A documentary is a structured way of demonstrating observations or points of view. It's most frequently used to share knowledge or telling a 'truth'. It is the sharing of perspective from one mind to that of the audience’s minds. Eloquently conveying complex ideas is an art unto itself, which is what documentary voice-over is all about.
Choosing the perfect documentary voice-over for your film is imperative. The right voice will captivate audiences for years to come - so we are here to help with this. Our immense network of voice-over talents is experienced professionals, vetted and approved personally before being added to our elite directory. Searching for ideal documentary voice-over talents has never been easier - just filter and go to hear samples, tagged and categorised for quick and simple casting.
Sharing knowledge shouldn't be restricted to a single audience. Localise your content into any language or with any accent to bring in viewers from countless international demographics.
Ironically this type of documentary frequently has no voice-over! Instead, it often tells its story through high-fidelity visuals and music. The purpose is to bring out some emotion in the audience. It is artistic, and the audience may come away with different interpretations of what it was about. If a voice is used, it will be carefully selected to enhance the mood and emotion of the piece. Watchtower of Turkey is an excellent example of how the right voice-over can strengthen it.
2. Expository documentary
The purpose of an expository documentary is to communicate a specific belief or viewpoint as truth. It could be a documentary about climate change, alien visitations, history or both combined! For this reason, it’s common to cast a mature, authoritative-sounding voice-over. This voice comes across as both believable and charismatic. This will pull the audience into what is being said and maybe even win them over.
The intention here is to capture the subjects (typically people or animals) doing whatever they do. It is of paramount importance to not interfere with what is happening. Once interfered with, the observation is contaminated. It needs to be like a fly on the wall. Choosing a documentary voice-over for this style is tricky. On the one hand, you may opt for sounding more detached like the audience or a more empathetic insider.
David Attenborough is the most well-known nature narrator for observational documentaries. His warm, inquisitive and passionate delivery is employed by many other performers, including Brian Cox and his fantastic documentary series about the Life of a Universe.
4. Participatory documentary
This is where the filmmaker is the main subject of the documentary. They may be on a quest to expose the truth or get justice. The award-winning Icarus, available on Netflix, started as a documentary about doping. Brian Fogel, the filmmaker, begins by showing how easy it is for him to obtain drugs and win sporting events and still pass checks. The film shifts in style mid-way to an observational documentary because they inadvertently expose Russia’s state-sponsored doping.
Whilst the filmmaker is often performing the voice-over as well; it’s not always the case. An independent voice-over is still frequently used. It constructs the impression the documentary is observatory, with the documentary voice-over filling in gaps about where the filmmaker is going or what they are thinking.
5. Reflexive documentary
Reflexive documentary acknowledges that documentaries aren’t fundamentally ‘the truth’ but instead a truth. It pays attention to how the subject is represented, and they look at issues through the lens of realism. The intention is to deliver a particular message to the audience.
Often the filmmaker is a participant that talks about how or why they are making the documentary. Louis Theroux is a well-known filmmaker who frequently uses this style, with some of his work on Netflix.
This style uses voice-over, with the most popular being the mature, authoritative-sounding voice.
6. Performative documentary
A performative documentary shows a more direct and personal relationship between the filmmaker and the subject. The filmmaker will frequently interact with the issue and seeks to influence the viewer's opinions. It’s often confused with the participatory mode, but the participatory method is more about the subject. This can make the message of the film entirely subjective. One of the most famous examples is the 2004 documentary Super Size Me.
The performative style doesn’t lend itself well to narration because the filmmaker usually provides the voice-over themselves.