When you think of Morgan Freeman, what’s the first thought that comes to your mind?
You’ll most probably think of his deep voice, like that of a narrator.
Science has offered various explanations on why we love Morgan Freeman’s voice so much. His voice alone has made him a memorable personality.
In effect, when we hear a deep-voiced narration on TV, our minds automatically react with, “Is that Morgan Freeman?” We raise the volume and inch closer to the screens, hoping to catch whether it actually is the famous actor.
And if it is, sometimes we stay just because of how soothing his voice is.
That right there is the effect of voiceovers. It invokes a certain feeling within us and allows us to connect with the media on a deeper and more personal level while making it memorable. Therefore, it’s important we understand its value in our animated videos.
In this post, we’ll about the importance of voiceovers in an animated video, the most ideal practices for the voiceover process, and finally, we’ll discuss hiring freelance or in-house voiceover artists.
What Animators Need to Know About Voiceovers.
A voiceover is an aspect of your video’s production that’s heard over its visuals. As the name suggests, you're basically adding voice to play over your videos. It’s used in commercials, infomercials, television series, documentaries, and filmmaking, among other entertainment mediums.
When Should Animators Use a Voiceover?
Gif via Giphy
Infomercials and documentaries often use voiceover as a form of narration. The same goes with television series and films, but it all depends on the style.
Voiceovers differ depending on the video types. Should you create animated explainer videos, social media videos, ads and promotional stints, tutorials, and informative videos, voiceovers will most likely be used to narrate stories, steps, or specific messages.
A popular example would be to observe those Ted-Ed animated videos on Youtube wherein a voiceover narrates certain topics and stories.
Or when watching an animated “how-to” tutorial, you’ll notice that voiceovers are used to narrate each step and instruction along the way.
However, while they are often understood as a form of narration, they can also mean other sound bites that are added to or replaced in videos, such as foley to enhance a video and make it more entertaining.
For instance, if you’re making an animated advertisement for a product on cough drops or lozenges, you might have a storyline involving a person with a sore throat and cough. In such a case, your voiceover artist would also have to wheeze, cough, or grunt to sell the story.
If your animated videos have figures and characters, then the voiceover would then be used as a form of dialogue between the characters.
Let’s say you’ll have to make an animated commercial for a popular toy company, and your client would like you to feature talking animals to promote their toys. In such a case, you’d hire a voiceover artist to do the animal’s dialogue.
Since your visuals are essentially drawings and figures, you’ll have to add voice and effects to these characters as the scene unfolds. It helps audiences follow the videos’ story and capture its message.
According to the Bunny Studio website, a 10-year voiceover matching service, voiceovers are a form of humanization, and that’s precisely what it is. They breathe life into your animated videos and make them come alive.
Could you imagine watching your favorite animated films and series without a voice at all? Its meaning wouldn’t have been as significant to you.
Voiceovers are an integral aspect of creating animated videos. Adding them injects a sense of personality into your animations –– which is why animation studios go to great pains to hire a voiceover artist who precisely fits the role.
Now, imagine watching the fantasy film Spirited Away or the Disney Hit, Tangled, only with a voice far different from the original? Honestly, Tangled wouldn’t be what it is without Mandy Moore’s voice.
According to voiceover artist and coach Francois Castellino, voiceovers bring life and evoke emotion to your words. When watching animations, you may not realize it, but the voice adds such a unique quality to the visuals.
Voices are so powerful that technology giants and innovators have even created synthetic computer-generated voices, but ask anyone working in the creatives industry, and they’ll prefer the authentic human voice over those generated by machines.
Voiceovers complement your animated videos, like milk to your cereal. They stimulate your senses, mainly catering to auditory learners. Overall, they make your videos more memorable, impactful, or persuasive, depending on what’s necessary.
Voiceover Best Practices for Animation.
Let’s proceed to tackle the best practices for a smooth and efficient voiceover process.
There are several things to consider and prepare beforehand in recording or coordinating with voiceovers.
First, you must avoid technical problems. Let’s say you’ve just finished recording the voiceover for a social media animation video you spent days preparing when you check the files and find them suddenly corrupt.
Having that happen to you can be incredibly frustrating. Imagine the hours, energy, and money for that one scene all gone because of a technical problem.
