We often get asked ‘how many words fit in a 30 second voice over?’
It’s a good question, as a script for a voice over with too many words in it will sound rushed, leave no room for the read to ‘breathe’ and make it difficult for the listener or viewer to take in (and act on) the information.
Granted, the pace of a read has a direct relationship as to how many words will comfortably fit in a script. But unfortunately more often than not it’s the wordcount of a script and not the direction to a voice over talent that sets the pace of that voice over read. If a script has too many words, the audio producer may have to remove spaces between them and time compress (or ‘squash’) the voice, giving it an unnatural sound.
From experience, here’s a guide as to the optimum word count for a script, based on 3 different directives to the voice talent. Following this guide will help a voice over talent deliver a high quality read and put light and shade into their performance. Of course these are not exact figures, and a 10% allowance either way is a good rule of thumb.
For a soft sell, emotive and warm voiceover delivery:
- 60 seconds: approx 120 words
- 30 seconds: approx 60 words
- 15 seconds: approx 30 words
For a medium-pace bright voiceover:
- 60 seconds: approx 150 words
- 30 seconds: approx 75 words
- 15 seconds: approx 36 words
For hard sell, fast voiceovers:
- 60 seconds: approx 170 words
- 30 seconds: approx 85 words
- 15 seconds: approx 42 words
Here are some things to consider when you’re timing a script.
Before you send the script for audio production, reading it out aloud while you run a stopwatch is the most accurate method for checking its duration. Reading it to yourself under your breath can give a false sense of how long it actually will run when read by a professional voice over talent as we all tend to read much faster when we’re not verbalizing the words.
As silly as you might feel sitting at your desk and reading a TV or radio commercial out loud, it’s hands-down the best way to get an accurate feel for the pace and style of what the final voice over might sound like. It will also help you get an idea of which points a voice talent needs to hit, so when you’re directing them (either live in a session or simply with written directions) you’ll have a clear idea of the important words to tell them to emphasise and ‘lean into.’
Each digit in a phone number should be counted as a word; for example the phone number 6424 2466 will add eight words to the word count of a script. But before you include a phone number in a script, particularly in a radio or television commercial, consider if there is a better point of contact that could be more easily remembered. Phone numbers aren’t usually very easy to recall, where as a website or simple instruction to ‘Google the business name’ (making sure they actually rank first in Google’s search terms for their name) may be better.
Website addresses are similar - although they may look like one word, they may actually equate to three or four (or more.) Also, make sure you remove the www from any website addresses. A website should load without this being typed and it will save valuable time (and verbal clutter) if you can eliminate it. That’s three words saved right away!
At Abes Audio we’re always happy to help or provide a second opinion on whether your script will fit to a required duration. Please talk to our team if we can assist you.