If you make videos — especially how-to and explainer videos — you will almost certainly need to record voice overs. In fact, depending on how many videos you create, you may have to do a lot of voice over work.
For many people, the thought of recording their voice and sharing it with the world is horrifying. Or at least genuinely uncomfortable.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful!
So how do you record voice overs that grab and keep your audience’s attention?
You’re about to find out!
Here’s what you”ll learn:
- How to record, edit, and add your voice over to your video in six easy steps.
- What is a voice over?
- The four things that ensure a great voice over.
- Which audio recording software is best for doing voice overs.
- Why you don’t need a professional recording studio to get professional recordings.
- How to not hate the sound of your own voice.
What is a voice over?
A voice over recording (often just “voice over”) is a person speaking (but not seen) during a video — often describing, highlighting, explaining, or providing additional context to what a viewer sees.
It’s often confused (or equated) with narration. And, while they are similar, they are not quite the same thing.
Narration is a specific type of voice over that describes all of the on-screen action, often telling a story based on what’s happening.
Non-narration voice overs are more common with instructional, informational, and educational videos, while narration is more commonly used for entertainment.
An easy way to think about it: All narration is a voice over, but not all voice overs are narration.
Why is a good voice over important for your video?
Some might think that the audio portion of a video is less important than the visual portions, but that’s not true.
Most video watchers say they are more likely to stop watching a video with bad audio vs. lower-quality video.
In fact, a recent TechSmith study of video viewing habits showed that more than 25% of video viewers watched a video all the way through because the audio was good — more than those who said professional video style was most important.
It’s really not that surprising. While the on-screen elements of your video are what makes it a video, in many cases, it’s the voice over that helps people truly understand what’s being shown.
Muddy, muffled, or otherwise garbled or difficult-to-understand audio tracks are frustrating to viewers. And, for people who are blind, but still need the information your video provides, good audio is absolutely essential for their consumption.
So great audio isn’t just important. It’s necessary to keep an audience interested and engaged — and to ensure they learned what they needed to.
Do I need a professional voice talent for great voice over?
The short answer: No.
Just because quality voice over is important for the success of your video, that doesn’t mean you need to go to great lengths to get it.
A lot of people think you need to have one of those super-snazzy radio voices to do good voice overs for your videos.
That just isn’t true. Sure, if you have the budget and you’re making professional videos, you can hire professional voice over talent But it’s really not necessary.
Using the tips in this guide, you’ll discover that most videos don’t need professional voice over. You can do it yourself!
So, how can you record your voice over a video?
It helps to know what good voice over is.
The essential elements of a good voice over
When most of us think of great video voice overs, we probably think of great actors like Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones. We tend to associate voice over with having a really great voice. And, while that can help, it’s not necessary.
In fact, with practice, nearly anyone can do professional-quality voice over work.
Great video voice audio over comprises several elements:
- Audio clarity and volume
- Vocal tone and inflection
1. Audio clarity and volume
The clarity of your voice and a comfortable volume may be the most essential parts of great audio. If your voice over recording is fuzzy or muddy sounding, it will be difficult for people to understand. Audiences will be distracted and unable to absorb the information or may simply move on. Either way, they miss your message and you miss an opportunity to share what your knowledge.
Similarly, if your audio’s volume is too low, it may be difficult for people to hear. Too loud and you risk annoying distortion.
Luckily, there’s a pretty solid sweet spot for volume. See the section on recording your voice over for more information on audio levels.
Ever talk with someone who has a really exciting story to tell, but they’re so excited about it that they rush through it and when they’re done you can’t even remember what they were talking about? Or, someone who drones on and on with no end in sight, threatening to put you to sleep?
This is pacing. Too fast and your audience won’t know what hit them. To slow and they’re likely to get bored. The best voice overs have a natural and deliberate pace. Start with a script and practice it before you record to help you speak at a more natural pace.
And remember, pacing also includes things like pausing occasionally to take a breath, for effect, or just to give them listener a break to process important information.
3. Vocal tone and inflection
Like pacing, vocal tone and inflection refer to ensuring you speak in a natural and pleasant manner. You want to be friendly and engaging, but not so much that you sound fake.
No one wants to sound like a game show host. But, you also want to avoid monotone robot voice which, like pacing that’s too slow, can be boring and off-putting for listeners.
