Voice-over scripts come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re lucky, you’ll either get a storyboard with images, or a script that has two columns: a video column and an audio column. That video column is full of treasures, and I’m going to share a few tips to help you get the most out of them.
Here’s a script that shows both columns:
When you’re in a time crunch, you’ll probably want to skip right to the audio section. But I’ll also be the first to tell you that’s a bad habit to develop, because there’s tons of vital information you can gather from the video column.
My Dear Watson, Analyze the Scene for Clues
In this video, we have the line, “because life is full of unexpected drops.” Now, if we look at the video column, it says, “bottle of orange soda hits the floor and sprays everywhere.” I don’t know about you, but if that happened in my house, I’d freak out. So, for the voice-over to work well with what’s happening in the video, I’ll need to inject some of that unexpected, surprised feeling into this line.
The next line is “glops.” The image on screen is a dog’s water bowl, with the dog drinking and making a huge mess. If you have pets, especially dogs, you know this happens all the time, and it can be a little gross because some of that is slobber and maybe some bits of whatever he was gnawing on in the back yard. Your job is to inject feeling into this one tiny little word.
“And . . . plops.” What we see here is muddy boots being tossed into the mudroom, splashing mud across the floor. Now, this scene is truly horrific! Inject as much of that emotion into the line. Obviously, the video is meant to be fun. It’s a corporate video, but it’s still meant to be entertaining. So, I’m not going to put the actual horror I feel at that scene into my read (I’m a bit OCD about my floors), but there needs to be a reaction, hopefully a fun one.
Another important image in the left column is where it says, “slow motion of baby in socks walking across the floor.” This scene is going to be really cute! The lines I need to say are, “they won’t gap like other vinyl floors, and they’re comfortable underfoot while standing or walking.” So, I’ll inject a big smile right there because it’s an adorable baby walking on the floor.
If I receive this script as an audition and don’t pay much attention to what was on the left, I might miss these cues. My voice acting might come out flat, and I might not book the job.
Pay attention to these clues in your script! In voice-over work, things can happen really fast, especially when your agents have you on a tight leash and want you to turn auditions around in an hour, or if you’re auditioning on pay-to-play sites and want to be one of the first to post the audition. Take the time to read the video column whenever a script has one. It’s written to describe the essential elements of the scene, and it has all the information you need to play it up. That’s going to help you stand apart from the competition and book the job.
I want to underline this point: even if you’re offered tons of auditions on pay-to-play sites or through your agents, Milk them for all they’re worth. I end up doing fewer auditions but booking more of the ones I want because I take my time figuring out what will work for that piece. It’s not worth rushing through scripts.
“Because life is full of unexpected drops. Glops. And . . . plops.”
I had a lot of fun with that first opening and recorded a bunch of takes. The more you play with the script—and the more pointers you can get from the video column—the more your read will come to life and people will want to work with you.
To learn more about becoming an effective voice over actor, read Part 1 of the Get Clever series, called Becoming An Artist.