Or if you’re still starting out, you might encounter having your voiceover artist record an entire audio recording only to notice the timing to be off once you edit it all together.
That is why you must ensure everything is set and running smoothly. This means that the script must be final, the directions for each line are clear, the team’s availability is secured, and the proper equipment and recording software are all ready for use.
Always back up all your files immediately after a voiceover session and download recovery software to recover your files in case you find them corrupt and hopefully it’s still recoverable.
Also, double-check the space in all your devices and prepare a spare hard drive in case your digital storage is suddenly full. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Second, coordinate with your client so that the voiceovers match their vision.
As the animator, remember to keep your client as involved as possible throughout the process through constant communication, whether by email or any other private messaging application.
That way, you can know the answers to the following questions:
- What is the tone of the overall script or a specific line? This may be gathered during early discussions with your client, but you can always contact them, so you're 100 percent sure in the direction you and your voiceover artist are going.
- What style and role is needed for the voiceover? The style indicates how the voice is supposed to communicate. Is it professional and corporate or more fun and light-hearted? Or perhaps it’s more of a comedic video? The role is what the voiceover is for, such as whether it’s an explainer video, a commercial, or an announcement.
- What is their desired pacing for the voiceover? The pacing can usually be determined when creating and presenting the storyboard. So once that’s approved, you would have a clearer idea of how fast or slow your voiceover artists should speak.
Third, provide your voiceover artists with the necessary information for recording. This specifically means the animation script, a clear description of the scene and tone, the video’s time limit, pacing, and a couple of visuals such as the storyboard to help them form a picture in their minds of what they're doing.
Always give your voiceover artists their script and instructions in advance and make sure they have enough time to practice and prepare.
Here’s a suggestion, as soon as your client and your team approve the animation script, you can immediately send it to your voiceover artist so they can get started. If you have extra time, maybe you can meet with them beforehand and relay all the instructions.
Furthermore, providing your voiceover artists with key visuals will allow them to help you bring the animated video to life, and the result will be far better than you expected.
Fourth, secure your availability for the voiceover session. If you prefer to have the voiceover artist in the same session with you, coordinate your schedules and book your voiceover session in advance.
Being in the same session with your artist and the rest of the team will allow you to direct the voiceover much more conveniently.
This will help avoid further revisions, and you can better explain what the client wants for certain scenes and dialogues.
You can also have the client in the same session to help direct, or as a consultant for the shoot. They may have some notes on the spot that you can immediately address.
How to Navigate Voiceover Retakes or Revisions as an Animator?
If you hired a voiceover artist, make sure to set guidelines for revisions. Establishing them in advance will clarify everybody’s roles and responsibilities. Additionally, once agreed on, it holds the respective party accountable for issues along the way.
In addressing and preventing errors on the fault of the voiceover artist, you can set guidelines to avoid wrong reads, unclear or damaged audio quality, stuttering, awkward pauses, incorrect pronunciation, background noise, wrong intonations, and so on.
If worse comes to worst, you’d have to rerecord it all over again.
Additionally, you may inform them that your animation business is not responsible for covering the costs of damages on the artist’s end.
As for rerecording errors and mistakes on you or your client’s part, consider situations when the client wants to change the tone or maybe the entire script.
For example, you’re creating an entire animated video on the benefits of using a particular cable company.
It’s a serious and informative video with everything already approved by your client –– the script, the tone, the storyboard, the pacing all ready to go –– when you suddenly receive an email. Out of nowhere, your client is asking you to go in another direction.
“Let’s make it more fun,” or, “I think something’s lacking from the script.” What a hassle, it sounds like you might start from scratch or scrap a considerable part of the video.
Not only is that a waste of time and money, but it’s plain disrespectful to call things off at the last minute. That’s why you must set your guidelines and make them clear to all parties.
Another cause of rerecording would be if the directions you gave your voiceover artist are incorrect.
These are the costs your animation studio might have to cover. But, of course, that all still depend on discussions between you and your client.
The cold truth is, we can’t avoid a few errors and retakes, but it’s key to establish your limit. This will make the entire voiceover process run smoother and more conveniently.
It’s also important you provide detailed feedback to avoid further revisions. For instance, after they rehearse a line in front of you, you can comment on the pacing or the energy.