4. Pronunciation and enunciation
The final element of great voice over work is ensuring that you pronounce each word correctly and that you speak clearly enough to be understood. Avoid mumbling — but don’t shout or over-enunciate, either.
Be mindful of your regional accent (yes, we all have them) and pronunciations as they relate to your audience. While it’s perfectly acceptable to “warsh” your hands in Missouri or have a great “idear” in New England, those pronunciations may confuse people from other locations.
Don’t worry, though. No one expects you to sound like a professional voice actor. The best thing you can do is speak naturally and clearly and the rest will follow with practice.
How can I make my voice sound better on voice overs?
This is the number-one issue most people bring up when they have to do voice over work for their video.
Let’s face it. Most of us rarely have to hear our own voices in audio recordings. We’re used to the rich, warm sound of our own voices in our own ears. There’s no way around the fact that you sound different on recording that you do to yourself.
So how do you stop hating the sound of your own voice?
The answer, unfortunately, is that you just have to get used to it.
Think of it this way: Your voice on recordings is how you actually sound to everyone around you. When you speak to others, that’s what they hear. the only one who hears a difference is you.
So, there’s really nothing to be embarrassed about, is there?
In all seriousness, though, everyone who does voice work has to overcome this hurdle. Luckily, like most things, it gets easier the more you do it. Do enough voice over work and soon your voice on recordings will sound almost as natural to you as the one you hear in your ears.
If you simply can’t get over it, though. You can always enlist the help of another person. You can grab a friend or colleague, or you can even hire a professional to do the work for you.
How to record a voice over
1. Preparing to record
Not all videos need a ton of preparation. Quick one-off screencasts or a fast demonstration of a new user interface for a colleague probably can be done mostly on the fly.
But, for videos where you want a more polish or that need to cover more information, a bit of preparation goes a long way.
Find a quiet place to work
I’m sure you’ve seen what a typical recording studio looks like. Professional voice over artists typically have a room somewhere with walls covered in sound-absorbing foam, a fancy microphone setup with a pop screen and a computer workstation that looks like it could be straight out of NASA’s Mission Control.
Luckily, you don’t have to go that far to achieve great results. You can create a great voice recording space with minimal effort and very little expenditure.
Most importantly, you want a space free of distracting noises and where you aren’t likely to be interrupted. Most decent microphones pick up even faint ambient sounds, and those sounds will ultimately make it into your recording.
If your space is at work, avoid areas where you can hear your coworkers conversing, etc. Or, plan to record when no one else is in the office.
Wherever you are, be mindful of the sounds of your heating and cooling system. If you can’t find a spot where you can’t hear air rushing through your ducts, you may want to shut down your furnace or AC for the duration of your recording.
If your recording space is near a window, listen for sounds from outside, such as wind, birds chirping, dogs barking, etc. Be especially mindful of traffic sounds — especially loud delivery trucks. They will definitely show up in your recording.
No place is totally silent, so find the best place you can — even if that means thinking outside the box.
I have a friend who regularly records his podcast in his car. He lives in a small house with dogs and kids, so there really isn’t anywhere else quiet enough. He takes his laptop and mic out to his driveway, shuts himself in the car and records. The results are surprisingly good!
Choose a microphone
Next, you need a decent microphone. I won’t go too in-depth with this, but my colleague Matt Pierce did an amazing post on choosing a good mic.
That said, if at all possible, try not to record your voice over using your laptop microphone. While built-in mics are fine for Skype meetings and the like, you will get much better results with even a low-cost external microphone.
Even your smart phone’s earbuds will give you a better sound than just your computer’s built-in mic.
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars, either. You can get a very nice USB microphone for between $50-$100. If you will be doing a lot of voice over work, it’s well worth the investment.
If you intend to use an external mic, I also recommend investing in a pop filter. They’re cheap and they help minimize the distracting sounds caused by hard consonants such as “p” and “b.”
Choose your audio software
There’s no shortage of audio recording software on the market and most of them do relatively the same things.
But, for most of us, these will be far too complicated and will have too high a learning curve to to be of practical use.
That’s why I highly recommend TechSmith Audiate.
TechSmith Audiate takes voice over recording and editing to an entirely different level by transcribing your voice in real time — as you record.
There are no unnecessary settings to figure out, no confusing and complicated interface.
Just click the record button and start talking. It’s really that simple.
