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Voiceovers – Unsung Heroes of Communication

Voice overs add incredible value to your business communication. Here is how voice overs are used and where to find great voice over talents online.

Voice overs (also referred to as "voice-overs" or "voiceovers") are everywhere: We hear them in commercials, we listen to them in explainer videos and tutorials, in movies, corporate presentations, and IVR systems. Voiceovers add significantly to the success of any kind of communication. Voiceovers can intrigue, inform, and inspire us. But what exactly are they and how are they produced?

Let's start with the obvious question: What exactly is a voice over? A standard definition follows along the lines: Voice over is a technical term that describes the recording of a voice that is then superimposed over another recording or a film scene.

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In radio broadcasting, voice over occurs in the translation of original foreign language sounds and interviews. To establish authenticity, the original recording keeps playing while the translation is superimposed. Ideally, the listener gets the impression that they "understand" the foreign language; they "forget" the dubbing artist. To achieve this, the producer must allow the original to breathe.

With tiny snippets in daily broadcasting – unlike long, elaborately produced programs such as radio features – there is usually no time for this effort, though. In everyday radio broadcasting, therefore, one often hears voice overs that almost wholly mask the original acoustically and only let it sound through at the beginning and end. The duration of the original recording is strongly dependent on the respective language – due to longer sentences, partly due to grammatical reasons. In digital production technology, a special function has been developed for this purpose called "ducking".

Voice overs add significantly to any kind of communication. bodalgo features 12,163 professional voice actors from around the world.

Voice overs add significantly to any kind of communication. bodalgo features 12,163 professional voice actors from around the world.

Voice overs are treated differently internationally on radio. For example, Scandinavian broadcasters often do without any translation, i.e. a voice over, for original English sounds, and only have the content summarized by a speaker before or after. This presupposes a widespread knowledge of the English language among the population.

On German radio, the original language is mainly translated using a voice over; exceptions can be seen sometimes during live interviews on radio and sometimes in the context of tv programs where questions and answers are subsequently translated in summary form by the presenter. In British radio, voice overs are often specially staged: To translate an Arabic interview, for example, a well English-speaking Arab is used, who brings the relevant accent into the voice over. This approach is not common in German. Instead, especially in high-quality productions, great value is placed on the original, and the voice over is made to sound particularly neutral. However, the gender of the person speaking is usually retained (an interviewed woman also receives a female voice over voice), and if possible also the age, although this is not always possible, especially when it comes to voice overs for children's voices.

Voice overs became famous in movies in the 1940s. Here, voice over refers to the commentary, monologue, or dialogue of one or more characters or a narrator not visible in the scene. Instead, the voice is superimposed on the scene.

Voice over vs. off-screen

There is a slight distinction between "voice over" and "off-screen". The term "off-screen" applies when the character is in the scene location, but not currently to be seen on screen (for example, when an actor leaves the visible scene but still can be heard). Voice overs, on the other hand, will be used when the actor is not physically in the scene at all. Example: A radio host that can be heard in the background, an inner monologue (even if the character is visible on-screen!), or the person at the other end of a telephone call.

Voice overs can clarify, ironize, or contrast an event on the screen. This stylistic device is used, for example, to reproduce the thoughts of a person who is absent in the scene or the unspoken thoughts of a person present (inner monologue). Voice overs can also serve to reflect the speaker, for example, when a young person is visible in the picture and the voice of the same but meanwhile aged figure comments retrospectively on the event. A beautiful example is Morgan Freeman's narration in The Shawshank Redemption (which is, by the way, one of the best movies of all time).

In movie adaptations, which often have to shorten plot lines considerably when a novel is turned into a feature-length film, voice overs provide, for example, historical background information or the prehistory of a scene, the introduction of a character or the short biography of a newly introduced character. The genre of film noir, which often addressed the hopelessness of a situation or a protagonist, used a voice over to anticipate the fatal outcome of the story right at the beginning of the film.

A voice over can also be used after the completion of the film, although not originally intended in the script, because the director or the production studio believes that it can explain ambiguities in the plot (the first rental version of Blade Runner comes to mind).

In documentaries, a voiceover in the form of a commentary is a standard stylistic device. Some feature films use voiceovers to give them a pseudo-documentary effect, for example, The War Game or Punishment Park.

Voiceovers are also used in dubbing. Instead of completely replacing the original sound, the recorded translations are superimposed, with the original remaining quietly audible in the background.

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