Anyone ever do a professional Voice-Over? Suggestions? (Need answer fastish)

So, the short version is that my employer has supported an Indonesian institution in the production of a 15-minute video in Indonesian. There is a translated version with an English VO that is embarrassingly bad, but no money to fund a professional to redo it. So, yours truly has been asked to be the replacement VO.

It sounds easy, but the more I think about it the more I think this could be challenging. I suppose one has to maintain a particular pace to match the images, and that could be hard. Hopefully it can be done in small chunks so that a stumble or cough doesn’t ruin everything?

Anyway, if someone can tell me what to expect or how to prepare, let me know. I’ll be doing this tomorrow. I’ve got the script (which is awful, but I can’t do anything about that.)

Why can’t you do anything about it?

At one of my jobs, I did the voice-overs for a bunch of video tutorials on a particular piece of software. I don’t know that I’d call it a “professional” voice-over job, but at least my coworkers were impressed and said I should do it professionally (yeah what do they know, but it was a nice compliment).

Anyway, you really don’t need to worry about stumbling. If whoever you work with to make the recordings is even putting a half-ass effort into it, then you should expect to do multiple takes for any parts that have hiccups (literal or figurative), and for it to be edited together smoothly in the end (hopefully). You’ll most likely want to speak slower than you normally do, and just pay attention to enunciating your words. In our everyday speech we often don’t do this, as we’re saying things on the fly. But when you have a script in front of you, you know what you have to say so you can really focus on just saying it well. Just tune everything else out.

Good advice generally, however, if you’re voicing a translation of a video in another language, and can’t change the awful script, then there might be spots where you need to speak more quickly. I’m not sure if it would help to try reading the script while the video is playing before you start, or if you and the recorder/editor/producer will be able to work that out as you go.

Good luck!

Practice reading the script out loud. Note any areas where you tend to stumble around the words and practice those bits more.

Don’t try and put too much animation in your voice, keep it fairly monotone with the occasional bit of inflexion.

When you’re being recorded, don’t try to “project” your voice. The recording equipment will pick up your voice just fine at normal speaking volume, and if you’re going to be doing multiple takes, your voice will last a lot longer.

One, it’s a translation of Indonesian that has been long since scripted and matched to the video imagery. It is a bit too late to be rewriting the script now. If they can’t even afford a professional VO for the English, they certainly can’t afford to re-do the entire Indonesian version.

Two, I don’t have time to spend the hours or possibly days it would take to fix it. My regular workload keeps me busy enough!

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I have a bit of a reprieve - I’ve got a cold and I have to go to the immigration office tomorrow for my visa/work permit. So we are rescheduling for next week!

No wonder I have a hard time getting paid VO work - you’re all doing it for nothing :stuck_out_tongue:

To be fair, it is only speaking aloud, which most of us have had plenty of experience at. The advice you’ve been given is sound enough - speak a little more slowly than you might usually, enunciate clearly without overdoing it, check your script beforehand for pronunciations you might be unsure of and for word combinations that might prove troublesome (‘Victoria area’ I recall from one job, which I did get in one take but only because I’d kept repeating it on the way to the recording). Standard actor’s vocal warm-ups will help - but as noted, don’t project. You should get the opportunity to set levels before going for a take.

As an aside, many years ago I was teching for a video VO - our boss decided to do it himself, leaving us increasingly uncomfortable at repeatedly pointing out that ‘gelding’ isn’t pronounced ‘gedling’. Double check your pronunciations, especially if english isn’t your engineer’s first language, and be prepared for multiple takes even if yours is.

Yeah, don’t project. Imagine you’re talking to someone right across the desk from you.

And mind your p’s. Do them lightly. Otherwise, depending on your enunciation and the equipment, they tend to pop.

If you can, try to come up with a specific person you’re talking to. In this case a colleague sounds like it would be most appropriate. Most of the time, with “industrials” (the blanket term for marketing/training videos, tech tutorials, etc.) they’re not really looking for somebody to bring a lot of personality to the read. If you can sound both professional and not like you’re reading off of a script, you’re most of the way there already.

It’s good that you have a chance to spend some time with the script. Sometimes there are words or phrases that look perfectly ordinary on paper, but can trip you up in practice. A few days ago it took me many many tries to get through “The man who started it all …” (it kept coming out “startddd all”). This also gives you a chance to look for things like natural places to pause, or words that should be emphasized.

On the technical side, if you’re wearing headphones make sure they’re not turned up too high. If you can clearly hear every little breath and lip smack, you might find yourself trying to control your breathing and that’s a good way to run out of air halfway through a long sentence.

Make sure you have water with you.

Yep. And all Dutch people seem to think their English will sound perfectly professional. :smack: Note to Dutch people: no it doesn’t. You should hire me.

Quick tips for CairoCarol:

Yes, you can do it in chunks. You can listen to what you just recorded and have another go. Do give yourself a practice run with the whole text. Saying things out loud is always different than you think it will be in your head (as mentioned in the excellent examples above). Mind your plosives (p, t, k; b, d, g,): you don’t want them to pop too much. If you sound a little too serious or bland, just physically smile while you speak.

Very important: watch the ends of your sentences. People tend to start out animatedly and trail off towards the end when speaking naturally.

I think it could be helpful to make a few recordings on your phone or some such and listen to yourself. Many people think their voice sounds “annoying” when they hear it recorded. You normally hear your own voice lower, because it reverberates inside your head. It takes some getting used to hearing it recorded. But you will probably be listening to bits you recorded to judge if you’re happy, and if you’re still reeling from how awful your voice sounds (it doesn’t really, promise!) it will be difficult to judge. They wouldn’t have asked you if your voice was annoying, remember that when you hear yourself back! :slight_smile: (Maybe you won’t hate your voice, or maybe you’re already used to hearing your voice, just saying this because I hear it quite often.)

Good luck, and have fun!

All good points so far, just a few more for you to keep in mind.

Try not to eat anything other than a snack during the recording. A heavy meal can change the timbre of your voice which your intended viewers may find distracting.

Calculate at about three words on average per second, this is the Broadcast mean for commentary scripts.

Does the script make sense for you? If you understand the product/idea ensure you don’t gloss over explanations that appear to be self explanatory to you but may not be for your audience.

Try and spread your script out in front of you to lessen the chance of pages rustling. Likewise wear something comfortable but not a jacket that may produce it’s own noise as you move in a chair.

If you decide to speak from a standing position continue like this for the entire recording, again there’s a difference in your voice’s timbre should you mix and match with recording whilst sat down.

Have a good conversation before you start to relax and warm up your voice.

If you wear a Swatch watch take it off, noisy blooming things!

If you’re unused to hearing your own voice it may prove disconcerting to you, leave decisions about presentation to your colleagues.

Hope it all goes well for you,


Ask your sound mixer about where to stand in front of the mic. Unless it’s omni-directional (unlikely for a recording studio), the mic will have “live” and “dead” zones. You want to be in the live zone so the mic can “hear” you properly.

Also, have the mic at a height that aims it at your adam’s apple, not your mouth. If you’re in a pro studio they should have a pop filter on the mic, but this placement will also help reduce popping, blowing, clicking, smacking, and other mouth / air sounds as you speak. You don’t want your breath to hit the mic, just your sound waves.