Then, you can literally edit your audio just like you would edit text in a document.
So, rather than staring at a wave form and trying to figure out exactly what you said and where, you can see it right on your screen.
And check out this game-changer: Audiate even automatically flags all your “ums,” “uhs,” and other hesitations so you can easily find and delete them.
You can even delete them all at once.
But Audiate’s simplicity doesn’t mean you lose out on power or control. You can do finer edits and adjustments, too.
Already have a voice over recorded? That’s no problem. Import your recording into Audiate and it will transcribe it for you.
When you’re done, save your audio file and import it into Camtasia. You can even export the edited text as a transcript or as an SRT file for captions.
I’ve been doing video and audio recording work for years and I’m quite comfortable using professional audio recording software. But if I’m doing voice over work, you can bet I’m using Audiate because it’s the best and easiest way to record voice overs.
Camtasia has an audio recorder built in that will allow you to record your voice as you record your screen when appropriate. You can also record your voice over by itself. You can even edit your audio right in the Camtasia editor.
2. Write a script
Having a script is probably the single most important thing you can do to ensure your voice over sounds professional. Nothing ruins a good voice over faster than a lot of hemming and hawing or 23 umms in a row as you try to remember what you wanted to say next.
The best scripts will include word-for-word everything you intend to say. Taking the time to write this out before recording helps ensure that you will cover everything you want to without the danger of meandering off into unrelated topics.
Outline the points you want to make and then write the full script based on that outline.
A script also gives you a chance to practice.
Read your script aloud several times before you record. Be mindful of words or phrases that may feel awkward or difficult to say. A script often sounds and feels different when read aloud vs. in your head.
Then adjust your script as necessary and you’re ready to record.
3. Do a test recording
Now that all the essential tools are in place, it’s time to record your voice over!
Before you get down to the real thing, though, do a test recording to ensure your equipment works properly and your audio levels are good.
Even if nothing has changed from the last time you did a voice over, it’s still a best practice to test first. I’ve skipped this step myself and then discovered after my recording was finished that something wasn’t set up properly and I had to go back and do it again.
You don’t need to record the entire script for your test recording, but a few paragraphs will give you enough to ensure that the audio is clear, at an appropriate level, and doesn’t include any stray or ambient noises.
Important: When you listen back to your test recording, use headphones to check the audio quality. Your computer speakers will not be good enough for this. Headphones allow you to listen closely to ensure clear audio — especially for things like weird room noises and such.
Obviously, you want the audio to sound good on even the cheapest speaker, but you (and your audience) will be much happier if you use headphones to check for quality.
Remember, a good portion of your video viewers will listen via headphones, so you want to be sure they’ll have an optimal experience.
You also want to consider where to place your microphone. Too close to the person speaking and it will be subject to all kinds of weird mouth noises and air puffs. Too far away and it may sound lost in a large room.
Ideally, place the microphone about six to eight inches from the person’s mouth, and slightly below their chin.
If you’re using a LAV (clip-on mic), make sure it’s about six to eight inches below the speaker’s mouth.
Be mindful, too, of the surface where you place your mic. Some microphone stands will be quite susceptible to picking up noises from the desk or table they’re sitting on. Listen for those types of sounds on your test recording.
Check your volume levels
Proper volume level for your audio ensures that it’s easily heard and not distorted. Too low and people will have trouble hearing what you say. Too high and you risk garbled audio or blowing out your viewers’ ear drums.
While you can adjust levels as necessary when you edit your audio, starting with the best possible audio level as you record is always your best bet.
The folks over at Premium Beat have a great post on recommended audio levels settings, but here are a few basics.
- Audio levels are measured in decibels (db).
- In audio editing, 0db is actually the maximum you want to achieve. Weird, eh?
- For the most part, your ideal audio level is between -10db to -20db. Your audio should peak around -6db.
- Never go above 0db, as your audio will distort or “clip.”
Most audio recording software will have indicators that let you know when your audio is in danger of being too loud and clipping.
The image above shows the TechSmith Camtasia interface with the waveform (a graphical representation of your audio recording) on the left and the level indicator on the right.
The indicator shows that the audio peaked at just under -6db and is well within the acceptable levels.
4. Record your voice over
Once you’re satisfied with your microphone placement and audio test, you’re ready to record your voice over!
Seriously! Do it!
With Audiate, it’s as simple as clicking the record button and speaking.
