Four key questions for a voiceover project

Voiceover projects typically have many important questions to address before going into production. However, I think these four points are the most important topics to cover with your language service provider during the quotation and planning stage.

1. Will there be any on-screen graphics with text requiring translation?

If something is important enough to display in a graphic during your video it should be translated in the video. When discussing this question be sure to define who will place the translation into the video (language service provider or studio). If the studio will place the graphics be sure and discuss the preferred file format for the text as well as any specifications on the fonts used in the files. This is especially important for languages with extended character sets like Chinese, Russian, Japanese, etc. This discussion should also cover how to handle any animations (flash, etc) in the production.

2. What style of narration is required for the project?

Typically the type of narration for a video project is defined in one of three ways. UN Style is when a few seconds of the original speaker is left in place at normal volume and then gradually decreased in favor of the voice of the voiceover talent. This is an excellent way to retain some of the flavor of the original participants of the video. Lip sync is where the voice talent tries to match the speed, tone and general demeanor of the original voice. This is the most difficult style of voiceover and typically takes a longer time to accomplish in the studio. Straight read is the easiest of the three methods and is typically only used when there are no talking heads or footage of an individual speaking into the camera. This might be used for screen casting or computer training videos where additional footage can easily be added to the screen or the screen can simply be frozen to accommodate extra narration time.

3. How many voices will be required? Will it just be one voice or multiple voices?

This topic should be covered when specifying the scope of the assignment. Even though the source video may have multiple voices the client may often opt to only use one female and one male voice to cover all of the roles. This would also be a good time to cover which voices to use. The language service provider may have samples of their voices on CD or on a website. It is important to try and match the voice types of the original video to similar voices for the localized versions of the video.

4. Is the piece going to be for commercial use? Are we required to use union or non-union people?

Many narrators are member of SAG or AFTRA which then requires a completely different type of negotiation. This is typical for commercials and infomercials.

There are many important questions to address for each video production. Each project tends to take on a life of its own! However, if you cover these four important points with your language service provider you will be on your way to a successful project.