Voiceover in 4D!
The real skill of a voiceover artist is acting. The same acting that is found in theatre, film and television. Just with a microphone, and nothing else.
It is this same skill at the heart of VO that draws an audience into the world of the commercial, e-learning or animation / gaming content they are experiencing.
Words are the physical manifestation of thoughts. Human thought is wondrous, chaotic, at times all over the place, defying rational and conscious explanation. The words on the page are meant to replicate the experience of human being and living-ness. This is true for all genres of voiceover. Even when the copy says “Visit Kayak now for the best deals.” There is a character and story behind that line.
So, what are the things a voiceover does to become that real human saying those lines? And make the biggest impact on the listener?
The first thing is to think the thoughts behind the text. A lot of commercials are speaking to other people not present. In a real life situation a human being is thinking a million different things: about themselves, the person they are speaking to, the environment around them, did I turn the gas off?
Once this 3D world is established, the next place to look is voiceover technique. This treats the text like a musical score with many ways of delivery using emphasis, pace, intention, pausing etc. There are so many different ways of playing based on all these elements. Commercials and characters can become surprising and fun when the voiceover offers up something completely different to what the producers and writers had in mind.
Lastly, we come to tenets of classical acting. In classical drama the character is always doing something to another character or to themselves in order to get what they want. This is the same for a piece of text. A character is doing and saying things in order to get what they want. That is obvious with animation and gaming characters, but even so in more abstract commercials, ones where the copy can be lines like: “The art of adventure is to see it anew for the first time” with moody music and visuals. That character has a want, desire, life need which has to be understood and played.
When all three are combined, it makes the production team think there is something alchemical involved in voiceover acting. Like the artist is a shaman or connected to a dark and mystical world.
Just principles. And a helluva lot of practice!
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Paul Mclaughlin © Versatile Voiceovers