As you record your script, remember these key tips for ensuring a great voice over:
- Speak slowly and clearly. Enunciate each word, but don’t concentrate on it so much you sound like a robot.
- Consider your tone. You want to sound pleasant, but not overjoyed or overly excited. Pro tip: Smiling while you read your script can help you sound happier and more natural.
- Don’t stop if you make a mistake or misspeak. You don’t have to start over! You can always fix it when you edit. Just go back a sentence or two in your script and start again. Pro tip: Remember, with TechSmith Audiate, you’ll be able to see and edit your voice over s text, so you can easily go back and fix any mistakes when you’re done.
- If you struggle with the script or it just gets too hard to keep going, pause your recording and take a break. Rewrite any parts of the script that may be giving you too much trouble and try it again.
- As with anything, voice overs get easier the more you do them. Don’t give up if it’s not perfect the first time!
5. Edit your audio
When you finish recording, it’s time to edit. Even if you made no mistakes, there are likely a few things to fix. At the very least, you’ll want to trim the beginning and end to remove any dead space.
Again, Audiate makes it so easy to edit. The video below gives a great overview of how to work in Audiate.
With traditional audio software, you have to hunt through your recording to find your mistakes and edit them out individually. Even a short video could take an hour or more to edit depending on how complicated your edits were.
But with Audiate, you can just read the text and highlight and delete any mistakes you find.
Also notice that the Audiate interface is so much less complicated and than in the first example.
When I edit my voice over audio, I like to listen to the entire recording from start to finish before I start making any changes.
I may make notes here and there to remind myself of something I want to go back and edit, but this time through I really just want to concentrate on the overall pacing and tone of the recording.
Does it sound like I hoped? Did I rush or speak too slowly? Did I flub any words, or did I mumble or misspeak? Are there weird silences or unknown or errant sounds?
Next, go back to the beginning and start editing out your mistakes. I also like to edit out any abnormally long silences between sentences or statements and any weird sounds that don’t belong.
Remember, though, that pauses are ok (and even necessary) to help break up the audio and make it feel more natural and conversational.
To learn more about this, check out this cool post on reducing audio noise in your recordings.
6. Import your audio into your video editor
In Camtasia, importing and working with audio is as simple as a couple of clicks. For more information, check out this post on syncing audio and video in Camtasia.
That’s it! You’ve successfully recorded your voice over!
Don’t forget the captions and audio transcription
I noted above that a large portion of your audience will listen to your video via headphones. But, what if I told that there’s a high likelihood that a large number may watch your video with no sound at all?
And, there will always be viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing.
This is why captioning your video and providing an audio transcription are so important. For those who can’t or otherwise won’t listen to the audio elements of your video, captions and transcriptions give them the opportunity to get all of the information your video provides.
And it’s another reason that TechSmith Audiate is such a helpful tool.
With other audio tools, you would likely have to send your audio out to a professional transcription service to have your audio file transcribed and timestamped. Even if you typed out a full script, it won’t have the necessary time stamps to be used as a captions file.
But with Audiate, the transcription happens automatically, complete with time stamps for captions.
Once you’ve recorded and edited your voice over, you can export that transcription as a caption (.SRT) file and import it directly into Camtasia. Camtasia then automatically inserts the captions into your video.
How’s it feel to be a voice over pro?
Recording voice overs like a pro is easy when you know how to do it and you have the right tools.
Taking the proper steps before you hit the record button and then taking the time to edit your audio appropriately will go a long way to ensuring your voice overs sound professional and engaging.
And remember, practice makes perfect! The more you do it, the more natural it will become.
No! You can do great voice over work with minimal investment. You’ll want a microphone and audio recording software to start.
The short answer is you just have to get used to it. But, there are a few things you can do to improve the overall sound of your voice, including speaking from your diaphragm rather than at the top of your throat. Also, be sure your vocal cords are hydrated. Keep water handy for when you’re recording.
There are a lot of options available for audio recording, but if you only need to record voice overs, TechSmith Audiate is your best bet.
Not likely. While a laptop mic is fine for calling into a Zoom meeting, you’ll want an external microphone for your voice over recording. But, the good news is that you can pick up a really decent microphone for between $50-$100.
No! You can do it yourself with great results. You just need the right tools and a little practice.
Note: This post was updated in October 2020 to include new information.