Every great voice-over talent has an unmistakable quality – and certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. But for corporate and e-Learning audio recordings, they also need a specific set of skills that are more tangible, and honed through years of experience. These skills are critical to ensuring accuracy, proper post-production, timely deliveries – and of course, high-quality audio.
This post will list the 3 skills that great corporate and e-Learning voice talents must have.
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Tangible voice-over techniques & abilities
We won’t be dealing in this post with the voice qualities themselves – like pitch, clarity and overall tone – that make for a great foreign-language voice talent, for two main reasons. First, because these qualities are highly subjective – talent preferences vary widely from one person to another. Second, each locale has different expectations for how a corporate or e-Learning voice should sound. Voice attributes that are desirable in English for a US market, for example, often don’t carry the same weight in other cultures.
Instead, in this post we’ll look at the skills that are necessary for recording scripts that are relatively long, contain technical terms and tricky syntax, and which must be delivered in a formal and even tone. That is to say, for recording most corporate and e-Learning content.
Let’s jump right in.
1. Ability to sight-read.
Corporate scripts can be quite long. A full e-Learning localization project with multiple modules can run to 10,000 words easily – and multi-course suites of over 100,000 words are not uncommon. On top of that, the content itself is often tricky, full of legal, soft skills, administrative and technical jargon, as well as English-language words and names that don’t get translated. And of course, there really isn't enough time for talents to practice their reads just because of the average script length. Compare this with a marketing spot script of 100 words, for example, which a voice artist can run through several times in just a few minutes.
For more information on casting foreign-language talents, see our previous blog post, How to Cast the Right Foreign-Language Voice-over Talent for a Project.
For this reason, great corporate talents must be able to sight-read a script fluidly, with a minimum of mistakes, slips or hesitations. This is especially difficult for corporate video dubbing projects, in which the talent must read the script accurately and synchronize to picture. But it's absolutely critical – otherwise, sessions go over and project timelines get delayed.
2. Ability to control breaths.
Great corporate talents regulate the breaths they take during a session, placing them when natural pauses occur in the audio, breathing in and out quickly, and separating them from their voiceover recording. Why? Because breaths have to be edited out of audio recordings as part of the post-production cleaning process. Therefore, anything that talents can do to make this task easier on the editor significantly reduces post timelines and leads to fewer re-takes after QA review. You can see this in the following still of a sound waveform – the breath in yellow highlight is well-separated from the rest of the audio.
For more information on cleaning and post-production, see our previous blog post, What Does It Mean to Clean Files for Audio & Video Translation?
3. Ability to keep volume and position consistent.
Consistency is crucial to high-quality multimedia localization. The first audio file recorded for a project must sound the same as the very last one in terms of pace, tone, volume and voice quality. It’s very difficult to maintain this consistency, especially for a talent who's going into the third hour of a session. But the really great ones do just that, keeping their position, volume, and overall pace and tone consistent through long sessions and over multiple recording dates.
The engineer also plays a role in maintaining consistent audio quality – he or she can nudge the talent to move back into position if there’s a shift. And, of course, he or she keeps track of settings to make sure they’re replicated over multiple sessions in the recording studio. But the engineer can’t do it alone – ultimately, it’s critical that the talent produce consistent voice audio.
Few and far between in audio and video localization
As you might imagine, only a select group of talents has these skills, which are developed after years of professional voiceover training and in-studio experience. And naturally, this group is in high demand for corporate and e-Learning multimedia localization projects, as well as for any other content that requires multiple or long sessions, including audiobooks and accessibility recordings. It may be tempting to hire a talent who sounds good in a 30-second sample for a corporate project, but producers should be wary if that talent doesn’t have long-form content experience, or if they don’t come from a partner like JBI Studios, which tracks talent performance. It really is worth it to get a voice artist who can handle the rigors of corporate and e-Learning content – otherwise, producers risk their timeline, budget and content quality.