professional, businesslike and persuasive, or are you looking to win over your audience gently? What’s the feel of your product or campaign: dynamic, friendly, calm? Who’s it for: how old is your audience and where do they live?

Assuming you have a script, you can also take the wording of your script into account. Different types of scripts call for different vocal styles. Your script might be long and descriptive, in which case a narrator with an interesting ‘musical’ lilt may be the most effective. (Just make sure the lilt isn’t too exaggerated - you might end up turning people off.) If the words are short and snappy - perhaps just an announcement or tag line to accompany the video - you might want to choose someone with a dynamic, punchy tone to deliver it well.

There are basically two options when it comes to a voice over. You hire a professional or you don’t. In other words, you pay someone to read your script, or you find someone with talent in your organisation who’s willing to get involved.

Do it yourself

In some circumstances, it might be perfectly acceptable to do the voice over for a video yourself, or find someone within your company to do it for you. If you have experience in speaking and engaging with people, you probably have many of the necessary skills for the job already. Just be careful that your loyalty to your staff and your budget doesn’t cloud your judgement.

Even if you’re personally not suited to the job, have a think about your organisation: do you employ anyone who has a natural talent for public speaking? Anyone who presents to an audience is worth considering as a narrator. If you have a training department, chances are one of your training staff will be capable of presenting content in a charismatic, engaging way, and they’ll know a few tips and tricks to keep an audience interested during a long monologue.

Be careful not to take on the role of narrating a video just because you think you should, or because you’re managing the project. And don’t involve an employee just because you need to save money. A poor voice over can completely ruin the impact of your video.

Equipment

If you go with the DIY option, you’ll need a quiet location with dampened sound. That means a room which is ‘deadened’ and has no echo. Most recording studios have rooms for this purpose, but assuming you don’t have a recording studio at your disposal, you’ll have to make the best of a room in your own premises. Make sure it’s situated well away from even the slightest noise. Digital microphones are unfortunately very good at picking up street sounds, even through double-glazing, and the hum of a computer on the other side of the room can sound like a helicopter taking off. Trying to record in a busy environment is frustrating and can be a very slow process, so take the time to find somewhere private as well.

A good microphone is essential: don’t use an in-built one in your PC or web cam. You will almost certainly pick up unwanted sound, and the quality of an in-built PC mic will rarely be of a professional standard. It’s easy to find good USB microphones, and you don’t need anything else to go with them - just a long USB cable to ensure you don’t pick up any noise from the computer. The Blue Snowball is just one that’s often used for podcasting, but there are many more similar mics that are equally compact and effective. Prices range anywhere from £50-£200, but there’s no need to spend a fortune - just check out a few reviews before you buy one.

Go pro

In past articles, we briefly mentioned hiring a professional voice over artist for your video. Unless you happen to know someone personally, the best way to hire someone is to use a site like Voices.com. Many broadcasters and radio DJs have profiles on websites like this, and you can usually listen to a sample of their voice without even signing up. You’ll recognise some of the voices from radio shows, adverts and corporate videos.

Voice artists on these sites can normally be filtered according to their gender, age and the language they speak, so if you’ve had a script translated, that can be very handy. Don’t forget to consider their accent too: if you want to market your product in another country, avoid choosing someone with a strong regional accent. Conversely, if you want to come across as friendly and welcoming, a regional accent can sometimes help.

Putting it together

When your voice over is complete, you’ll probably have several files and out-takes, and a few different versions. It’s a good idea to bundle up all of the usable files and send everything over to the company making your video. They will appreciate having a few different versions to choose from - just in case something doesn’t fit, or one of the files has a glitch in it that you hadn’t noticed. Whatever you do, don’t race off and do the voice over without carefully consulting the person making your video. If your recording is too short, too long or doesn’t match the storyboard, you’ll have to do it all over again.

Video Marketing

Matt Byrom

Written by Matt Byrom

My name is Matt, I'm Managing Director of Wyzowl. That means I chat with customers and make sure everything is running smoothly in the office. I love our business and hope you enjoy our blog! :)