How to do voiceovers like a pro

Background image of recording studio setup with microphone and audio tracks on laptop screen

“Voiceover” might bring to mind the first-person narration in old detective films, or modern movie stars narrating documentaries about penguins. But it can refer to all sorts of off-camera narration, from YouTube videos to product demos to TikToks. 

Technically speaking, a voiceover recording, or VO, is an audio track you layer over your video’s main soundtrack. Functionally speaking, voiceover is a way to help the viewer understand what they’re seeing, just like a book’s narrator guides the reader through the story.

Here’s how to create your own voiceovers for your project, along with helpful tips that will help you sound more professional.

Plus it’s a fully powered editing suite that does everything you need to make a great podcast. If you know how to edit a doc, you’re ready to get started.
Descript makes editing audio as easy as editing text.

What is a voiceover?

A voiceover—sometimes called off-camera commentary—is a post-production recording technique where an unseen voice, or the voice of a visible subject or character, speaks over the video’s main soundtrack to provide additional context or to express unspoken thoughts. It’s commonly used in all sorts of video media: film, television, commercials, radio, podcasts, video games, explainer videos, you name it. 

Voiceover is most often read from a script, but it can also be improvised or pulled from previous recordings. It can be either narrative or non-narrative, and can be used to:

  • Move a story along
  • Explain something to the audience, especially what the images themselves cannot
  • Comment on what’s happening on screen, i.e., commentary on a video clip or image
  • Let the viewer in on a subject or character’s unsaid thoughts

How to plan and record voiceovers: 6 easy steps

To produce a successful voiceover, be clear about what exactly you want to say and what it adds to your video content. Then, to ensure the voice sounds as good as what it’s saying, make sure to use a proper recording space, whether that’s a room in your home or a professional recording studio. 

With today’s tools and a few beginner techniques, you can record voiceover audio from almost anywhere and end up with professional-sounding results. Here’s how to get started:

Step 1. Set up your recording space

Traditionally, professional voiceover performers recorded in sound booths, but times have changed. Today, you can record clean audio just about anywhere and save money. Try the following techniques and tools to get as close to studio sound quality as possible.

Guy getting ready to record a voiceover
Source: Pexels

Keep in mind that the sound of your voice bounces off hard surfaces like windows and tiles, which you want to avoid. Try recording in a room with soft surfaces, ideally carpet, soft furniture, and curtains, which can absorb and dampen echoes. Or, even better, record in a closet. Turn off or move nearby electronics, which can interfere with recording equipment. 

Step 2. Select the right gear

Look for a microphone with a cardioid pattern, which is better at picking up what’s in front of it rather than what’s in the background. USB microphones don’t perform as well as XLR mics, which are pricier but produce professional-sounding audio and give you more control over recording levels. You can also grab a pop filter to reduce plosives for around ten bucks. 

Point your mic away from noise and away from hard surfaces, especially windows. Use headphones to help monitor your audio: listen for traffic noise, fan noise, or even the faint buzzing of a light. 

Step 3. Adjust the mic settings and levels 

The most effective way to improve your speech-to-noise ratio is by reducing the distance between your mouth and the mic. Get close. Then, turn down the gain—the decibel (dB) input of your audio system—as necessary to decrease noise before hitting the record button.

Step 4. Prepare a script or outline

If you need to get a source or narrator to convey specific information in a specific way, it’s a good idea to script your voiceover. Make sure that whoever is reading the script practices in advance, so that it sounds like natural, authentic speech rather than, well, reading a script

Descript’s CEO, Andrew Mason, creates all of our release notes videos, and many of our video tutorials. All of those are narrated as a voiceover. Here are his tips for writing a voiceover script that will result in an engaging, compelling video. 

  • Write for your audience. Review your footage, then outline the main points you want to make, then build on them to create a script. Keep your audience front-and-center at every step of the way. Include only the stuff they need to know. Don’t tell them anything they already know. Phrase everything in the way that’s easiest for them to understand. And write like you’re having a conversation with one of them. 
  • Write like you talk. Classic writing advice, but absolutely critical in writing voiceover scripts. When Andrew writes a voiceover script, he tries to “suppress the urge to edit out informalities or even what look like filler words when I write them.” That stuff makes him sound more human in the video and helps the viewer feel like they’re listening to a real person. Those things are important because they can’t see his face. 
  • Revise and reread. Then read out your script, make adjustments, and repeat until it sounds right. Again, focus on how you’d say things if you were talking to a real person. “Say every sentence aloud,” Andrew says. “If it doesn’t sound like something you’d say in conversation, change it.” 

Step 5. Record the audio

The easiest way to create a voiceover is to record it directly into your editing timeline. (If you’re making a screen recording, just record your voiceover simultaneously with your video.) This way, your clips end up more or less where they’re intended, and there’s no need to import audio files.

