Energy in Voiceovers

“An energetic read” might sound like a straightforward bit of direction.. but is it?

As Voiceover artists we are often given a few key words of direction that help us understand exactly what it is that the client is trying to achieve with the content we are voicing.

This week so far, I’ve realised that I’ve had a few requests for “energy” but in very different ways – so I thought I’d have a little ponder here on that very thing.

The first “energy” script of the week required a style that was pretty standard.. bright, quite pacey and excited with that physical as well as mental energy called upon. Voiceover Technique wise, this was a little further back from the microphone, not just so I could project a bit more within a safe amplitude, but also as it adds a brightness in my voice that isn’t there so much when I work closer (check out this nice, clear article on Proximity effect if you’ve got your sound geek on

Many traditional explainer films go this style route and it works pretty well if you are looking to get someone engaged in what you are doing in a fairly obvious way. If you want bright and enthusiastic in it’s standard form then this type of energy is the one you need to bring out.

Then there was the audio promo “energy”.. I need to get people to take notice of the service I was promoting.. very much a lean forward kind of style – not a lean back – was the direction. Self directing, I recorded a range of takes using my energy in slightly different ways. A bit of the vibe from example 1, mixed with some very human, almost gossipy energy.

In addition I gave them 1 take that kept the energy very contained, slightly downplayed, but nevertheless still there – bubbling underneath, sustaining it, feeling it in the eyes.. if you know, you know. This was the style they went for. The energy was contained, internalised and delivered as more “strength” than energy.

This is the kind of energy that is compressed into a small confined space but the lid is firmly on.. picture that as you voice it!

Scripts – the starting point to make those choices about energy levels..

Then I’ve had the script that wanted a lot of the classic number 1 energy but wrapped up in a conversational style – like when we talk to each other about something that matters.. not the volume but the intention, as natural speech. This worked well with a script that could have gone quite OTT if we didn’t put a lid on that can of lively energy pretty sharpish!

And, of course there are many other forms of energy we use in Voiceover. It’s more than simply collie ad pace

When you’re being “you” rather than a character, I think you take the direction and you give yourself. How would I say that – how would I REALLY say that.. then start to ramp up the internal energy (it’s in the eyes!) and see how it effects what you are doing.

When considering appropriate energy levels, you need to also consider what else is going on around you. I TV commercials you should have at least an idea of the visuals. Your voice is there to support the pictures, to compliment them and provide a coherent message (unless it’s deliberately NOT!). Mix your sound from your paint pallete that fits

The energy might change from one line or scene to another. Understand why it does and it what way. Where are the pivot point for that energy? What triggered the change? If you find yourself with a script that shifts it’s energy around it’s definitely worth marking the script up, so you can see it coming.

The flip side of all this all of energy is the under play. Maybe the direction is for something flat, hardly there, lacking energy.. listless even. To voice this apart lack of energy you need to understand why it’s missing and what you are aiming to achieve by downplaying it.

Remember, the key thing is to connect the content of the scripts to the people your client is trying to reach. They might ask for energy but they need their VO to bring that energy to life – in the most suitable way

Have fun!

Clare X

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