Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

How To Be A Voice Actor - What is Voiceover?

Have you always wanted to get started in voice acting but didn’t really know how? In this part of my video and blog series, we’re gonna take a look at one very important question; what the hell is voiceover?


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I’m Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I have had my voice featured in thousands of videos, games, commercials, anime, cartoons, and whatever. And in this series, we’re gonna talk about what voiceover is and try to break down some of the genres, as I like to call them, of voiceover. It might seem kind of basic, but trust me, we’re gonna get this one out of the way, and then we’re gonna dive into the good stuff, and you’ll have a great foundation for what all this stuff is and what everything means.


First, what is voice acting anyway? When I talk about voice acting or voiceover, and I’ll use the terms interchangeably, we’re talking about a lot more than you think. Anything that has a voice talking over it qualifies as voiceover. I’m talking corporate videos, narration, cartoons, anime, anything that has a voice overlaying the top of some images, or not images, in the case of something like a podcast or an audiobook.

In my personal opinion, I don’t consider things like DJ or MCing a part of the voiceover that I’m gonna talk about. Well, you could it voiceover, but we’re not gonna talk about it on my channel.

Have you ever done anything with your voice, post it in the comments. Whether it’s your first voice acting job, or doing something at your school.

Now, when we talk about genres of voiceover, we’re not talking about things like R&B, or Jazz, or whatever. We’re talking about categories of voiceover work that’s broken up. The way it’s broken up is determined by both the union, which we’ll talk about in a later video, and the industry at large. It’s the words we use to communicate what it is that we’re doing, what our voice is being laid over. And it determines a lot of things, between the style all the way to how we get paid.

First, commercial. When we talk about a commercial, we’re talking specifically about a network advertising a product over its medium, whether that be mostly radio or television. Now, when I’m talking about commercials, I’m probably talking about radio or television, even though there’s a large amount of advertisement going on in the Internet. That’s kind of categorized differently, and we’ll talk about why later.

Promo. While a commercial is a network advertising a product, a promo is a network advertising itself. Think next on NBC, or tonight on Fox, or on the next episode of the Simpsons, something like that.

Trailer, pretty self-explanatory. Think in a world! That kind of stuff. Now, trailers have morphed significantly over the last 10 years or so. Think about the last trailer you heard and see if you heard any voiceover in it. A lot of times they’re just using soundbites. But it is still a thriving market, and many people do very well in it.

Audiobook. Kinda self-explanatory. It’s somebody reading the pages of a book out loud. Now, this has its own specific pay structure and format that we’ll talk about more in detail in a later video.

Interactive. One of my favorite genres. When I say interactive, I’m talking about games. Anything where somebody is interacting with your voice. This could be anything from efforts, which is just doing things like screams, and punches, and kicks, and death by fire, which is one my favorites, said nobody ever. Or it could be things like full-motion capture. Anything that’s putting your likeness into a video game, we’re talking about as interactive.

Dubbing, or anime. Anime and dubbing is its own very particular skillset that requires very particular knowledge of not only the medium but the technical aspects of it. It has its own pay rate and it does its own thing. So when I talk about dubbing or anime, that’s what I’m talking about.

Animation, or cartoons. When I talk about animation, I’m talking about specifically the traditional sense. Think Saturday morning cartoons, right? Cartoons that are going to appear on some network like Cartoon Network, or Comedy Central, or ABC, CBS, Fox, it’s gonna appear on television. While there are animation things that are in the web, when I’m talking about them, I’m talking about your traditional Saturday morning cartoon animation.

Finally, non-broadcast. This is kind of a catch-all term we use to cover everything in the new media, that usually means the Internet, but it can mean anything from corporate work, like internal videos, presentations, computer-based training, narration of e-learning, sometimes they’ll call it, explainer videos, whiteboard videos, anything that’s not generally broadcast to the public. This is obviously not the sexiest kind of voiceover work. But never ever turn up your nose at it, because it’s probably the most populous out there, and I still do tons of it everyday.

Now that you know what voice acting is, and what voiceover is, and what genres there are, you’re much better equipped to go forward and try to practice some of the particular genres. Each one of them has their own style, and you’ll need to know what you’re talking about before we dive into things like checking the copy, looking at the specs, and seeing what the medium has to offer.

I made a whole series of these videos on how to get into voice acting. So if you’re interested in that, you should click the subscribe button below and make sure to hit the bell, otherwise you won’t get notified.

What is your most burning question about voice acting as a whole? Leave it in the comments below. That’s a wrap. I also encourage you to follow me on all my social medias because that’s where I usually put a lot of announcements about roles I’ve got coming up, tips and tricks for being a voice actor, behind the scenes looks, all kinds of stuff. So all those links are in the video description below.

If you liked this video, if it helped you, let me know by leaving a comment, liking and subscribing. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you in the booth.


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