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Why Excel Should NEVER Be Used For A Narration Voice Over Script

Recording a narration voice over takes precision, skill and years of practice. Because a narration is often much longer than a TV or radio commercial, the voice over talent needs to be consistent and measured to ensure the pace, tone and delivery stays the same from beginning to end.

To understand how a voice over artist approaches recording a narration, we sat down with Garth, one of our most requested narration voiceover talent. As well as letting us know which voice over artist he admires most (you’ve probably seen/heard him on TV), Garth shared with us some things to be aware of from a voice over talent’s perspective.

How long have you been recording voice overs?

I started working in radio in 1998, and have been recording professional voice over sessions full time since 2007. Early on I was predominantly cast just for commercials, but over the years I’ve been increasingly booked to record narration voice overs. I’ve also worked for a group of metro radio stations as their network production manager. During this time I got to work with some of the best voice overs in the country!

How did you get started in the industry?

After High School I went to the Academy of Radio and then landed my first job at 5CC in Port Lincoln as copywriter/announcer. As with all regional radio stations, there are always commercials that need to be voiced and it’s all hands on deck!

What’s the largest narration voice over you’ve read?

It’s difficult to remember them all…I think it was probably a tourist bus in-ear voice over at a mere 62,000 words!

Over the years, what have you learned that’s helped you to deliver better narration voice overs?

Keep it natural and relaxed. Don’t over-pronounce words, as this will make the read much more engaging and easier to listen to. People like a little personality even if the script calls for a corporate style voice over, as some content can be quite long winded and detailed. Adding a bit of personality can help to give a script some ‘life’.

What are some things you wish you could say to a client when they’re preparing to send you a script for a narration voice over?

  • WRITE for the SPOKEN word - and remember to use punctuation.
  • Writing “sentences” that are 12 lines long can make it difficult to know how to phrase particular ideas, particularly if the script is more technical in nature. It’s good to think about the natural flow of the text and where commas and slight pauses would work best.
  • Provide phonetic spelling as well as an audio guide for prickly words as sometimes it helps to have both. (A word can look different to how it should sound.)
  • Always use double-spacing and clearly separate paragraphs. It’s amazing how many scripts present all the text in a single block. Think about how you want the narration to flow and any natural breaks and pauses it needs.
  • Please, don’t use Microsoft Excel to write scripts with the various paragraphs in individual cells. It’s a nightmare to read and makes it really difficult to determine the flow of a script!

What makes a great narrative script? Why?

A narration voice over is all about telling a story and delivering information in an easy to digest format. A great script is one that’s written with a clear beginning, middle and end. I often encourage writers to ‘not be afraid to write how they speak.’ It sounds simple but can be quite difficult to do well.

For example, a line could be written as It is here, that we see John working on the machine, and he says to colleague ‘do not touch this.’” It would sound more authentic if we said It’s here we see John working on the machine, and he says to colleague ‘don’t touch this.’” Generally this will sound more natural and engaging. “It is” looks fine on paper but can sound disjointed and unnatural once spoken. As long as the key information is clear, being flexible in this regard will always result in a better sounding and more natural voice over.

Do you prefer client-directed or self-directed voice over sessions?

For narration voice over sessions I prefer to be self-directed. Based on a brief, I will always record a small sample to make sure I’m on the same page as the client in regards to delivery, style and pacing.

Once the demo is approved, having direction during a several thousand word narration voice over usually ends up in many stop starts and the end result can have a real lack of consistency and flow. As I always say, trust the voice talent you have chosen to deliver the read the way you have instructed. As professional voice overs, it’s what we do. All day, every day.

Outside of work, what do you love to do?

I love flying model RC planes & helicopters. Also, riding my bike with and spending time with my kids is the best.

Which voice over artists have you always looked up to?

I have always LOVED Mike Rowe’s narration voice over delivery and I think he’s one of the best in the world. He can be heard on any number of Discovery Channel shows – Deadliest Catch being my favourite. I’ve learned a great deal just from listening to how he reads and delivers lines. He’s a legend!

What are the biggest challenges you find when recording?

Drinking enough water. When recording a long narration script you need to drink litres of it! Also, trying not to get a cold – which can be hard with kids sometimes. While it’s only a minor thing, it can put a voice over out of work for days. No one wants a nasally, congested person as their voice over. (Unless it’s an ad for a cold and flu medicine!)

If you’d like to book Garth for your next narration voiceover, please contact us and we’ll have him record a free demo of your script.

Abe Udy

Abe is the founder of Abe's Audio and started the business in 1998 from his bedroom with an old computer, fax machine, dial-up internet, and a microphone in his wardrobe. Today, he leads a team that provides audio production and voice overs to media, agency, eLearning, video & creative clients around Australia and beyond.

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