Getting the best out of your voiceover
Choosing the right voice for your production is clearly an important decision, but so is the quality of your voiceover script. It’s the voiceover’s job to bring life to your words, but you can help the performance by ensuring the script makes life easy for the VO..!
I work with scripts every single day, some written by award winning creatives with many years of experience under their belt, and some by complete first timers thrown into a situation. The aim of this post is to offer a few tips when writing for a VO, based on my own experience of what helps me perform better. This is by no means an exhaustive list but merely a few pointers that certainly make life easier for me, and hopefully others too.
1. Be conversational
Fairly simple one but ideally you’re going to want your narration to sound natural. Always try to write in a conversational manner and basically write as you would expect someone to speak. Or at least write using words of how you expect the voiceover to sound. This doesn’t have to make a heavy subject lighthearted, that all comes in the delivery. What is important is that the words flow well conversationally.
Perhaps once you’ve written your script, read it out loud a number of times. If there are sections you find hard to navigate, likely the voiceover will too, so it’s always worth trying this test. This goes for any tongue twisters which may have found their way in too, if it’s possible to use alternative words which flow better then perhaps worth considering. You may also notice places where you need to take a breath, in which case don’t be afraid to add in some punctuation. Voiceovers need to breathe too, in fact I personally insist on it..!
2. Less is more
One of the biggest problems comes when scripts are overwritten. You have a 2 minute film, and 3 minutes worth of script! Can you say the same message with less words? On Twitter you have just 160 characters to make your point, and with a bit of thought you can get your point across. Leaving some breathing space in your script allows things to flow more steadily, and sound less manic. It also allows the voiceover to slow the pace down a touch too, which will probably give you a better quality of read. For a laid back read aim for 150 words for a minute of audio, and a normal pace read would be around 180 words per minute on average.
3. Make it easy on the eye
Choosing a clear font and some basic page formatting can help immeasurably..! I’ve had hand written scripts scanned and emailed to me, and some using font type and size you need a microscope to see. Formatting your script in either a PDF or Word document with a nice clear font (Ariel always works well) a nice size (probably no less that 12pt) and double spaced will make things a lot easier to read. Voices will be able to increase the font size if they need, but certainly having things laid out nice and clearly helps the sight reading process. It also provides extra space to make notes relative to the script too.
4. Avoid all doubt
If there’s one thing that trips me up when reading a script, it’s being unsure of a pronunciation. If there are any unusual words, names or acronyms, always include who you would prefer this to be said phonetically. For example Keighley in Yorkshire would be Keith-Lee, and NATO would be Nay-Toe. Perhaps that’s a slightly obvious example but you get the idea. In fact where names are concerned, feel free to just write it as you would say it in the first place. Remember, with a voiceover it’s all about how it sounds not how its spelt.
The same goes for numbers, be clear. For example with 1500, do you want me to say fifteen hundred or one thousand five hundred?
Sometimes I work with other nationalities and words can be complex, sending an audio clip of you saying the word is also a great help.
5. What’s the direction?
The clearer you are about direction and how you imagine it should sound, the better.
Be sure to include the kind of feel you are hoping for with this read. Will it be upbeat or conversational? Relaxed and formal? Wacky and straight? Giving an indication of the mood you are hoping to create really helps to ensure you get the read you’re hoping for. The same goes for the accent, do you want something quite neutral, or more regional? If you already know the music you are intending to use then it’s always handy to hear that too. Plus if you have heard a style on a showreel then point it out, it all helps to give you what you want.
6. Double check the voiceover script
Before you send the final script for voicing read through it one final time. Is everything there? Often one small missing word can spoil the whole production. It’s very hard to just insert the missing word involves a re-take of the section which could be an expense to fix. Expect for a voiceover to read the script exactly as provided so take care to avoid simple mistakes.
Hopefully these pointers help you on the way, of course if you have any other questions, or would like help with scriptwriting for your project them don’t hesitate to get in touch!
And to hear some audio samples of the final product sounds, you can find my showreels here