A recent experience has prompted me to write this post, in the hope of explaining the reasoning behind why I thought it important to mention it to the client in question.
But first, let’s start with what we voiceovers do, in regards producing your recorded script.
Essentially, it’s our job to bring your words to life, in an informative/friendly/authoritative (or whichever adjective is most appropriate for any given project) way; to show off your company’s product/service, explain a procedure or inform in some way or another. The words on the page in order for us to do this, are crucial. The right voice is too, of course; but the voiceover can only perform at their best if the script is ‘just right’.
So what do I mean by ‘just right’?
Most importantly, that it’s well written, and that it flows well when spoken aloud. Usually, when being sent scripts by production houses, ad agencies, marketing communications companies etc, they are extremely well versed in such things; and have a knack for writing scripts that are well thought out & well crafted, that are totally comfortable to read when voiced aloud. They try and avoid using jargon wherever possible (unless it’s crucial to the context, of course) in favour of easier to listen to conversational language – which means it flows better for the person voicing it, but more importantly for the person who ends up listening to it. It allows them to take in the information being offered far easier than having to concentrate on more complex language.
That, to me, is a perfect situation for a script that would land in my inbox.
Sadly, even I don’t have the lung capacity of a professional free diver.
There are, however, other situations that arise.
Occasionally, I will receive a script that just sounds a bit ‘clunky’; i.e., over-use of non-essential technical language, long paragraphs with next to no punctuation or grammar of any sort, meaning that you have to go through it with a fine toothcomb to work out when you can breathe whilst recording! Sadly, even I don’t have the lung capacity of a professional free diver!
It’s scripts like these that simply need a bit of attention. They are very often written by someone from the end-client’s company themselves, and not via a production house or agency. And that’s fine, don’t get me wrong. The only issue is, is that more often than not, these are the people that are, generally speaking, not used to writing for a voiceover, so they are probably unaware of the conventions a script for voicing tends to have. It could even read beautifully if it was material for their website, marketing brochure or similar, where the prospect or customer is reading to learn more about the company. But when something is designed to be voiced, it may potentially need a little editing.
Herein lies the problem.
It can be quite difficult for a voiceover to know when & if to say something to the client/prospect in instances like this. Due to the fact we read scripts day in, day out – we’re used to the normal conventions of script writing, even if we don’t write them ourselves. We’re familiar with writing styles, layout, phrasing, language choice, formatting, with adequate sentence lengths that allow us to take necessary breaths etc. How do you go about explaining this to the client?
There have been many times during my 6+ years as a professional voiceover where a new enquirer would say they’d like me to voice a, say, 10min script; but upon receiving it to double check it through before I create a quote, find that the word count equates to maybe 15/20/25mins worth of wording! This is simply due to the fact that someone with not so much experience in writing scripts probably won’t know how word counts equate to time length. It’s especially problematic when the video is already in production and the final video length is pretty much set in stone – meaning editing it down is essential. (For reference, I work on the principle of roughly 140 words per minute for the average corporate production.)
There have been several instances in the past where I’ve felt I’ve needed to suggest that a script needs editing – not because I’m picky (and trust me, I’m no prima donna), but because I want the client to have the best performance possible, so they have the best voice track possible to accompany their audio/visual product. And if that means me recommending that a script could do with the tender eyes of a trained copywriter or editor, it’s only in their best interest that it should be an option for consideration.
In my mind, it’s the same principle as why they’re hiring a voiceover artist to voice their script – they want a professional to do it. Same with the video production – they hire the people that can do the job professionally and to a very high standard. That same principle should be applied across the board, I think – including the narration – i.e. making sure the script is the best it can possibly be. Why settle for ‘good’, where it’s very possible to have ‘excellent‘?
I hope that this has come across from a position of wanting to help people, as that is most certainly my intention in writing this. So if I do ever mention to you that a script could benefit from some slight editing, please don’t take offence. It’s nothing personal at all, & is not intended to come across as an overt criticism of anyone or a reflection on their abilities. It’s purely from the position of wanting to give my clients the very best product that I possibly can, and showing them how they can achieve that if they were previously unsure.
Let’s strive for greatness in everything we produce.