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  • Writer's pictureDrew Carpetner

Voice Over Types

Updated: May 9


Voice Over Types

What are the Voice Over Types?


Understanding the landscape of voiceover subgenera is essential for matching the right voice to your project. Many actors will specialize in one or two of the below, so if your project is firmly within the bounds of one of the below categories, it may be wise to look for actors well known for that type of work. Their experience will likely shine brighter if they are playing on familiar turf but not always. Keep in mind, it’s wise to consider when to break the rules. For example, a movie trailer read can sometimes really put a commercial over the top, so you might be better off thinking from the standpoint of the style you’re looking for, rather than the medium the project will exist in. Here’s a breakdown of common voiceover styles and how they align with different project genres:


Commercial Voice Overs


Some great examples on the reel below, wink wink ;)


There really are no rules in the commercial realm, all voices have a seat here and it’s safe to make the blanket assertion that all will have considerable experience in commercial. The market for commercials being as big as it is, it takes a lot to stand out. Below, is commercial work from yours truly.



Another great example is John C. Riley (from the movie Stepbrothers) for TurboTax




On first look, most would think a brand like TurboTax would want a trust inspiring straight read. Instead, they cast Riley, who delivered his signature ‘’lovable idiot’’ read and it was a huge win. We all feel like an idiot when doing our taxes. Riley made it memorable and relatable AF.


  • Where to Find Commercial Actors: This is the largest sector of voiceover work and all talent have experience here. Your local talent agent, social media, casting site, or Google search will return a plethora of options. Again, don’t be afraid to look for actors specializing in other styles if your project dictates it. In advertising, boldness pays huge dividends.

  • How It's Priced: Commercial is the largest segment of VO. SAG Scale and GVAA are good starting points, but rates are all over the map for commercial. Again, you typically get what you pay for. If you want to play the long game and build a network of actors you can call on, you would be wise to approach professionals with a reasonable budget considering the usage, which is an industry term that basically means, ‘’how many people will see it”. We will address usage more in the following chapters


In Show Narration


Talent who succeeds in show narration are masters of subtle nuance. They understand how to shape the arc of the story in a compelling manner, and it takes a long time to master. This kind of read leaves the narrator with less creative legroom and a bad narrator can absolutely ruin an otherwise great project, while a great one can spin it into gold. Think of David Attenborough and Sigourney Weaver’s work on Planet Earth. This is one of the most difficult genera to execute, requiring years of dedicated practice, so don’t skimp on the voiceover talent


  • Where to find them: Narration is a small subset of VO. Actors with lots of experience in this space can be reliably found with major market talent agencies.

  • How It's Priced: Both union and non-union.v



Explainer Videos


Characteristics: Relatable, friendly, knowledgeable.


A new niche in VO. Most talent has experience with these, so finding qualified talent is relatively easy and the execution isn’t overly demanding like in show narration or promo.

  • Where to find them: Anywhere voiceover talent is sold.

  • How It’s Priced: No set standards beyond GVAA or SAG rate cards. Rates will differ based on the size and reach of the client the work is produced for and vary with paid or unpaid placement.




Promo


Characteristics: Cutting and quick.


TV Promo is a world all its own. Actors specializing in this type of work are masters of timing and clear articulation. Promos are short and packed with scenes from the show being promoted, so the VO must get in, get out, and be heard.


  • Where to Find Them: This is a small world. NY/LA agencies are your best bet.

  • How It’s Priced: Mostly SAG scale but non-union promo work is out there.



E-Learning Voice Overs


Characteristics: Educational, informative, and friendly.


E-learning is an area of VO that is ripe for innovation. 99% of it is pretty boring but there are more and more companies branching out and using their training programs to impart company culture and stand out as great places to work. I always smile when I realize I book an e-learning job for a producer who’s been empowered to really make something out of their training. For jobs like that, the requisite clear and concise voice is still required but versatility and comedic timing play a huge part in being able to elevate corporate training into something entertaining and memorable.


  • Where to find them: The skill in traditional E-learning mostly comes down to being detail-oriented. Having a rock-solid workflow to deliver highly accurate work spread across sometimes thousands of files is a skill in itself. Agents don’t typically deal in e-learning, so your best options are LinkedIn, Google search, or a casting site.

  • How It’s Priced: $0.25 - $0.50 per word, usually non-union.




Animation and Video Game Voice Overs


Characteristics: Versatile, dynamic, and capable of performing a range of emotions and characters.


Animation is its own world. Actors in this space are frequently celebrities but always highly talented. The ability to bring characters to life and give them dimensionality is a highly prized and rare skill. Most of this work is exclusive to LA and NY.


  • Where to find them: Top-tier NY/LA agencies, almost exclusively.

  • How It’s Priced: SAG Scale for most projects but indie projects work non-union.




Corporate Voice Overs


Characteristics: Professional, authoritative, and confident.


Corporate voices are 99% the typical tone we all know, pretty boring really. That said, corporate projects that veer even a little outside the lines are very noticeable and a great way for a company to cement its brand image and culture. Again, creativity is highly rewarded.


  • Where to find them: Nearly every VO out there does a fair amount of corporate work. Any of the listed sources will be rich with qualified talent.

  • How It’s Priced: No set standard. See the GVAA Rate Guide for what a professional is likely to charge.




Trailer


Characteristics: Typically, big and bold. Few possess both the pipes and the skill for a traditional trailer read but when someone does, they can elevate a short ad for a movie into something much more. There are very very few talents working frequently in this space. If you are looking for a known trailer voice, expect to pay the SAG scale.


  • Where To Find Them: The Trailer represents the most elite group of voice talent. Most are repped by managers specializing in this type of work and there are very few of them, with Cope Management and Jason Helzner being well-known.

  • How It’s Priced: SAG/AFTRA rates, almost exclusively.




Radio Imaging


Characteristics: Radio imaging is a world in itself. Extensive knowledge of imaging production and audio processing is a prerequisite. You will find almost all talents succeeding in this realm have a history of working in the radio industry.


Each of these areas of the business is occupied by talent with different skills which can greatly impact the effectiveness of your project. The key is to understand the emotional and psychological effects these styles have on an audience and to choose accordingly based on the goals of your project


  • Where To Find Them: Several big-name talent agencies rep imaging talent.

  • How It’s Priced: Annual Retainer with a monthly fee per page, non-union.





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