Voice Over Education Blog

January 2017

When should VO actors act? And when not?


Is every voice-over artist an actor? No. Acting is of course part of voice-over work, but is also a profession unto itself. Or let’s call it an art form, a skill, or a calling. It’s all of those. And just as not all acting skills translate directly to voice-over, there are some voice-over skills that would not ordinarily be called “voice acting.”

As we (and others) have said many times here, acting skills can be applied in the vast majority of voice-over work -- in most genres – but there are times when a voice artist, even the voice actor should not act. When do you suppose those are?

Let’s answer that by first asking, how can acting skill help you in a voice-over?

Acting smarts can be helpful just about anytime. Even genres as seemingly cut-and-dried as telephony and announcements sometimes are (“For sales, press 1 ...”), or as stylized as promotion (“... that’s Thursday on this channel”), there are plenty of situations when empathy or imagination come into play.

But most of the time, when we talk about acting in voice-over, we mean genres such as audiobooks, animation, characters in commercials, videogames, and such – situations where you’re clearly called upon to play a character or express emotion.

Another such situation is narration. Sometimes the narrator (in a book, a video or whatever the story) is a character, either literally (as when Ismael narrates Moby Dick) or stylistically (as when Charles Dance sets the mood in Nat Geo Wild’s “Savage Kingdom”). In fact, even when the narrator of a video, book or other tale is not a character, it can help to think of yourself as a character, if you can do so consistently and credibly. By adopting the mindset of a credible character, you’re able to present the story more credibly. It also expands the range of tones you can choose from in conveying the story.

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