No doubt you’ve watched a documentary or news programme and heard the presenter’s original voice in the background and a superimposed voice in your language. Bingo! This technique is called ‘voice-over’.

In today’s post, we’re going to explain what it’s all about, its main function and what sets it apart from other similar audiovisual techniques.

V.O. or voice-over

When we talk about voice-over, we’re referring to the production technique that uses a superimposed voice. This technique involves recording the voice of a speaker who doesn’t appear on screen.

In order to explain what voice-over is, though, we need to talk about voice acting, as V.O. depends on this professional voice recording mode. Broadly speaking, it is a kind of oral translation or interpretation played over the voice of the original character.

This service is mostly used when translating documentaries, series, reality shows and adverts.

The benefits of voice-over

One of the main reasons behind the emergence of voice-over is to do with the sense of credibility that it contributes. In fact, this was one of the main reasons why voice-over first appeared in documentaries.

Another of the reasons is related to the sense of drama. The ability to see and hear people express their feelings is a great television resource for increasing viewer numbers. This is why many programmes prefer to employ this technique.

How does voice-over differ from dubbing?

You’re probably wondering what the difference is between voice-over and dubbing.

In dubbing, the person’s voice in the original language is entirely replaced by a substitute voice in the target language. This technique is often used in films or series.

In voice-over, however, the original voice is still heard behind the superimposed voice. The volume of the former is simply decreased so that the viewer can hear the latter over the top, without completely removing the original character’s voice. Therefore, unlike in dubbing, there is no need to synchronise the movement of the character’s lips with the translation.

It’s also worth noting that V.O. is preferable to subtitling in certain audiovisual productions. The viewer can focus their attention on what is happening on screen, without having to divert their gaze to read the subtitles.

When is voice-over used?

This mode has a number of applications and functions:

  • To aid a character when their thoughts or intention are not entirely clear.
  • As a resource to give an animated character a voice.
  • As an educational or descriptive resource in documentaries, for example, in which a narrator describes what is happening without appearing on screen.
  • In interview or news programmes to describe what is happening in images or videos shown at the same time.
  • As a commercial resource, as more and more adverts employ this technique to advertise a specific product or service.

How to do voice-over like a pro

When it comes to putting this technique into practice, it’s important to follow a series of steps.

The first step is the transcription of the audio file. This involves listening to the original audio and producing a kind of script in the target language. Next comes the technical preparation that enables the file to be translated/adapted, followed by the voice recording. The resulting audio track is then edited by trimming and mixing it in order to adapt the audio to the on-screen image.

As we’ve said, this mode is more flexible than dubbing and it doesn’t have to be particularly precise in terms of adapting the track to the image. That said, there shouldn’t there be large time differences between the original audio and the superimposed track.

Leave it to the experts! Get in touch today

Trusting a team of experts who offer professional voice-over services is key. This mode is closely linked with translation, one of the phases prior to recording the audio that will be broadcast in the country you’re targeting. There are also other alternatives that directly recur to an interpretation technique that reduces the time and the number of phases.

Here at Tatutrad, we’re experts in professional translation, interpretation and transcription. If you have any questions, go ahead and get in touch with us via our contact form.