By: Alison On: June 12, 2019 In: Voiceovers Comments: 3
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The quality of a documentary narration can make or break a film.

Although the voice narrating a documentary is not necessarily at the forefront of the viewer’s mind, a poorly narrated documentary can significantly detract from the audience’s viewing experience.

No matter what the topic of the documentary, there are three things to remember to make a great documentary voiceover.

1) Attract audiences with a great voice.

Some actors in Hollywood make their bread and butter solely from voiceovers — and for good reason. Great voiceovers are an art, and not everyone can deliver a good one.

This is especially true for documentaries, where the challenge is to capture the audience’s interest with an appealing voice, while at the same keeping them focused on the content of the documentary as a whole. It’s vitally important that production teams select the right voiceover talent.

A good documentary voiceover reads smoothly and clearly, and enunciates well. Documentary narrators often have particularly engaging voices and are unlikely to exhibit any kind of displeasing characteristic — like shrillness — which would make listeners want to tune out.

While keeping the viewer interested, documentary voiceovers should never become the main focus of the film. You want audiences to walk away talking about the documentary’s message and content, not the narrator!

2) Narrate to match the documentary’s tone.

These days, you can find documentaries about all kinds of topics, from global warming to the lives of pop stars. Most documentary filmmakers know to choose a documentary narration that fits the content and tone of the film (sometimes this even means choosing an accented voiceover).

Traditionally, you’re probably not going to hear the voice of a teen girl narrating an environmental documentary, just as you’re unlikely to find a solemn professorial voice narrating a Beyoncé documentary.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, obviously, and the choice of voice talent may depend on the target audience as well. For instance, an environmental documentary aimed at kids would not be ill served by a youthful voiceover.

3) Enhance your documentary voiceover with localization.

In the interest of appealing to different audiences, some documentaries may choose to localize their voiceover for different areas of the world.

The documentary “Planet Earth,” for example, used professional narration by David Attenborough for the original BBC version, while Sigourney Weaver provided the voiceover for the Discovery Channel’s US version.

Localizing documentary voiceovers by using more than one voice actor may be recommended for films hoping to reach audiences from diverse language backgrounds.

While subtitles can be used, the viewing experience is likely to be more personal — and powerful — if audiences are hearing the documentary narrated in their own language.

How Accredited Language Can Help

A great documentary narration takes talent and hard work. It’s best to work with professional voiceover actors like those from Accredited Language who have the skills needed to do the job right, and who know how to prepare for their part. Great documentary narrators know that you can’t just walk into the studio, read off the script, and call it a day. Our professional voice actors take the time to go over the script, familiarize themselves with its content, and give an excellent performance.

For experienced voice talent in a wide range of languages and styles, search our online voiceover roster today or contact Accredited Language to learn more about our professional voiceover services.

Call us at 1-800-322-0284 or simply fill out our free quote form.

Have you recently completed a documentary project? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!

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Oba Abdulkadir La'aro
Oba Abdulkadir La'aro
4 years ago

Very useful as guide for narration in documentaty

2 years ago

If there are questions asked to viewers in script, should a narrator put it like a question?.. Totally intriguing?
Should the narrator express the emotional content just like he/she does while narrating or telling a story?
How much scope is there for voice modulation while narrating for a documentary?

Jason Leech
Jason Leech
2 years ago

Great Piece!! Documentary Narration is one of my goals as voice talent and you nailed this topic! Props to you!