How to Do a Voice Over
You’ve written a story. You’ve edited it, spent some time revising, and proofreading it to make sure there are no errors. But how does it flow? How does that tiny little voice in your head narrate what your eyes perceive? Because at the end of the day, if you’re wondering how to do a voiceover, you’re basically wondering how your story reads.
Think of yourself when reading a book, a story, or even a scientific article. You’re looking for words and elements that enable your internal voice to express emotions, add color, or create full scenes. This is what a good voice over does. It paints a picture.
If you’re looking for advice on how to do a voice over, there are two separate questions you’re basically asking: First, how to write a voice over and, second, how to produce a voice-over track. Luckily, this article covers both.
Keep reading and learn how you can create the perfect voice over for creative, commercial, or fun use. Let’s dive right into it.
How to Do a Voice Over - Part 1: Writing the Script
The truth is you don’t need to be a professional writer to write an engaging voice-over script. You just need to think like a human being and be able to form sentences that go well together.
Of course, a professional script writer will be able to play with words and craft narratives that will hook their audience’s attention right off the bat, but for a beginner looking for tips on how to write a voice over for the first time, there are seven key steps.
Here they are:
1. Write exactly as you speak
Some writers fail to write the perfect voice over because they’re trying to use fancy words that people don’t use in their everyday conversations. When you’re building your voice over script, you need to act as if you were speaking to someone — not like you’re reading.
This simple trick will allow you to write in a more conversational, direct way that will not come off too scripted. Because, and this is a huge tip for everyone who’s wondering how to do a voice over, scripts shouldn’t sound like scripts at all.
Also, make sure you use active voice. Passive voice will sound too academic and less direct because it creates some extra distance between the subject and the object, the narrator and the listener.
2. Cut to the chase
No one’s got time to waste. Like it or not, we live in a fast-paced world that demands creators to grab their audience’s attention in an instant by keeping it simple and getting to the point quickly.
To get some inspiration on how to make your voice over more direct, you can listen to radio commercials. Radio ads usually focus on one key message, and they repeat it until it’s established in the listener’s mind. The formula is quite simple: You say it once, explain it, and then repeat it. As a matter of fact, this is a common practice among the YouTube community with YouTubers welcoming their viewers and getting on with it fast.
Another way to make sure that you cut to the chase quickly is to use short sentences because it feels closer to the way we speak in everyday life. Avoid adverbs, stay away from jargon language, use quick, concise, and straightforward verbs, and you’ll be good to go.
3. Use your “voice-over voice”
We all have a voice-over voice. It lives in our heads and always appears when we read. It might sound serious when you read a dramatic literary scene or an academic paper. It might sound funny and cheerful when you read something fun. In any case, you need to channel that voice when writing your script and adjust it to your genre because it will allow you to write as if that voice was talking.
Here’s the thing, though.
Writing a script might take much longer than a couple of hours or a day. So, you need to keep that same voice in mind. Voice over actors do it all the time. When they spend days in the studio, they listen to their voice in previous sessions to keep it consistent. This is precisely what you need to do when writing your script: keep it consistent by thinking of (not listening to) the same voice.
However, you might have an idea of what your voice-over voice should sound like, but have zero clue how to do it. Here’s a detailed guide on how to change your voice and make it sound deeper, higher, raspier, or just better.
4. Don’t just write blocks of text
When you’re writing a voice over script, you can’t just write huge blocks of text and expect it to flow naturally. On the contrary, you need to keep your rhythm in mind because it will directly affect your emotion and tone of voice.
Generally, the better and easier the rhythm, the more pleasing your script will sound to your listeners’ ears. So, write your voice over in short sentences and make a note for pauses, breath breaks, etc.
Speaking of which:
5. Make use of silence
Here’s a tip for all of you wondering how to do a voice over track: Silence is part of it, and your script should always mention pauses and silent breaks. Because silence is an integral part of your whole plot and the story you’re trying to tell.
Use them wisely and think of how they help your overall script. A good rule of thumb is to add pauses before transitional words such as “however,” “meanwhile,” etc.
6. Add sound effects
Sound effects can help you put together a complete story. By adding realism, depth, and interest to your overall script, sound effects will hook your audience’s attention and make the overall experience much more complete.
You don’t want to overdo it, though. Too many sound effects will only make your final product sound cheap and cheesy, so use them wisely. One simple trick would be to jot down where and when you want to add a sound effect, so you can have an overview of how many you are going to use and which ones you could live without.
Oh, and by the way, click here for a free SFX collection to make your voice over tracks stand out.
7. Now, read your script aloud
Now that you’ve written down your whole script, it’s time to read it aloud. Don’t whisper, don’t keep it low; read it as if you were recording it. Be as theatrical as you need, and, instead of holding back, try to impress an imaginary audience.
This way, you will identify parts that sound good and pieces that you should revise.
It’s true that, sometimes, wording can be a problem. Some words might feel hard to pronounce or disruptive to your flow, while other sentences might be too long to read in one breath. So, read your script aloud, edit it if you have to, re-read it, and then start producing it.
How to Do a Voice Over - Part 2: Recording
Now, all this hard work you’ve put into generating your script will take form. Grab a microphone, follow the tips below and let the production begin:
Step #1: Create your studio
When you think of a studio, the first image that comes to mind must be a fancy professional setup. But the truth is that a studio can be any place where you can have a microphone at, and you can easily record audio for video at home. Keep in mind though that your room will affect your overall audio quality.
