There is a very thin line between a voiceover and narration. While narration is a translation of the whole programme, a voiceover may refer to a single monologue. Voiceovers are usually done by specialist voice actors or by someone who appears elsewhere in the production, and is commonly used in news reports, documentaries and films.
Important facts about voiceover
One important aspect of voiceovers and other methods of re-voicing are that the language of the original production is usually foreign to the intended audience, thus necessitating an interpretation. Whether the interpretation is executed perfectly or not usually depends on the experience of the voice actor, his level of proficiency in a foreign language and how well he understands the cultural setting of the film/production and the characters.
Voiceovers have existed for a long time and have been used in many films and TV productions for foreign audiences across the globe. However, they have not received significant attention like other modes of audiovisual translations like dubbing and subtitles. However, they are easy to write and sometimes very direct and don’t require a lot of resources and time. The actor’s voice is recorded over the original soundtrack, and the narrator doesn’t have to lip-synch the original speakers or rely on any visuals as he does the translation.
Voiceovers have a few problems though. They are often riddled with errors of translation because non-native speakers may face difficulties in understanding foreign language vernacular, culture references and idioms. As such, some important content is usually lost in the process. This might be disastrous if the lost content was critical to the interview/film or documentary. Translation problems may cause confusion to viewers by giving the unintended impression. They may also fail to bring out the necessary emphasis or appropriate emotions.
It is important to note that even the most experienced voiceover translators are not 100% accurate. Highly regarded translators have in a number of occasions made translation errors. However, many people contend that the creativity of a good interpreter can make a film much more fun to watch.
Preferences of audiences across the world mainly depend on the kind of audiovisual practices they are used to. Viewers in subtitling countries will usually prefer a subtitle and the same is true for those in dubbing countries. Other factors that may influence the attitude of viewers include education, age and social-economic class. The younger and well educated populations will usually prefer subtitles and not the dubbed version because reading is not a problem to them.
Since the beginning of this mode of production, males have dominated the scene especially because of their close association with power and conveyance of truth and perspective. However, things are changing, and women are slowly finding their way into the world of voiceover narration.