What IS Voice Acting Really?

You’ll know that to work in voiceover and do voice acting, you need to be across different kinds of scripts and script structures…and there are quite a few.

You also need to be across all the different ways language is used in those scripts and know how to convert that language in a way that serves the script, and the most important elements of the script, the concept and the context.

Not having a good understanding of these two elements is why so many voice actors fail to get much (if any) traction at the high end of voiceover.

The way scripts are written is mainly informed by two things

  • The message, and
  • The audience the message needs to reach

Within the message will be the concept, (the idea) and the context (the environment or setting).

Every script is different!

So every script requires something different from the voiceover artist.

I hear many rookie demo’s with different tracks sounding all the same; same, pace, same volume, same energy and same rhythms.

Very boring to listen to!  🙁

I want to talk about four different styles of scripts you might come across and give you some tips and techniques that will help you understand the differences between certain scripts and how to apply ‘voice acting’ to the message, to help your performance stand out.

Voice acting, in a nutshell, is the skill of communicating an attitude or emotion that clearly demonstrates your ‘take’ or opinion of what’s being said in the script.

You might be handed a script that is all information, designed to instruct or advise, to teach or make aware.

I call this ‘announcer style’ 

Often these will be medical or business scripts, training programs, e-learning or instructional videos or audio, or they can be a commercial that is delivering information in very stylized way. By that I mean, not in language that we would use in conversation.

In announcer style scripts, you are speaking ‘on behalf’ of your client.

Rather than applying voice acting, (which can use emotion) these scripts require you to be a confident, skilled reader, who understands that you’re delivering information that the listener needs to understand.  You need to know where to put emphasis in the script.  To do that, you find the key words that illustrate what this information is about.  I’ve underlined the most important phrases and words.

To give emphasis, you simply travel a little slower through the phrase or word.

Of course, (and I write about it a lot) one of the most important things to do when you first work through a script, is to separate each different thought or idea.  Sometimes, there is more than one idea within a sentence.  To give you an idea of what I mean, I’ve put a forward slash after each separate thought or idea.  That where you need to pause, in order to make meaning clearer to your listening audience.

Voice Over and Voice Acting is not about correct sentence structure, or even honouring punctuation.  It’s about story-telling and meaning.

Here’s an example of this kind of script.

“Put your health first…/with a premium health check/ in the hands of experts.
 Epworth Health Check,/ is a comprehensive medical examination that gives you a complete overview of your health/and offers peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
 The process/ is designed to give you the best chance for all important prevention/ and early detection of illness and disease.
 Take the first step to better health./ Book an Epworth Health Check/ today.”

You might be handed a ‘conversational style’ script

These scripts require you to sound as though you’ve just discovered some information and are now sharing it with a friend.

Structurally, these scripts are written to closely resemble natural rhythms of conversation.

However, they are still wrapped around a product, a concept and a message.

Often, these scripts will contain passages, phrases or words that require ‘voice acting’.

That is, telling the story by giving ‘some’ of the words or phrases in the script more meaning.

Here’s an example of that kind of script. I’ve underlined all the words that you need to emphasise in order to tell the story.

“FV:           At first we couldn’t understand why our daughter was having tummy pains all the time.
                   Eventually we worked out it happened whenever she had milk.
                   We tried substitutes but she didn’t like the taste and was just as miserable.
                   Then we tried A2 Milk.
                   I don’t really understand why, I think it comes from a different cow or something, but she can drink a big glass of A2 and feel fine afterwards.”

As you’ll notice in the script above, I’ve underlined ‘only the words that are about the story’ of this script. The story is also the ‘concept’.

A2 Milk could help children who appear to have a milk intolerance.

Clearly, this is a person (could be male or female) who is talking about their personal experience to someone else (imagine a friend). That’s the ‘context’.

In scripts like these, you always need to find the story words (I call it the story thread).

Notice that if you just read the story thread, you get a short-form version of exactly what this ad is about and for.

Not only are those the only words that are important. They are the words that you apply voice acting to.

***Very important.

NO other words in the script are more important than those in the story thread, so you don’t need to emphasis them.  If you do, you take focus away from what you’re really talking about.

Then there are scripts that I called ‘character driven’.

These are the scripts where no product is mentioned, often not until the end of the script, and often by another (or different) voice.

Here’s an example

 Sometimes I light some candles, put on some Michael Bublé, sit in a hot bath, and let just the whole being a mum thing drain away…
 …but I think that, even though I like the occasional break from being a mother, there’s no other job in the world I’d rather have.
Mum’s. What would we do without them? Treat yours to an indulgence package at Harmony Beauty Spa”

It’s pretty clear what the ‘concept’ is here, ‘Mother’s Day.  A woman (who is a mother) talking about how she finds time to relax’.

The ‘context’, setting or environment may take some playing with to find the best way to tell this story.

Try to imagine that you’re ‘doing’ or ‘feeling’ what she is saying and express those feelings or physicalisation through the words.

The voice acting required for this kind of script is to really immerse yourself in the environment that you’ve created in your imagination and play with making the words sound as though they are just coming straight off the top of your head.  That is, you don’t know what you’re going to say, until you say it.  Otherwise it’ll just sound like you’re reading.

And lastly, there are ‘character style’ scripts

In these scripts, the character identifies themself first up in the script.  As in, “Hello. I’m Luke, qualified electrician”, or, “Hi. I’m Fluffy, the house cat.”

This ad begins in this way and the ‘concept’ is presented.

The concept or idea for this ad is that ‘It’s expensive and will take forever to pay off a mortgage’. The context, ‘but banks think that’s great…so does Karen on their behalf’

By the way, Karen is leaving a message.

Then there’s an announcer Tag, giving the information about who can solve the problem…Simonds.

 Hello Mr and Mrs Ellis. This is Karen from the bank.
 I’ve got some good news for you
 Your intergenerational home-loan has been approved,
 so your great, great, great, great grandchildren will have the pleasure of making the final payments on your mortgage.
 Pop in when you get a chance to sign the papers. Bye now.”


 At Simonds, we know how you feel
 If you want your dream home without being chained to a mortgage for years, let Simonds build it for you.
 Visit Simonds.com.au and discover a better way.”

 The last three categories require much more ‘voice acting’ than the first ‘announcer’ style script but in all scripts, an understanding of voice acting is required.

The announcer read in the Simonds ad, even though it’s mostly information, requires you to empathise with the young home-buyer and offer the solution.

So that’s a situation where a little voice acting is required for that style as well.

I hope these examples have been helpful in drawing your attention to some differences in scripts and how to apply a little voice acting, which will help your reads sound more connected.

Happy voiceovering!