November 25th, 2009
When most non-voice actors hear the term "voice overs", they think of the funny voices found in cartoons and in animation. A few might make the leap to radio and TV imaging, promos, and commercials. And a few more might even realize that the voices floating over the scenes in a documentary are not necessarily the voices of the researchers and historians themselves.
Beginners to voice acting might even think similarly — but voice over opportunities abound in more places than you might think! "Where?" you ask? Well, right here...
Let's take a look at the many career opportunities in the voice over industry, beginning with the two most common and moving out from there:
There are three kinds of voice work for radio:
Commercials: You know what these are. The sometimes funny, interesting, or annoying breaks in-between songs.
Promos and imaging: A Promo is a little announcement telling the listeners what shows will be coming up in the future. Imaging spots are those catchy, cool, or hip snippets that announce what station you are listening to.
DJ work: Yep. The radio DJ. It is a specialized form of voice over work but not necessarily considered voice acting.
There are three basic kinds of television voice over jobs. These would be done at the TV station itself:
Commercials: You know what these are, too. The sometimes funny, interesting, or annoying breaks in-between the sections of your favorite shows.
Promos and imaging: TV stations, more so than radio stations, need their own promos to keep people tuned in. Imaging is also important but not as "auditorially stimulating" as radio imaging.
Programs / Documentaries: Narration voice overs fall into this category.
Corporate / Industrial
You wouldn't believe just how many voice over jobs are out there in the corporate/industrial field!
Training: Many major corporations (and even smallish companies) have in-house training videos that need voice over actors to do the read.
Conventions: Company booths at trade shows and conventions often have presentations... complete with a narrated videos!
Sales and marketing: Handing out your company's business card is okay. Handing out a pamphlet is a little better. But handing out a professionally produced DVD about you company is the cat's meow! (And many need a professional voice actor to do the narration.)
In-store announcements: "Attention all shoppers. All women's blouses are now just 50% off!" If you've ever heard something like this at a store then you know what I'm talking about. (And often it isn't done by one of the department store's employees.)
Telephony: Hey, someone has to voice those "mildly-annoying" on-hold messages and voice prompts.
Animation / Video Games
Both animation and video game voice overs can be challenging. First, it is difficult to break into. And second, it requires some very special and very unique abilities. For example: can you do a dozen or more completely different voices? Can you switch from one voice to the next on the fly? Can you do each voice with a full range of believable emotions? But on the bright side: it is one of the most enjoyable forms of voice acting!
ADR / Looping / Narration
ADR (Automatic Dialog Replacement) or "looping" is when a voice actor adds his or her voice after a program has been completed and there is a need for more dialog or to fix a flubbed line. A good sense of timing and the ability to mimic other voices is necessary.
Narration is, well... narration! Think Discovery Channel, the History Channel, BBC, National Geographic, etc. etc. etc.
Can you read a story well? Can you add just enough emotion into the read to make it interesting without going completely into "actor mode"? Can you sight-read well and do it for long stretches at a time? If so, then welcome to the lucrative world of audio book reads. (This is one of my personal favorites.)
Podcasting / Internet
With the boom of MP3 players (such as Apple's iPod) podcasting has become a huge field. While most podcasts are free, there are times when a professional voice over is needed for imaging.
Nowadays many websites are becoming exceedingly inter-active. Voice overs are needed for online videos, website navigation, online games, etc.
Toys and games
You daughter, Sally, wants a new talking teddy bear. Guess who really does the talking? Yep. A paid voice actor. Any electronic toy or game that talks needs a voice. One of the nice things about this field is that toy manufacturers must make a mock-up of the toy for final testing and approval for production. They need a voice — and will pay for it — even if the toy never makes it onto store shelves.
"On location" narration
Many museums and tourist spots have narration about each exhibit either at each exhibit's location (brought about with the push of a button) or through the use of a rental iPod.
Airports, train stations, and the like also need a professional and pleasant voice to announce arrival and departure times.
As you can see, the voice over field is quite large (and I'm sure that I have probably left something out.) So don't despair and think that you'll never be able to get any voice acting work. Voice over opportunities really do abound!