Voice acting

Voice actors in the Sierra Leonean radio soap opera Atunda Ayenda
Actors dubbing a television show in China while visitors look on, 1987.

Voice acting is the art of doing voice-overs or providing voices to represent a character or to provide information to an audience or user. Examples include animated, off-stage, off-screen or non-visible characters in various works, including feature films, dubbed foreign language films, animated short films, television programs, commercials, radio or audio dramas, comedy, video games, puppet shows, amusement rides, audiobooks and documentaries. Voice acting is also done for small handheld audio games.

Performers are called voice actors or actresses, voice artists or voice talent. Their roles may also involve singing, although a second voice actor is sometimes cast as the character's singing voice. Voice acting is recognized in Britain as a specialized dramatic profession, chiefly owing to the BBC's long tradition of radio drama.[1]

Voice artists are also used to record the individual sample fragments played back by a computer in an automated announcement.


Further information: Voice-over and Dubbing (filmmaking)

Character voices

Voice actors provide voices for animated characters.

For live action production, voice acting often involves reading the parts of computer programs, radio dispatchers, or other characters who never actually appear on screen.

With a radio drama or CD drama there is more freedom given in voicing because there is no need to match a dub to the original actors, or to match an animated character.

In 1988–94, the United Kingdom banned broadcasting of the voices of people linked to violence in Northern Ireland; television circumvented this using actors' voices synchronized to footage of prohibited people speaking.


In the context of voice acting, narration is the use of spoken commentary to convey a story to an audience.[2] A narrator is a personal character or a non-personal voice that the creator of the story develops to deliver information to the audience, particularly about the plot. The voice actor is responsible for performing the scripted lines assigned of the narrator.

In traditional literary narratives (such as novels, short stories, and memoirs), narration is a required story element; in other types of (chiefly non-literary) narratives, such as plays, television shows, video games, and films, narration is merely optional.


One of the most common uses for voice-over acting is within commercial advertising. The voice actor is hired to voice a message associated with the commercial advert. This has different subgenres; television, radio, cinema and web-advertising. The subgenres are all different styles in their own right. For example, television commercials tend to be voiced with quite a narrow, flat inflection pattern (or prosody pattern - essentially the relative differences between the high and low pitch of the voice), whereas radio (especially local radio) commercials tend to be voiced with a very wide infleciton pattern in an almost over-the-top style.

Voiceover used in commercial adverts also is the only area of voice acting where de-breathing is used.[3] De-breathing means artificially removing breaths from the recorded voice. This is done to stop the audience being distracted in any way from the commercial message that is being put across. De-breathing is often done inappropriately though and should never be done in any other area of voice acting as breathing informs the human aspect of delivery just as much as the characterisation.


Dub localization is a form of a voice-over. It is the practice of voice-over translation altering a foreign language film, art film or television series by voice actors.

Voice-over translation is an audiovisual translation[4] technique in which, unlike in Dub localization, actor voices are recorded over the original audio track which can be heard in the background. This method of translation is most often used in documentaries and news reports to translate words of foreign-language interviewees.

Automated dialogue replacement

Automated dialogue replacement (ADR) is the process of re-recording dialogue by the original actor after the filming process to improve audio quality or reflect dialogue changes (also known as "looping" or a "looping session").[5][6] ADR is also used to change original lines recorded on set to clarify context, improve diction or timing, or to replace an accented vocal performance. In the UK, it is also called "post-synchronization" or "post-sync".

Automated announcements

Voice artists are also used to record the individual sample fragments played back by a computer in an automated announcement. At its simplest, this is just a short phrase which is played back as necessary, e.g. the Mind the gap announcement introduced by London Underground in 1969. In a more complicated system such as a speaking clock, the announcement is re-assembled from fragments such as "minutes past" "eighteen" and "p.m." For example, the word "twelve" can be used for both "Twelve O'Clock" and "Six Twelve." For some automated applications, such as London Underground's Mind the gap announcement, the sound of a voice artist may be preferred over synthesized voices because the human voices sound more natural to the listener.

Automated announcements can also include on-hold messages on phone systems and location-specific announcements in tourist attractions.[7]


Performers are called voice actors or actresses, voice artists or simply voice talent.

