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What Should Be Prepared First: The Video or the Voiceover?

You want to make a promotional video for your product, so you write a script, find someone to make the video, and select a voice actor to record the voiceover.

You’re ready to get things rolling, and then you stop and think, “What needs to be done first, the video or the voiceover? Does it matter?”

The answer is, “It matters… and it doesn’t.”


What if the video is created first?

If the video is created first, then either you or the video person will have to provide the voice actor with information on the video’s timing. Otherwise, the voiceover may run longer than the video!

For example, let’s say your video is a tutorial, and the opening scene is as follows:

Sample voiceover script

The video person allocates exactly 5 seconds to this scene in the video, but no one tells the voice actor this. Therefore, voiceover is recorded at 7 seconds long and runs over into the next scene. The voiceover must then be rerecorded for an additional fee.

To avoid this scenario, provide information on the video’s timing in the script, by adding a column for the timing, as follows:

Sample voiceover script with timing added

You can download a script template with a column for timing in Word format.

Alternatively, the video person can add subtitles to the video, or record and add a rough voiceover of their own (called a “guide”), in order to demonstrate when and for how long each voiceover segment will appear in the video. You can then send the video to the voice actor, and the talent will record the voiceover based on the timing of the guide or subtitles. (Of course, extracting timing information from a video is additional work for the voice actor, and they may charge you extra for this service. Therefore, you may prefer to send timing information in the script.)

Note that when creating a video before the voiceover has been recorded, the experienced video person will check to make sure that they are allotting enough time for the voiceover in each scene (often by reading the script aloud themselves, while watching the video). While the above sample scene fits within 5 seconds, what would happen if the video person allotted only 4 seconds to it? 3 seconds? The voice actor would either have to read very quickly, the script would have to be changed… or the video person would have to redo the video.


What if the voiceover is recorded first?

If the voiceover is recorded first, there is no need to provide the voice actor with information about the length of each scene; however, you should still provide them with general information on the overall length of the video. For example, if you want the entire video to take no more than 2 minutes, and you want around 30 seconds of the video to be without voiceover, let the voice actor know this upfront, so that they limit the voiceover to 1:30 minutes.

Also, although you may not be providing per-scene timing information, if you want the voice actor to pause in specific parts of the video, you still need to mark this in the script. For example:

Sample voiceover script with direction

When the video person receives the voiceover files, they can build the video around the voiceover’s timing – or if they have a non-final version of the video prepared, they can adjust its timing to match the voiceover.


So which should be done first, the video or the voiceover?

Most voice actors prefer that the voiceover be created before the video, as there are fewer openings for potential problems, and it allows them to record at a natural pace that suits the project. However, they are usually ready and willing to oblige, if the video person prefers to work in the reverse order.

And since both approaches work, what does it matter? As long as you are aware of the necessity of providing the voice actor with timing information (whether per scene when the video is created first, or general when the voiceover is created first), the video creation process should run smoothly.



Article by Victoria Feinerman


US English Voiceover (American English Voiceovers)

US English Voiceover (American English Voiceovers)

US English Voiceover (American English Voiceovers)

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