So you've decided to add professional English-language voiceover to your project, and the voice talent has asked you to provide a script. What do you need to do?
Well, a script consists of the text that the voice talent will record. The way you write the script will, to some extent, influence the way the voice talent reads it, and in the long run will affect the cost of your project.
Let's take the following script, for example:
Issues with this script can be divided into the following categories: Readability, Direction, and Technical Requirements.
Since a voice talent may receive dozens of pages worth of text to record in a single session, the voice talent cannot read the entire script ahead of time. Instead, the voice talent relies on visual cues to determine how the script should be read. Therefore, the script's appearance, formatting, and layout – ie its readability – make a difference in whether the talent is successful at reading the script smoothly and in a minimum number of takes. If you're paying by the hour, more takes equals more money.
The readability problems in our sample script are as follows:
In English, each new sentence starts with a capital letter. However, the writer started each line with a capital letter. This misleading visual cue will lead the voice talent to interpret each new line as a new sentence.
By running a spelling and grammar check in your word processor, you can avoid most of these problems. When in doubt, consult a dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster.
The script should appear as follows:
Note: I also offer editing services for English-language scripts.
While the script contains all the words you want the voice talent to read, it does not provide any information on how you want them read. In order to ensure that the voice talent reads the script the way you envisioned it, you must provide direction specifying the desired emphasis, tone, and any pauses. If the voice talent has to re-record the script due to a lack of direction, you may very well find yourself paying more money.
Often enough, a single sentence can legitimately be read in multiple ways. For example, the following sentence emphasizes the locations where deep heating is applied: the dermis and the hypodermis, but not in other parts of the body.
In contrast, the following sentence emphasizes that both locations receive deep heating, not just one or the other.
Both sentences are composed of the exact same words; however, the added emphasis changes the sentences' meaning. To avoid confusion, you can easily indicate the desired emphasis by bolding, italicizing, or underlining words in your script.
Furthermore, you may need the voice talent to pause at certain points in the script. For example, if the above sentence is meant to accompany an onscreen presentation in which an arrow appears pointing out first the dermis and then the hypodermis, you may prefer the voice talent to pause after "dermis" and after "hypodermis". In this case, you can indicate the required pause in brackets. For example:
Finally, if you want certain parts of the script read in a certain tone, you can specify the tone in brackets, as well:
A script can be divided into segments, which are independent units within your project. For example, a segment can be a slide in a presentation, a step in a tutorial, a tab in a website, or a prompt in a telephone system. Each segment is assigned a file name and recorded as a separate audio file.
The purpose of dividing your script into segments is to enable you to easily put your project together. For example, imagine your project is a presentation consisting of multiple slides. When the time comes to put the audio together with the visuals, you know that you have to use the audio file Introduction.wav in the introductory slide.
Furthermore, if you are adding voiceover to a video that has already been prepared, there will likely be time limits for each part of the script. For example, let's say your video ends with the company logo appearing onscreen for 5 seconds, and you want a voiceover of the company slogan to play at the same time. The voice talent needs to know that the slogan must not take longer than 5 seconds. Dividing the script into segments enables you to easily specify how long the voiceover for each segment should take, thus avoiding the expense of having the voiceover re-recorded with the proper timing.
Note: Bear in mind that US English voiceover is usually read at 130-160 words per minute, depending on style and content. Make sure to allocate enough seconds per segment.
Here is our sample script divided into segments. For your convenience, you can download an MS Word file with this template.
Note: Dividing your script into segments is not mandatory, but it is convenient.
Preparing an English-language voiceover script that is readable, provides direction, and specifies technical requirements helps the voice talent to meet your needs and ultimately saves you money.
Note: For additional voiceover script samples, see Sample Scripts. For templates you can use to create voiceover scripts for telephone systems, see Telephone Script Templates. If you’re ready to start recording, see I’m Ready to Record, or contact me!
Article by Victoria Feinerman