Directing voice over talent can be a challenging process, but with the proper preparation and approach, you can achieve great results.
High-quality voice over performances are critical in various multimedia projects, from commercials to e-learning courses, video games, and more. To ensure your voice over project delivers the desired impact, you must clearly establish your vision and effectively direct voice actors.
We have put together our proven tips for success that will help you easily navigate the voice over directing process. We’ll cover everything from preparation to review and ensure that you get the best performance from your voice over talent.
So, where should you start?
Voice actors must first understand precisely what they are trying to achieve before stepping anywhere near the microphone.
Brief the Talent
Getting talent on board with your vision for the project is undoubtedly the most crucial step in directing voice actors. Talent with experience will deliver an excellent performance on their own accord. However, it’s your role to guide this performance towards becoming the finished product you see in your head.
Guaranteeing that the voice actors fully understand what the project is trying to achieve and how they should sound will allow them to make this vision a reality.
Preparation is key to a successful voice over session, and many voice actors will make notes on the voice over script to assist in the successful delivery of their recorded read.
Ensure you give voice over talent the script and any reference material well before recording. This allows them to familiarise themselves with the material and get into character if necessary.
Identify the Audience
Knowing the target audience will clarify the right tone and style for the voice over. A project aimed at children will differ from one aimed at adults, and understanding the medium in which the voice over will be used is essential to perfecting the performance.
By understanding the target audience, medium, and tone, the voice actor can deliver a performance that resonates with the intended audience.
Test the Script
Audio-visual projects require voice over that fits specific time constraints. If your visuals are 30 seconds, your audio must fit perfectly into this duration without feeling rushed and with any keywords or phrases matching up with the picture on-screen.
Bending a voice over performance to unnaturally fit an ill-timed script is a recipe for disaster. Practice reading the script yourself prior to the recording session to ensure that fewer edits need to be made during recording or in post-production. This will also allow you to identify which words and nuances you want to place emphasis on, and this information is essential direction for the voice actor.
Often the voice actor will have a different accent from you and the scriptwriter, which can lead to unexpected pronunciation, alliteration, flow, and timing issues. By fine-tuning your script with your voice actor, you can ensure a smoother recording process and a final product that truly captures the essence of your message – don’t be afraid to try rephrasing a sentence or changing a word to fit the voice.
Allow for a Vocal Warm-Up
If they haven’t done so already, asking the voice actor to read through the script before recording allows them to warm up their vocal cords and get into the right mindset for the session. There are also plenty of vocal exercises to help the talent sound their best.
This is also an opportunity to discuss any specific pronunciations or issues that may arise during the recording.
During the Session
Directing voice over takes commitment. It’s not just supervising but actively enhancing the recorded performance and finished project through constructive guidance.
One Director to Rule Them All
It’s important to have one person leading the session to avoid confusion and conflicting directions. This person should have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and be able to communicate it effectively to the talent. It’s also important to ensure that the voice over artist feels comfortable with the director and can take direction from them.
Calling yourself a director but you do nothing. No actual directing. All the vas self-direct. Then they host a “mandatory” va workshop out of nowhere that all the vas “must” attend.
— Christina Roberts – Voice Actor | Home Studio (@RealChristinaNR) April 15, 2023
Not giving ENOUGH direction and letting things run wild. I can understand wanting to have fun behind the scenes like anyone else, but when it starts to bleed through to the recordings and editing.. time to readjust a few things.
— CakeSlimeVA (@CakeSlimeVA) April 13, 2023
Giving minimal to zero direction, then not being happy with any of the takes you’ve just provided, but still not giving any direction even after you ask what they want. I’ve had that before and just felt like I was being trolled 😐
— Rich (@TheRichVoices) April 13, 2023
When we asked our Twitter audience about voice over directing mistakes, the most common response was regarding directors who don’t… well… direct. The role is hands-on and requires you to suggest ideas, ask for changes, give examples, and constantly push for the best performance through helpful guidance. It’s essential to the voice actor, and a lack of direction will leave your talent feeling confused about the end goal.
Recording the script in sections can help to maintain focus and ensure that the voice over artist doesn’t become fatigued or lose concentration. Constantly moving back and forth between sections of the script can harm the continuity of the overall project, but can also be necessary if big changes are made during the session.
Listening back to the recordings as you go will confirm whether you have a successful take of each voice line, and marking which files are your preferred options will save time in the editing room. This also makes it easier to keep track of which lines have been recorded so none are missed.
Trust the Voice
Your voice actor is more than just a voice, and their input can make a significant difference in the final product. When it comes to directing, it’s important to strike a balance between providing guidance and allowing for creative interpretation if they are experienced and confident.
Avoid over-directing or demonstrating the performance yourself at the beginning of a session. This can limit the actor’s artistic freedom and hinder their ability to deliver an authentic performance in an effort to sound more like your example. However, this should be played by ear as some voice actors will look for more direction than others – It’s always easier to start at 100 and rein a performance in rather than asking for more later down the line.
Go Back to the Start
Even if all the takes have seemed great so far, there is no reason not to go for gold in the eleventh hour.
Re-recording lines or sections of the script can help to maintain consistency throughout the recording should changes have been made during the recording process. Going back to the beginning of the script and re-recording lines that may not have matched the quality of later takes can help to ensure a consistent and high-quality performance.
This also allows the voice actor to implement the direction you gave after certain lines were recorded.
Directing voice over talent requires careful planning and execution.
By following these tips, you can create a high-quality final product that meets your vision and exceeds your expectations. Remember to communicate clearly and effectively with your talent and provide a supportive and encouraging atmosphere that allows them to deliver their best performance.
And most importantly, be confident in your vision.
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