A room that is too big, for example, will create some reverb and will sound unprofessional or even make it entirely impossible for listeners to understand you. On the other hand, a too-small room might not create much reverb, but it will produce more echo, which will create some distance between you and those who listen to you.
So, task number one: find a room that is not too big, not too small, at the size of a bedroom. But you shouldn’t stop there.
Your voice has power. It’s literally energy that reacts differently depending on its surroundings. So, you need to mind your room’s surfaces as well. Generally, the harder the surfaces are, the poorer your sound quality is going to turn out. So, make sure your room has soft furnishings, fabrics, and a carpet.
After you’ve found the perfect room for your voice over, you need to test it. Take your phone out, open your voice recording app and record some voice tests to see how you sound. Talk loudly and see whether your voice feels bouncy or clear.
Step #2: Set up your hardware and software
Now that you know where to record your voice over, we need to see how.
Start with your microphone. Take your stand, plug your mic in, and test where you should be standing to achieve the best quality possible. Hit record, start moving back and forth, and talk. Play your sample, try to find the right spot, and when you do, put some tape on the floor to mark it.
Then create another sample in your audio recording software (Audacity, for example) and start playing around with your settings.
Attention: As you’re listening to your test, pay attention to any background noise because it will be quite a challenge to fix later. Or will it? Here’s the best noise reduction plugin to remove noise from your audio recordings.
Step #3: Rehearse and prepare
You’re wondering how to do a voice over, and part of it is, of course, figuring out the technical aspect of the job.
However, you need to be mentally ready as well. To achieve the best results possible, you need to rehearse a lot. Make your script sound as natural as possible, don’t narrate like you’re reading, and color your voice in a way that will engage your listeners.
Practice your breathing, underline parts that you want to add emphasis to, and keep notes right on your script that will help you when you go for the final take.
Step #4: Hit REC
Now that you’ve done your tests and rehearsed, you can start your recording. You need to know, though, that your first take is going to be awful. And it’s completely fine.
As a matter of fact, even professionals who’ve invested a lot of time and energy in voice acting training might need to record the same thing over and over again until they reach perfection.
It’s okay — and part of the process.
Step #5: Listen carefully and re-record
You’ve done it! First of all, congratulations. Completing your first voice over project is magnificent.
Now, it's time to kick back, relax, and take a break. Detach yourself and stop thinking about your project for a while. After 20 to 30 minutes, listen to your playback and take notes.
Notice your “esses,” your “sh” sounds. Look for any background noise, spot potential problems with your articulation, pronunciation, or natural mouth sounds. Then look for any technical issues. Is the bass too heavy? What about your treble?
Put your headphones or earphones on, listen carefully, and take notes. Then, you’ll need to re-record. You might don’t want to re-record the whole thing and just redo parts that simply don’t work. If you do that, make sure you use the same voice, keep the same distance from your mic, and of course, use the same recording settings.
Step #6: Start editing and sound mixing
And this is where the actual magic happens. This is where you start fixing tiny or not-so-tiny mistakes.
Start with your script’s flow. Are you sure that this is how you want your story to unfold? If not, this is the right time for you to rearrange sections and move tracks around. Of course, keep your ears open for mistakes or awkward pauses that you don’t really need and only make your script sound “off.”
Last but not least, there’s one word you should keep in mind when reviewing and editing your final product: Consistency. You have to make sure that your voice sounds the same no matter what take you’re mixing or editing.
Use a compressor, play around with EQ, and keep the same settings across the whole thing.
You’re now ready to export your audio file.
How to Do a Voice Over - Part 3: Putting Everything Together
You have your video — and, hopefully, this is where you were based on to write your script. You also have the audio that you so masterfully created. Now, the only thing missing is to put everything together and complete your voice-over project.
It sounds more challenging than it actually is. All you need is a computer and a video editing tool. And the truth is that all video editing software tools have become more intuitive and easier to use.
Some of the most popular choices among video creators include:
However, if you’re interested in a mobile video editing solution, you can check this article to learn more about the best mobile video editing tools out there.
The only area you need to pay extra attention to is your synchronization. You need to make sure that your video and audio are matched, and everything works perfectly. Syncing audio and video can be tough if you don’t know where to start. But this post has got you covered.
How to Do a Voice Over - Part 4: Make it Comfortable to Listen to
Voiceovers are highly susceptible to audio problems. Even if you've followed this guide to a T, issues can always crop up.
One of the most common is breathing noise. Everyone has to breathe, obviously - but audiences won't stay tuned to your content if it has overly prominent breathing. We recommend using the De-Breath plugin, which automatically detects breaths for you; doing it manually takes way too long. Plugins like this are great, because you can just control the track's breath sound with a single dial.
Remember to be careful when reducing breath noise. Fully eradicating breaths can sound unnatural, so always adjust the dial to get a comfortable sound.
Conclusion: Feedback Makes Perfect Voiceovers
Voice over (much like voice acting) is an artform. So, looking for a hidden formula is not just like looking for a needle in a haystack; it’s simply a waste of time. Sure, you should experiment with different tools and techniques, but, at the end of the day, it just comes down to how you make your audience feel.
People today are not just passive listeners. The rising popularity of podcasts, for example, proves that everyone engages more in audio content. Take a look at forums, Twitter threads, or even review sites, and you will immediately notice that everyone takes voice-over quality into account when they’re talking about movies, documentaries, ads, or video games.
Read those comments. See what other people say and turn their feedback into your perfect guide on how to do a voice over that people will fall in love with.