A shortened form of the generic-sounding voice-over-image, today’s word means ‘a narration or commentary by an unseen speaker.’
In literal terms, the definition sounds rather generalized and boring; yet, when you realize what it actually means, the importance and usefulness of voice-overs can really be recognized.
For example, the movie preview begins showing us distant scenery and suddenly we hear a deep voice saying something like “In a world where law and order…” or “In a city where anything can happen…”.
Though we often consider it to be a device solely from the entertainment genre, voice-overs can also be used to quickly transmit relevant information into any foreign language.
Looking at current events, we are long past the time where one lone anchor sits behind the desk and reads the news from paper bulletins: we live in an age where people want to see and hear the global newsmakers and gain a visual understanding of what is happening in the world. However, without voice-overs, we may not be able to grasp what PRC President Xi said, due to language differences, nor would we be able to fully understand the situation behind or the impact of any visual footage that are watching.
Additionally, aside from blockbuster movies, in order to allow for quicker domestic distribution and lower costs when compared to full dubbing, many countries instead prefer to use several voice-over actors.
As expected, since today’s word deals mainly with radio, television, and cinema, its first usage was relatively modern. H. C. Gipson first defined the term itself in the 1947 work Films in Business & Industry as: “narration-type recording as opposed to live sound,” but it would take another 9 years (as television started to become more prevalent) for the concept to be mentioned in an industry publication, The Quarterly of Film Radio and Television, which wrote that: “[They] have become quite skilled as ‘voice over’ narrators, reading commentaries to silent footage or to films prepared originally in another language.” Like many other professions, it only took another decade until the work became synonymous with the person doing it: Geoffrey Leech’s 1966 work, English in Advertising mentions how, “In the scripts, the speaker of commentaries is variously designated ‘commentator’, ‘announcer’ and ‘voice over’.”
Today, the voice-over actors’ work reaches a value of nearly USD 5 billion, with animation, video games, and corporate advertising taking the lead, and the Entertainment industry coming out as the biggest consumer with around 60%, followed by Advertising (19%) and Business (18%).
EVS Translations offers a global network of voice-over talent to communicate your message in any language and any format.