The Most Common Direction Given To A Voice Over Is…

Posted On: May 16, 2019    Written by: Abe

What do you think the most common direction provided to a voice over talent is? The answer might surprise you - and it’s probably not quite what you’d imagine!

We sat down with Jaron, one of our experienced audio producers, to unpack his thought process when he’s presented with a script brief (and find out how he turns written ideas into audio.) He also shared what his must-have plugins for enhancing voice overs are, what the most common direction given to a voice over is, and why a mix of library and location-recorded sound effects are important tools.

Why does audio & voiceover production interest you?

I’ve always been intrigued by sound and how it can create such a variety of emotions in us as humans. When I’m producing a voice over, a commercial or sound design for a video, regardless of what might be happening visually, I want the listener/viewer to be able to close their eyes and really feel like they are really immersed in the content. Depending on the project this is not always possible, but at the very least, there should always be some level of engagement or emotional response.

How long have you been working in the industry?

I started producing when I was 16 or 17 in college using some pretty cutting-edge equipment (a Behringer MX8000 desk & 2 Tascam DA-38 8 multi track recorders!) I then volunteered at a local community radio station, after which I got my first full-time job at a commercial radio station in Launceston handling both commercial/voice over production and eventually their imaging. From there I moved to Abes, and the rest is history!

Library or location-recorded sound effects? (What’s your preference?)

A good mix of both is definitely needed. I’ve found that, even in the best libraries, some sound effects can be poorly recorded and just don’t fill my mixes. Also, because they are predominantly recorded in America or Europe, there can be a lack of Australian sport and nature sound effects in some large libraries and this is where well-recorded location sounds can be useful.

For example, here are 2 sound effects that we’ve recorded on-location and use regularly with voice overs and in other productions. (Download and use them if you’d like!)

Aussie Rules Football Game - Siren & Ambience
Australian Magpie - Single Call & Ambience

Explain your thought process when handed a brief.

(How do you turn written ideas into sound?)

Like many audio producers, I’ve always been able to ‘hear’ a brief/script as I read it. When I take a first look, in most cases I’ll already be able to ‘hear’ all the sound effects, music and what the voice over delivery should sound like.

I’ll also usually Google the company and look at their Facebook page to get more of an idea of the business or product and who the target market is. This helps me to select the best music track and in directing the voiceover artist if I have a session booked.

Some copywriters are very visual when they write scripts, and trying to translate visual effects into sounds can be challenging. Some time ago I remember producing a radio commercial that asked for the sound of “a dinosaur rubbing up against a car and enjoying it.” This was one sound effect that I had no trouble seeing and hearing - but I struggled (just a little) to actually create it!

What is your must-have audio plugin?

There are 2 plugins I simply couldn’t live without. Sometimes, if my ears are tired, frequencies get blurred and it can be difficult to hear exactly what I should be pulling out or putting in to a voice over. My go-to plugin is the ProQ3 EQ from FabFilter because of the simple but powerful GUI. To visually be able to ‘see’ what I am hearing can be a lifesaver and I use it on all my channels.

My next favourite plugin is Mouth De-Click from iZotope. In fact , I’d go to say this is a must-have tool for any audio producer working with voice over talent. There’s nothing worse than hearing voice overs with clicks and pops throughout a recording caused by saliva and other physical attributes of the mouth. With Mouth De-Click, they’re gone.

The most common direction given to a voice over?

The most common is no direction at all! It’s surprising how many projects I see with no direction supplied for the voice over artists or instructions for the producer. Direction doesn’t need to be complicated - often one word is enough for the voice talent or producer to understand the brief and the creative angle. Fun, slow, soft, loud, fast, confident; they all have different and useful meanings and can really help the voice over and producer understand what is required.

The most misused direction for a voice?

“Like you’re telling a friend/having a conversation” is a frequent one. I cannot begin to tell you how often this comes up, but in most cases it can make the script awkward to listen to and just doesn’t make sense in context. If a genuinely authentic, conversational voice over style is required, it’s important to make sure the script reflects what might be said in an actual conversation.

(Hint: “I got a great haircut from Susan at Beyond Beauty, 54 William St right next door to Bunnings, you should call them, their number is 0434 235…” would probably not make a great, natural-sounding conversation. The best voice acting, audio production and ambient sound effects in the world will not help to make this script sound real and engaging.)

What’s one project you produced that you’re really proud of?

I remember creating this for the Fremantle City Football Club. It was pretty simple and uncomplicated in the sound design, but the delivery of the read was spot on from our voice over talent, Geoff. It used underlying sound effects to create a real nostalgic feeling - which I’ve found to be a powerful emotion in audio and sound design.

If you’d like to hear more work from Jaron and our team of producers, click here.

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