Here’s how to record audio in Descript.

With Descript, you can also create AI voiceovers in minutes with our text-to-speech generator. Here’s how:

1. Input your voiceover script. 

Create a project in Descript and enter Write mode (press the W key) to start writing your voiceover script. Or, paste the script from another source. 

An example voiceover script in Descript using Write mode

2. Choose a voiceover style. 

Click the speaker label above your script and choose the AI Speaker you want to use. You can choose from an AI voiceover artist and generate speech audio, or you can create a new speaker and clone your own voice.

Choosing an AI Speaker in Descript

Step 6. Edit your audio

Creating a voiceover is easier with software that allows you to both record and edit your audio in the same dashboard. There are many video editing software programs that allow this, some of which are easier to use and offer more features than others.

Descript works like a video word processor: you can edit audio and video by editing text. Start by cutting out extra silence and removing any unnecessary filler words until it sounds the way you want. If you end up with background noise on your voiceover video, use Descript’s Studio Sound feature to clean it up. It uses AI and machine learning to eliminate noise like room echo.

If your video’s soundtrack interferes with your voice, try making it quieter. Use volume keyframes to adjust the volume of your audio and video clips at specific times. 

10 voiceover tips to elevate your audio

1. Use the right tone for the video

Consider the tone and mood of your production and how you’re coming across. If your video is instructional, sound confident and friendly; if it’s somber, speak with solemn reserve. 

2. Speak clearly

Speak at the right volume for your recording equipment. Use proper enunciation, without sacrificing your natural speaking rhythm.‍

3. Read like you talk

We keep hammering on this, because it’s the difference between a hoky-sounding video and a warm, human tone. You want to sound like you’re talking rather than reading. 

To sound more natural, imagine you’re speaking with someone face-to-face, making the same facial expressions and hand gestures you would in a normal conversation. If you don’t sound natural, you may need to go back and rewrite some of your script.‍

4. Pace is key

Find an appropriate reading speed so you can edit the audio with your footage seamlessly, and so your audience doesn’t get lost or bored while listening.‍

5. Do test recordings

Try a few test runs before you start recording from your official script. While you record, keep an eye on your audio levels, which should hover around -16 decibels (db). Test recordings can also help you get used to the sound of your voice, which, without practice, can sound awkward.‍‍‍

6. Stop, wait, and say it again

With digital audio recording, nothing is set in stone. “When you make a mistake or don’t like the way you said something, stop recording, wait a sec, then say it again,” Andrew says. “It’ll be super easy to edit that stuff out when you’re done.” 

🧠 Read more: Remote audio recording: Tools and tips (2023)

7. Watch your video while recording

​​A good voiceover is well-timed. Watching your video while you record can help calibrate the pace and tone of your speech, and can also cut down on audio editing time. Your voice recordings don’t need to match up exactly to your video while recording—you can make minor adjustments later to make it all fit.

8. Record room tone

Capture a few consistent quiet seconds from your environment before or after recording your voice. Depending on your recording software, room tone can be useful for noise reduction in post-production. (Descript adds room tone to any gaps automatically). Creating a bit of free space gives you padding to trim your voiceover and match it up with your video.‍

9. Get feedback

Your impression of your work matters, but your opinion shouldn’t be the only one you rely on. Look for feedback on your video. “Show it to a few friends or colleagues who you trust will be honest,” Andrew says, and take their thoughts into consideration.

10. Finesse as needed

Video quality is all in the details, so this is your time to make sure your voiceover lines up seamlessly with the action on screen. Listen for abnormal silences, strange sounds, speaking errors, or inconsistent pace, and try correcting these using your video editor. Cut out the parts you don’t like, or the parts you repeated. 

Remember, recording a great voiceover is a performance. As with any performance, practice is key. With time, you’ll develop a workflow and techniques that work for you, and your comfort level will hopefully come through in your recordings. You might even develop a voice acting style that your audience becomes accustomed to and comes back for. Have fun with it.

Get professional voiceovers and audio quality enhancement as standard with the world’s best editing platform. Take a free tour today

Voiceover FAQs

How much money can you make doing voiceovers?

With voiceovers, you can make anywhere from a few bucks for a short clip on Fiverr, to hundreds or thousands for commercials and professional work, with top voice actors making a lot more.

How do I start doing voiceovers?

The first step to starting voiceovers is to practice your voice and learn proper technique, then create a high-quality demo reel that showcases your range. You can also network, get an online presence, and get work through casting websites.

How do I do a good voiceover?

If you want to do a good voiceover, you need clear diction, good pacing, and the right emotional resonance. Recording in a quiet, acoustically treated environment with professional-grade equipment is also important, as is understanding your character or message.

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