How many types of Narration can you name?


The average person who knows what “voice over” means (and right off, that’s a small percentage of the population), after learning there are various “genres,” would guess there are maybe half a dozen genres. Actually, depending on how genres are subdivided, we count 26, or if you count some major sub-genres, as many as 30.

To wit:

Animation • Announcements • Audiobook • Biography • Character • Commercials • Corporate • Documentary • eLearning & Education • Exercise • Government • Imaging • Infomercial • Inspiration, Relaxation • Internet Audio • Kids • Medical & Pharmaceutical • Non-Profit • Podcast • Political • Promo & Trailer • Public Service Announcement (PSA) • Telephony • Tours • Travelogue • Video Games

Of these, Animation, Commercials and Audiobooks are very popular. But Animation isn’t always an entry-level field, Audiobooks require a special set of skills and capabilities, and Commercials is only 5% of the VO business.

What’s the largest genre? Narration, by far. In fact, Narration comprises 92% of our industry’s voicing jobs. Not only does it include a wide variety of obvious subgenres, it’s the catch-all for just about any type of voice-over that doesn’t fit elsewhere.

Here are just some of the various types of Narration. You’ll note that many of them cross over into other, more specific genres. However, none of these would be out of place on your Narration demo, if you’re very good at them.

1. TV/Video documentary (history, nature, travelogues, cinema verité, sports films, etc.)

2. Voice-mail and telephone automation systems. Although Telephony is a distinct and growing genre for obvious reason, many people lump it in with narration. Other forms of computerized audio, too. Either of these includes long announcements (e.g., on-hold promotional messages) and short phrases that are concatenated by computer, possibly based on user voice or touchpad input.

3. Educational videos. With production capabilities so ubiquitous these days, educational videos are not at all limited to what substitute teachers used to show on rainy days. They’re all over the place, many of them in need of experienced professional help.

4. E-learning. This might be an interactive computer learning tool, or any sort of educational video or audio presentation. Even a college course.

5. “Explainer” videos. These usually explain what a product is or does and/or how it works.

6. Self-help and how-to videos. The function of these is obvious. They’re more nuts-and-bolts than the usual Explainer.

7. Medical educational video (to practitioner or patient). This is like other educational, how-to or explainer work, but to patients or a professional audience.

8. Website audio. This can be anything from short phrases of instruction, to a video hosted on the website.

9. Corporate presentation. Part documentary, part sales pitch, the tone of voice should match the company’s desired public personality.

10. Children’s stories. Usually shorter than your typical audiobook, and sometimes closer to animation, in that each character’s voice might be unique (rather than a variation of the narrator’s own voice). But when Mom or Grandpa reads a bedtime story, they don’t necessarily do character voices, and (as with adult audiobooks) character voices aren’t always the case in this subgenre.

11. Infomercials. Whether on TV, on the Web, or a store display, who hasn’t encountered this special long-form pitch?

12. Trade-show exhibits. This includes anything from a video that runs in a loop at a trade-show booth, to recorded narration that might be paired (for example) with live demonstrators.

13. YouTube (etc.) videos. This actually includes everything from animated entertainment and sales pitches, to subjects such as how to choose a guitar. It’s such a huge field that there are bound to be VO jobs in it that can only be described as “narration,” and new ideas are constantly emerging.

14. Audiobooks. Although a very specialized form of Narration and thus its own genre, many books are, of course, “narrated,” so we ought to include it here.

15. Others include Announcements • Public Service Announcements • Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR) • Biography • Character acting • Corporate & Industrial • Documentary • ELearning & education • Exercise • Government • Inspiration & Relaxation • Internet & websites • Kids • Medical & pharmaceutical • Political motivation • Tours

We’ve left some out, but you get the idea. Some of the inclusions seem to make no sense, but there is one general commonality: If it’s longer than your typical commercial, some people call it Narration.

What other Narration subgenres might you include in this list? Almost any long form, at least loosely. In fact, many people outside the industry refer to any voice spoken over video (and not synched with the lips of an on-screen character) as a “narration.” Which is why it’s easily the case that most pro voice over talent earn most of their income from this genre.

So should you include all of these in a Narration demo? Not likely, since it’s important to position yourself as a specialist in whatever marketable genre or niche you do best. But if a prospective client is looking for a type of work that’s in your wheelhouse, and you don’t think of it as “narration” but the client does, don’t be surprised. Go for it!

But wait, there's more!

One of my first narration gigs was an infomercial for a hair product. Thanks for helping me remember it. :)

That 5% number for commercial work shocks a lot of new talent because that's what they think they'll be doing. Sad.

great reminder!

Thanks for reminding me how much variety is out there. I feel like a kid in a candy store ;)

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