How to direct voice over actors online

Photo by Radek Grzybowski on Unsplash

Voice over actors are talented professionals that can take your scripts and turn them into beautiful voice overs; however, even the best voice over actors can’t read minds. Voice actors need direction, and not just any direction; they need the right kind of direction that will enable them to take your project and produce a high-quality voice over that you’ll love.

So how do you effectively direct voice actors online? Well, lucky for you, we’ve created a blueprint that outlines the 7 most important elements to direct voice actors. If you stick to these 7 key points, then you’ll enjoy a life full of beautiful voice overs that hit the mark every time for your projects.

1. It all starts with the purpose

The first and most important key point that you must identify and relate to the voice over actors is the purpose of your project. The purpose is key because it sets the tone, mood, and theme of how the voice over actors will approach your project. The following 4 questions must be addressed every time and communicated to your voice actors:

  • Who is the target demographic for this voice over? 
    • Be as specific as you can. Are you targeting males between the ages of 20 – 30 that live in a major metropolitan city? Or how about moms who love to enroll their kids in after-school programs and sports teams? The more specific the better.
  • How do I find my target demographic?
    • Your target demographic is your customers. Who is buying your product or service? Who is telling their friends about your product or service? These are the people you want to target so that you can increase your business.
  • What will this voice over be used for?
    • Now that we know your target demographic, tell your voice actor what this voice over will be used for? Will it be used for a movie trailer, online radio advertisement, video game, documentary, podcast, audio guide, or TV commercial?
  • Where will this voice over be played?
    • The medium of delivery is also very important. How will your target demographic listen to this voice over: online radio, traditional radio, YouTube, TV, movie theater, or mobile device?
  • What is the main goal or call to action?
    • If you’re creating an ad, then your goal or main call to action will be to drive your target demographic to go to your website and make a purchase.
    • If you’re creating a documentary video, then your goal is to immerse the viewer in the world that you’re documenting.
    • If you’re creating a video game, then your goal is to create a meaningful relationship between the player and the game character.
  • The next step
    • Write down the answers to the 4 questions above. We recommend Evernote for taking notes and sharing them online. Once you have written down the answers, send us an email at support@voicebunny.com so that we can provide you with feedback.

2. Don’t be shy — share those additional materials!

As a creative professional, I know that you’ve not only worked hard on your script, but in addition, you’ve worked hard on the animation, filming, or even illustration for your project. So don’t be shy about sharing these creative elements when directing voice actors — it will only further help them create voices that fit your project perfectly.

But what if my creative assets are private?

Great question! First of all, make sure that every voice actor you work with signs an NDA* (non-disclosure agreement). Second of all, if you decide to work with an online voice over production house such as VoiceBunny or marketplace such as Voice123, make sure to select that your project is private. This will hide your project from search engines.

* All voice over actors on VoiceBunny sign an NDA before fulfilling projects for buyers

3. Utilize 3 (and only 3) keywords that describe your needs

It’s tempting to share a ton of keywords that describe the way you want your project to be read; however, when it comes to keywords, the less the better.

Information overload

Information overload is a serious epidemic that many managers fall victim to. You know what I’m talking about — it’s the excess information that prevents your team or contractors from doing their work in an effective and efficient manner.

If you bombard the voice actor with too many keywords, then they’ll feel overwhelmed and confused. Stick to the following three types of keywords when describing your projects:

  1. The read should sound: fun!
  2. The read should NOT sound: professional
  3. The listener should feel: excited

These 3 questions clearly address the tone, feel, and emotional response that listeners should feel when listening to the voice. Trust us, your voice actor will thank you for being so clear and not overloading them with descriptive words.

4. Link to examples of voices you like

Did you hear a voice on YouTube, SoundCloud, or Vimeo that you really like? Or perhaps you have the audio of a project you produced somewhere else and would like to produce a similar voice? If so, make sure to send your voice over actors a link or downloadable file so that they can listen to it and understand what you’re looking for.

