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We're not the guys that refer to those good old days, but today is an exception. We want to take you back to the time when you didn't have Wi-Fi in your hotels and you were forced to watch whatever the TV was throwing at you.

Being somewhere in France or Switzerland watching American films with French-voice overs, was entertaining. The example that springs to mind is Dances with Wolves. Kevin Costner speaking French, fluently of course, in a high-pitched voice is hilarious. We've seen the film in French dozens of times, but still don't get it.

That teaches us a lesson, apart from the language barrier: The voice-over business is a risky business. A voice-over can make or break the message you want to put out there, and here's why.

1. Character

Choose the character of your voice wisely. What do you want your voice to represent? Is it authority, creativity, sensuality, a sense of mystery, energy?
Banks in general favor the elder white man with a deep voice, for a sense of authority. And the less authority they want to express, the younger the voice they choose. For the same reason supermarkets and retail chains favor the sort of chaotic housewife voice. That voice is an authority on spending household money wisely but has a touch of creativeness that women, and men, want to identify with.

2. Intonation

This usually goes wrong when a voice-actor does not know what he is trying to say. Putting emphasis on the wrong parts of your message can turn pretty nasty. The obvious mistake is a definition that is spoken as a question. Say goodbye to your authority. But we've seen worse. Sometimes what is told is the opposite of what is meant, just because of a way off intonation.

3. Timing is everything

This happens a lot if you work with pre-ordered voice-overs. It can be fixed, if you 're a kick ass editor with a talent for meddling with the spoken, but it is hard. If the energy of your visual message doesn't coincide with your audial message, people do take notice and forget what you were actually trying to say. So make sure that what is said, is said at the moment you want it to be said.

4. Conclusion

Was that it, is not how you want people to react after listening to your message. But this happens if your voice-over doesn't finish it off. It can be in the actual text, which is a completely different problem, but more often it is in the lack of energy shift in the last spoken sentence. We'll try to simplify our point, here. You want your voice-over to put some magic into the last sentence, so the audience will naturally understand it has come to an end. You can opt for building up extra energy or gradually slowing down. The how doesn't really matter, as long as it happens.

But enough talking for now lets turn to a best case and a worst case. We've selected two great adventurous shorts, so you will enjoy the films even with a very poor voice-over.

Worst case

Character: not that bad, just lacking energy

Intonation: non-existent

Timing: not always spot on:

Conclusion: which conclusion?

Best case

Character: Beautiful, mythical voice that suits the landscape

Intonation: The voice leads you just like the waves do

Timing: Its speeds up, slows down, it takes hold and never lets go

Conclusion: It gradually slows down. So subtle, it is natural

DARK SIDE OF THE LENS from Astray Films on Vimeo.

Make your message heard with a voice that delivers!

Respectfully yours,


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