Narration Vs. Voiceover - All That You Need to Know
What Are Voiceovers?
Voiceover is a technique of adding audio to a video which explains, elaborates upon, or provides other additional information about the content. Video content can sometimes be opaque to viewers. Whether it’s because of a linguistic difference, the tutorial nature of the video, or a lack of audio to begin with, voiceover fills these informational gaps by detailing exactly what is being shown on screen at all times.
Voiceover is usually done by a behind-the-scenes reader, as opposed to any actor or character featured in the video itself. There are certain exceptions to this, as will be explained below, but generally voiceover is a component of video editing, rather than a creative choice. It is a means of tailoring the presentation of a piece of content to proper audiences rather than an artistic trope. To put it more simply, voiceover is a technical framework, not a creative technique.
What Are Narrations?
Narration serves a similar purpose to voiceover in that it is a means of explaining the action occurring on screen to make it more comprehensible and straightforward for audiences. Narration, however, is more focused on clarifying complex or implicit aspects of the storyline of a piece of content. Sometimes the structure of a story is intentionally rearranged or made non-linear for artistic reasons; sometimes characters don’t explain their actions or feelings; sometimes historical background must be explained to convey important context for a video. All these situations are examples of where narration is useful.
Most of the time, narration is performed by one of the people in the video itself. As it relates more specifically to storytelling, it follows that the narrator will attempt to make aspects of the narrative itself clearer to the audience. As well, because narration is a creative choice, it will be better integrated into the content itself. It will tend not to be overlaid on top of a video but incorporated into the flow of the action itself.
Is Voiceover a Type of Narration?
Of course, the division between voiceover and narration is not so clear-cut in reality. Though narration may act as a part of the storyline itself and voiceover provide appended supplementary information, the actual action of the two may, at times, be identical. Take, as an example, a section of video where a character is performing some kind of complex task like the repair of a car. Narration and voiceover might both explain exactly what is going on, but will do so for different purposes. Narration might make use of the scene to demonstrate the meticulous or dedicated nature of the character on screen. Voiceover might just be clarifying a complex mechanical procedure for the edification of viewers. In both cases, the explanation might be identical, but serve different purposes within the context of the video.
In documentaries, too, narration and voiceover may prove nearly indistinguishable, as the audio overlaid atop the footage may seek both to explain what is going on and create a narrative. Trying to strictly differentiate the two may be impossible, but a general distinction is that voiceover is a disembodied and informative tool, while narration is an integrated creative storytelling technique.
The Ideal Way to Use Voiceover in Videos
A good voiceover will make a video more clear to viewers or inform them of supplementary info about the content which is otherwise inaccessible. Once you have a completed piece of footage, you should watch through it to see what parts will be confusing for viewers or where they’ll want to know more. Then you’ll record a script to overlay on the footage, filling in all the gaps.
Of course, you won’t want to just read over your video. Audio referring to specific scenes should be played over those scenes and not extend into others. As well, don’t feel pressured to create audio for every second of footage. If you talk at your audience the whole time about every minute detail of the action and add copious amounts of other irrelevant information, it will only distract from what’s going on on screen and overwhelm viewers. Remember: voiceover may be disembodied and obviously separate from the action, but it need not distract or diminish the viewing experience of the audience.
How Voiceover Is Used Across Different Industries or Niches
Voiceover serves a broadly informative and explanatory role, but may be used differently depending on the content it’s applied to.
For documentaries, voiceover may add context to footage which is unfamiliar to viewers. In documentaries on the environment, animals, space, geology, and other natural phenomena, this can be especially necessary and quite educational.
Certain films which receive critical acclaim may be re-released with special director’s cuts which contain relevant behind-the-scenes info about its creation and production. Directors might talk about artistic vision and writing, actors might share anecdotes or talk about constructing characters, and technicians might explain visual effects used or technical difficulties which occurred.
Tutorial videos make great use of voiceover to make complex tasks and processes simple for viewers. Things like repairing machines and electronics, artistic techniques, bureaucratic processes (tax filing, mortgage application, etc.), and device or appliance troubleshooting all can be made clearer through the addition of voiceover explanation.
These are just a few examples of the utility of voiceover, but in each case viewers are better able to engage with content through informed explanation.
The Essential Elements of a Good Voiceover
Voiceover has many different applications, but regardless of how it’s used, an effective voiceover will always exhibit several key attributes.
A good voiceover will be clear both vocally and syntactically. When creating a voiceover you have the choice to either do it yourself, find a vocal actor to do voiceover for you, or use a synthetic vocalizer to read a script. In all these cases, make sure that the voice doing the talking is clean, crisp, loud, and speaking at an even pace. If your voiceover is garbled, soft, robotic, or obscured by a heavy accent, viewers will be less able to understand what’s being said.
Voiceover should complement your video, not overpower or disrupt it. Adding voiceover requires editing to get it lined up properly with the action on screen. Make sure the audio that’s playing is relevant to the scene and that it makes sense given what’s going on. If there is any other important audio playing during your video (environmental sounds, dialogue, etc.) make sure that your voiceover isn’t playing directly over it and drowning it out.
Overall, a voiceover should enhance the viewing experience of your video. If the information included in your voiceover is uninteresting, unimportant, or irrelevant, don’t include it. Voiceovers are tools for helping viewers better engage with your content, not random fact generators.
The Ideal Way to Use Narration in Videos
Narration should assist in the telling of a story. It should provide viewers with supplementary information about the action of a video, but, unlike voiceover, this information should pertain to character motivations, historic context, narrative connections, and other story-based details.
Narration should be smoothly integrated with the flow of the content so that it becomes a part of the story as opposed to commentary on it. It should be a way of telling the story, rather than explaining it. As well, narration will usually be read by one of the actors in a video, so consider vocal cadence, tone, and clarity when choosing talent.
The Essential Elements of Good Narration
The defining characteristics of good narration are much the same as those for voiceover but with some slight differences.
You’ll still want your narrator to speak clearly and slowly, but things like accents and tone will be less important and even necessary if the narrator’s character in the video exhibits these vocal traits.
Narration shouldn’t disturb the flow of your video, but this is often less of a concern, since it is actually part of the story itself. Narration can even be made to butt into and interrupt the action for comedic reasons.
Narration is a storytelling technique which should edify the audience about integral and hidden aspects of the story itself. If it doesn’t contribute to the video artistically or provide information which is necessary to its understanding, however, it doesn’t need to be there.
Voiceover and narration should both strive to enhance a viewing experience, but the rules for narration are often more flexible, given that it tends to be used as a creative medium.
How to Create Them Using Maestra
Narration and voiceover can both enhance the quality and accessibility of your video content. Both have the ability to attract new viewers and help them engage with your videos in ways otherwise impossible. Both are also achievable through Maestra’s cutting-edge software.
Maestra’s suite makes adding voiceover and narration to videos easy using the automatic voiceover tool. Simply upload your video and your voiceover script to Maestra’s website in any file format, then select from over fifty languages to generate your text to audio. Choose from a range of vocal synthesizers, and in seconds or minutes, you’ll have a complete audio track automatically overlaid on your video. Use Maestra’s straightforward and versatile editing application to add the finishing touches and make sure audio is lined up properly, then you’re free to export your project in whatever file format you desire or even share it right from Maestra’s website.
Maestra’s all-in-one suite is the perfect toolkit for content creators of all kinds, offering solutions for transcription, translation, captioning, subtitles, dubbing, virtual collaboration, and more. To see what Maestra’s industry-leading technology can do to revolutionize your creative process and workflow, visit our website and sign up for a free trial today.