Voice acting by country


Main article: Voice acting in Japan

Seiyū (Japanese: 声優) occupations include performing roles in anime, audio dramas and video games, performing voice-overs for dubs of non-Japanese movies and providing narration to documentaries and similar programs. Because the animation industry in Japan is so prolific, voice actors in Japan are able to have full-time careers as voice-over artists. Japanese voice actors are able to take greater charge of their careers than in other countries. Japan also has around 130 voice acting schools and troupes of voice actors who work for a specific broadcast company or talent agency. They often attract their own appreciators and fans who watch shows specifically to hear their favorite actor or actress.

Many Japanese voice actors frequently branch into music, often singing the opening or closing themes of shows in which their character stars, or become involved in non-animated side projects such as audio dramas (involving the same characters in new story lines) or image songs (songs sung in character that are not included in the anime but further develop the character).

South Korea

United States

Voice acting in Brazil

Although voice acting is very criticized in Brazil, most of the films in the theaters are dubbed in Portuguese and most of Brazilians do prefer watching movies in their native language. Voice acting in Brazil has also been very acclaimed by other countries. Many voice actors are also dubbing directors, people that direct other voice actors, and translators. To become a voice actor, you need to be a professional actor and attend to dubbing courses. Celebrities in Brazil have done voice acting, although Brazilians generally do not like when celebrities that are not actors perform voice acting.

Voice acting in video games

Across many of the main game-manufacturing countries, in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan, there are actors who lend their voices to characters in games and have often made a career of it. Their names have sometimes been linked to a particular character they have voiced. Among the many noted video-game voice actors are Maaya Sakamoto (the Japanese voice for the Final Fantasy XIII character Lightning[8]), Tatsuhisa Suzuki (the voice of Noctis Lucis Caelum in Final Fantasy XV), Miyu Irino (the Japanese voice of Sora in the Kingdom Hearts series), Troy Baker (English Snow Villiers, Joel in The Last of Us[9]), David Hayter (Solid Snake and Big Boss of the Metal Gear series), Steve Downes and Jen Taylor (Master Chief and Cortana from the Halo series), Nolan North (Nathan Drake from the Uncharted games and Desmond Miles from the Assassin's Creed game series), Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario in Nintendo's Mario franchise), Liam O'Brien (the voice of Caius Ballad in Final Fantasy XIII-2 and War in Darksiders), and Jonell Elliot (the voice of Lara Croft from 1999-2003). Other actors more linked with the film, radio or television industry have also voiced video game characters. These actors include Mark Hamill (The Joker, Wolverine and the Watcher from Darksiders), Michael Dorn (various characters from World of Warcraft and Gatatog Uvenk from Mass Effect 2), Claudia Black (Chloe Frazer from the second and third entries in the Uncharted series, Morrigan from Dragon Age), Camilla Luddington (the voice of Lara Croft in 2013), Kristen Bell (Lucy Stillman in the first three mainline entries in the Assassin's Creed franchise, DB Cooper (Bio Shock 2, Grand Theft Auto series), and Ikue Ohtani (the voice of Pikachu).

An additional job direction a voice actor can expect when auditioning for video game voice overs which is unique form the Types of Voiceovers featured in this article is:

  1. Instructor - As far as video game developers go, they actually have ‘instructor packs’ available which is apart from the game. Yes, they do. These instructor packs are supposed to teach the video gamer about new releases or changes they’ve made to the game like new weapons or new maps. R. Lee Ermey, a former drill instructor turned actor/voice actor is the voice behind the “Official Call of Duty: Ghosts Video – Drill Instructor Voice Pack."[10]

See also


  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2RSmkTlT319KR9yd9DmzBb6/acting-for-radio
  2. Hühn, Peter; Sommer, Roy (2012). "Narration in Poetry and Drama". The Living Handbook of Narratology. Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology, University of Hamburg.
  3. "Debreath your Voiceovers the Human Way". Gravy Times - Voiceover Blog. 2016-06-02. Retrieved 2016-07-06.
  4. USA, Translate. "Voice-over Translation". USATranslate.com. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  5. Cowdog (2009). "ADR: Hollywood Dialogue Recording Secrets". Creative COW Magazine. Creative COW. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  6. Masters, Kim (31 January 2008). "The Dark Knight Without Heath Ledger: How will Warner Bros. sell a summer blockbuster marked by tragedy?". Slate. The Slate Group, LLC. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  7. Types of voice-over
  8. Square Enix (March 9, 2010). Final Fantasy XIII. PlayStation 3, Xbox 360.
  9. "IGN: The Last of Us character section, Joel". IGN. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  10. "Video Games and Voice Overs".
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