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So just what is voice-over, anyway? Simply put, a voice-over (or voice over or voiceover) is when the recorded voice of an unseen person is used in an audio or video production. Voice-over elements are typically read from a script and placed “over” film or video to provide an explanation or extra information.

While many people most readily associate voice-overs with documentaries or news broadcasts, they are also used in a variety of other situations, including radio (over music), video games, phone recordings (on hold messages, etc.), announcements, commercials, educational materials, museums, tourist attractions, etc. Voice-over is often used live for events, such as awards ceremonies. It also includes providing the voices and characters for cartoons and other animated characters and can be used as a device to narrate a story.

Voice-over in Film & Video

When used over film, video or other visual recordings, voice-over can be used for a variety of purposes. The voice can be a narrator in a story, providing background details that aren’t shown as part of the action, or to provide insight into a character’s thought process. This is often a device employed in movies, television shows and other works of fiction. The voice can be that of a character or of someone outside the story who can provide a more complete explanation of the circumstances of the story. Sometimes voice-over is used to maintain continuity between scenes of a story by explaining what’s happened between scenes.

Voice-over in Radio

Voice-over is an important part of radio production and is used for everything from station identification to advertising. The introduction at the beginning of a radio program is generally recorded by a voice-over artist. Jingles are musical voice-overs. Promotional messages, advertisements, and announcements are also examples of voice-over used in radio programming.

Voice-over in Educational materials

When you watch the news, you often hear a voice-over video clips of news events. The voice-over, in this case, explains what you’re seeing on the screen. Documentaries make extensive use of voice-overs to describe, explain and expand upon the visual information presented. These voices are sometimes provided by an expert in the subject matter. Most educational videos use voice-over artists to deliver much of the information being presented to their audience. Voice-over is also used in interactive programs and games. Voice-over is particularly useful for auditory learners, who find it easier to absorb information by listening as opposed to reading.

Voice-over in Advertising

Whether for radio, television, or online formats, the advertising industry makes extensive use of voice-over. Radio advertisements often include a script read over music or other background sound. Television or video advertisements use voice-over to explain what exactly is being offered and to extol the virtues and unique benefits of the advertiser’s product. Advertisers often choose to use a distinctive, easily recognizable voice to set them apart from the competition.

Other voice-over applications

As technology progresses, voice-over actors are utilized in a greater variety of mediums. Siri and Alexa are two voices most people now easily recognize. Your GPS devices probably use voice-over navigational aids. Many children’s toys utilize voice-over. Podcasts are another example of voice-over many of us encounter regularly. Most movie trailers use voice-overs, and most people are familiar with the deep tones of the guy who often starts trailers with the phrase, “In a world where…” Audiobooks are essentially the voice-over of an entire book. Even that less-than-welcome “your call is important to us, please continue to hold” message is an example of voice-over. It’s everywhere, helping us to navigate an increasingly complex and information-packed world.

  • The eLearning Guild
  • Women Business Owners Network
  • Champlain Connections BNI
  • Woman Owned Small Business
  • Women's Business Enterprise National Council

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