Alternatively, you can record yourself reading the script in the manner you want and send your voice to the voice over actors.

VoiceBunny allows you to record your voice right on the project submitting page to make giving directions even easier.

5. Use time stamps to synchronize your script to an existing video

First and foremost, I’d like to recommend that you create your voice over before you create your video. Why? If you create the voice over first, it will be much easier for the video production team to create a video that fits the timing of the voice.

However, if you already created your video, then make sure to include timestamps in your script. This will allow your voice over to time his voice to the scenes of the video.

How to timestamp your script

Timestamps are very simple and straight forward to create. Before each line of your script, add the time from which the sentence should be read. Take a look at these examples:

[00:23 – 00:49]
And as Spring came upon us, Mr. Bunny emerged from his nest, ready to take on the world and any challenges that comes his way


[01:34 – 01:58]
Mr. Bunny boasts the power of super sight, super hearing, and the uncanny ability to fulfill voice over projects faster and better than anyone else

6. Tricky words in your script? Tell your voice actor how to pronounce them

This is very important — always assume that the voice over actors do not know how to pronounce difficult or uncommon words. Trust me, this will save you a lot of revision time. Especially be aware of uncommon product names, company names, or author names. Sure, everyone can pronounce “John”, but check out this name: Jun Loayza. How on earth would you pronounce that?

Here is how to give instruction on how to pronounce words:

  • Karaoke: care-eh-oh-kee
  • Audi: ow-dee (not aww-dee)
  • Danbury: dan-berry
  • Jun Loayza: june low-ai-zah

7. Utilize [brackets] to include specific directions in your script

When you want to give specific directions within your script, utilize [brackets]. Voice over actors are aware that words in brackets are directions and should not be read. Make sure to be clear, precise, and concise with your directions in brackets so that it doesn’t break up the flow of the read.

See an example below of how to utilize brackets within a script:

[Script 1: Lesson 2, Listening]
[Woman who sounds like an airline stewardess:]
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the crew I have the pleasure to welcome you aboard flight 707 to London.
Prepare for takeoff and put your seats in the upright position. We also ask you to please remain seated with your seat belts fastened at all times.
The duration of our flight will be three hours. [Slight pause] Once we reach our cruising altitude, we will offer you a variety of drinks and snacks for purchase.
Thank you for your attention. We wish you a pleasant flight.

[Script 2: Lesson 4, Listening]
[Ed]:
Maureen, I was thinking that for our summer vacation this year, we could head to the mountains and do some rock climbing.
[Maureen]:
But we were in the mountains last year, hiking for days. Remember the mosquitos?
[Ed is excited and elated]
[Ed]: But it was awesome! Let’s go again.
[Maureen]: No, let’s do something different this year. We can rent some kayaks and go kayaking in the ocean.
[Ed]: Sure, we could do that. But I think that would be a little boring. Let’s travel to San Francisco and go bungee jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge!
[Maureen]: That’s not even legal! You want to be crazy? Let’s travel to Africa and go on a safari!
[Ed]: You call THAT crazy? That’s good for a day of taking photos at best. We can go to Africa, but let’s instead go surfing in the cold, shark-infested waters off the horn of Africa.
[Maureen]: I was only kidding about going to Africa. That’s too expensive. Why don’t we go to the beach and rent jet skis?
[Ed]: And afterwards we could trade in the jet skis for scuba gear? You know I’ve always wanted to become certified to scuba dive.
[Maureen]: Yes, but I don’t think you’re committed enough to follow through. If you want to be in the water so much, how about we go rafting in the Colorado River? I’m sure you’ll be overboard half the time!

Afterword

You are now an expert at directing voice over actors online. Feels good, huh? When you receive a thank you email from a voice actor because of your clear and concise directions, make sure to give us a shout out 🙂

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please do reach out to us here at our contact page.