Or, if the recording session happens to span more than a few hours, you can cut a sample from a scene, present it to your client and anyone else involved, and gather feedback.
Don’t be shy to share your thoughts. Remember that you’re all working towards one goal, so it’s always better to communicate your feedback and discuss it with your voiceover artists during the recording session if you’re present.
When Should You Record an Animation Voiceover?
The answer will depend on what works best for you.
Voiceovers may be recorded before or after the animated video is produced, but never simultaneously.
If you decide to record it after the production of the animated video, your voiceover artist would have to match the timing to that of the animation, which can be a little tricky during the first few takes. This is a much more restrictive process as you’ll have to pace everything with the animation.
It may also require your artist to watch the animated video a number of times before working on it so that they can get a feel of its speed for themselves.
On the other hand, if you record the voiceover before the video is produced, you’ll be offered a bit more creative freedom, as you’re pacing the lines with the script instead of the video. The animation would be tailored around the timing of the voiceover.
The downside, however, is that the voiceover artist would have less of an idea of what the animated video wants to feel like. That’s why you’d still have to give a clear description of what exactly they’re voicing over, including how much time they have and the general vibe of the video.
What we do over here at Promoshin is we work on the voiceovers before producing the animated video. To put it simply, once we hire our voiceover talent, we give them the full visual notes and script to work with, so they can record with the complete picture in mind.
Then, we draft the first few frames in the storyboard and work on the rest of the animated video.
I also recommend you set a time limit in conjunction with the number of words in the script and make it clear to your voiceover artist. The rule of thumb in pacing a script is one minute per page, but naturally, it still depends on what your client wants to achieve.
So weigh it out and decide what’s more convenient for your animation studio, but bear in mind that voiceovers and animation should never be done at the same time.
Voiceovers are part of the production pipeline in creating animated videos. So when setting a deadline for the voiceover, you can usually set it within a reasonable 24 hours of sending the job order.
But while we recommend 24 hours, it’s always up to you to give the final deadline in the end.
The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Voiceover Artist.
When you start receiving applications for voiceover artists, you’ll have to know the ins and outs of hiring them so you won’t end up committing to a wrong hire.
Hiring freelance voiceover artists is a typical practice for animators and it’s highly recommended. Keep in mind that there’s a lot more to picking the best voiceover artist for a project than their impressive background and experience.
But let’s tackle the pros first.
One pro is that hiring voiceover artists saves you time. These are professional artists with experience and skills. If you hire one suitable for your animated video, no doubt they’ll accomplish the job in just one or two takes.
Another thing is that it will bring in experts and professionals in the industry. These people have moved around and met with a ton of producers, animators, and directors. There’s a chance they’ll be able to grasp what you need from them almost immediately.
In line with that, your advertisements are likely to draw up these professionals and allow you to meet people with the creativity and skill to capture your client’s vision easily. You can also maintain contact with these voiceover artists for other animation projects.
Over time, you’ll assemble a roster of talents that you can reach in just the snap of a finger. They’ll also save you the extra costs of advertising your job posts.
Furthermore, there are various options for talent in the industry. The chances you won’t find a voiceover artist that fits the desired tone for the project are slim or even non-existent.
As for the cons, the first is that hiring voiceover talents can be rather costly. It all depends on the artist’s own rates, so make sure you’ve prepared enough for professionals and experts.
The quality of the voiceover may also be a hit or miss, especially if it’s your first hire or if you happen to hire an inexperienced freelancer.
With an overwhelming number of talented artists, you might be under the impression that hiring just anyone is alright; they're all good anyway, right? Well, that's where you're wrong.
Every voiceover artist has their own capabilities and limitations. Some artists may fit fast-paced commercial videos, while others may be more suitable for animated educational videos.
For instance, I don’t think you’d want to hire a voice that sounds too serious for an information-packed animation on the rules of driving, lest you risk producing boring video.
Or remember our earlier example with the toy company? Say you’re tasked to create an animated commercial for a kid’s toy company, and your client is targeting it, especially little boys and girls. You’d probably seek out cute and child-like voices instead of butch and deep-voiced talents.
It will honestly take some time to find voiceover artists you can depend on for your animated videos, so better start building your roster.
