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Voice over VS. Narration
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What's the difference, and does it matter?Both terms cover the same concept: a voice actor, somewhere in the world, recording their voice. However, each refers to a specific way of both delivering the content and its intended use. Voice over typically refers to any content with commentary or audio explanation. Think of things like commercials, announcements, explainer videos, e-learning, etc. Most of these have one thing in common: there’s a clear goal of gaining the audience's attention and helping them understand the message.
Narration is typically used when referring to telling a story. Transporting the audience to a new world, bringing them along on the journey, and guiding them through a series of events. Classic examples of narration are audiobooks, documentaries, and short stories.
For those in the world of voiceovers and narration, the use of each word gives a large clue as to what is being asked. It cues in the tone of voice, length of the project, audience, and even down to how the text they need to read is written.
Voice over jobs typically come with a script that includes a few specifications for the tone of voice, time to pause, and words that are underlined or bolded to say to the voice over artist, “Hey, emphasize this.” Either the tone of voice is decided on ahead of time, or the artist will provide a few different takes. There are several labels used for voice over tones: natural, authoritative, educational, girl-next-door, corporate, friendly, commercial, etc. Regardless of what tone is right for the script, it will stay consistent throughout the whole recording.
Narration jobs typically come with a story written in paragraphs. There is a beginning, middle, and end. If the story involves multiple characters, you might discuss with the author what their vision was for the characters, helping inform you on what voices to perform or accents to pull in. Typically, the tone is determined by the genre(sci-fi, non-fiction, thriller, documentary, etc.). As the story progresses, the narrator will shift slightly in their tone to help emphasize parts of the story, evoking emotion when necessary or adding in character voices.
Does it affect who you hire? Well, in some ways, yes, and in some, no. Several people in the industry choose one specific path and specialize in that. Typically, anyone who has been around in the voice over/narration world, even for just a bit, will soon be able to understand the differences and market themselves accordingly, putting themselves on the appropriate platforms. Though, there are many artists who can and enjoy doing both.
So, you understand the difference, but the question remains: does it matter?
The biggest impact these two words will have will be in your search. Your search for talent or your search for jobs. Many in the industry will use both terms to help them gain a presence online, though, when you look closer, they will be sure to specify their niche and what jobs they are looking for. What it comes down to is: do they have a sound that you think matches what you’re looking for? Can you hear their voice when you picture your product, explaining how it works? Or perhaps, can they tell your story in a way that brings listeners into your world?
Need help getting started? Below are just a few of the platforms you can check out.
Voice over platforms:
Freelance platforms that many voice over artists and narrators use:
That’s all for now. Chat soon.
Caitie from Studio Wednesday