What you can do as early as now is ensure your ads are published in the right and strategic places. Doing so will ensure you attract good voiceover artists, and you won’t waste any energy sifting through unsuitable applicants for your animated projects.
You can publish your advertisements and hire voiceover artists in tons of professional sites and freelance marketplaces across the internet.
Examples of professional sites include Voice123 and Bunny Studio. As for freelance marketplaces, you can rely on posting on Craigslist, Upwork, Fiverr, Bodalgo, and even social media applications, such as Facebook freelance groups, Instagram accounts, or TikTok communities.
Even simply scouring around these sites for a couple of hours will most likely reap posts of freelancers actively looking for work.
You can also post job listings on LinkedIn and Vyond. These websites will help you attract specific voiceover artists with their unique functions specially tailored to connect you to suitable candidates.
LinkedIn also introduces your animation business to an extensive professional network of creatives and other qualified candidates.
What to Look for When Hiring Voiceover Artists for your Animation?
Number one, their resume. Look through their experience. Are they fairly new or experts who have already worked with respectable names? This will also prepare your expectations if you decide to hire them.
Although you must never base your decision on the resume alone, it’s still helpful in giving you an idea of their vocal range.
Earlier, I’ve mentioned that professional voiceover artists typically take one to two days to get the job done. Inexperienced talents, on the other hand, may take longer even with your instructions. So their resume helps you know what you’re getting yourself into when hiring a voiceover artist.
It may also act as a tie-breaker between two equally competent candidates. Like, if you’re running on a small budget, you’d naturally opt for the candidate with a less intimidating resume in hopes of their fee as more budget-friendly.
Number two is their portfolio. Their portfolio will give you a taste of what they’re capable of. In some cases, it can be a crucial determinant of whether you’ll hire a certain candidate. Go through their voiceovers and look for both versatility and consistency in style and tone.
And number three, an audition tape or a personalized demo reel. Whether you want to be as precise as possible or the animated project calls for a very specific tone, requesting an audition is incredibly beneficial in gauging the best candidate for the job.
Not only does it tell you whether the candidate’s voice is fit for the video, but it also shows how well your candidate can follow instructions. You can either send them a sample script or a short portion of the animated video with the necessary notes for the audition.
When working with freelance voiceover artists, we advise you to set standardized rates based on duration. Having such saves the effort of negotiating from scratch and reflects a fair and balanced animation studio.
How in-house Voiceover Services Can Help Animators
Now, while hiring freelance voiceover artists is more common, it’s not usual for animation studios to have in-house voiceover artists. Sometimes the talents are the animators themselves.
On the upside, it’s cost-effective if you already have the right equipment. You’d be spending less time finding talent and settling rates since you’d already have reached out to your studio’s voiceover artist and agreed on the rates the moment you hired them.
It may also result in a faster turnaround time since they’d be working solely for your animation studio.
However, the resulting voiceover may not always sound as “professional”; that is if you’re doing it alone without the proper recording equipment.
So if you plan on assembling an in-house team of voiceover artists or you intend on doing them for the time being, you must have proper equipment and software. Unfortunately, this can be rather costly.
Committing to the voiceovers yourself or assigning the task to someone in your animation studio may also restrict the growth of your animation studio. You may not be able to secure certain clients because of your limited talents.
A Summary of Voiceover in Animation
Tying everything together, voiceovers are an integral aspect of your animation. They humanize your videos and add a unique quality that completes the entire message, which explains why it’s important you hire suitable voiceover artists for your client’s animation projects.
Thoroughly go through the resume, portfolio, and audition tapes of your candidates, so you can be 100 percent sure you hire someone who can turn your client’s vision to life.
There are different practices you can adapt when it comes to voiceovers –– More specifically, in recording, coordinating with your talent, and re-recording any mistakes or changes.
In a nutshell, these are securing the proper voiceover equipment and software, giving your voiceover artists all their material in advance, coordinating closely with your client to achieve their vision, directing the voiceover session, establishing guidelines for revisions, and providing appropriate feedback.
These may seem like simple practices but they are essentially the foundation for creating successful voiceovers and animation videos for your client. Of course, everything will still depend on your client and your team’s ability to capture their vision.
It can be tricky and a little confusing sometimes, but following these practices will help you stay on the right path. You know what they say, if you’re going to do something, might as well do it right.