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Voice over artist or voice actor?

Liz Drury, Voice over artist

What’s the difference between a voice over artist and a voice actor?

Well arguably not a lot!

The terms are often used interchangeably and I would say I often see the terms voice actor and voice acting used more on the other side of the Atlantic, with people referring to themselves as VA’s (which I always associate with virtual assistants).

I always describe myself as a voiceover artist (or a voice over artist depending on your preference), and the reason for that is that I mostly work in the corporate and e-learning sectors and I think this is probably the term my prospective clients might be searching for.

If I worked in the animation, audio drama or gaming industries I would probably describe myself as a voice actor. These genres of voiceover are more likely to need character voices and more ‘acting’.

However, all voice over requires acting to some degree. When I’m narrating an e-learning course I might be playing the role of a teacher, a mentor, a health professional etc. When I’m voicing a corporate video script I could be the CEO of a company, the HR manager, or a colleague.

Whatever the script is there is always an element of acting. Every script is different and needs approaching in a different way. The first thing to establish is who you are as the narrator (what role you are playing), and then you need to know who your audience is. For one script I might be the voice of the marketing department talking excitedly about a new product or service the company is launching, and for another I might be the Health and Safety manager briefing new colleagues on how to stay safe on site. Both of these would fall under the ‘corporate narration’ umbrella but they would be approached in very different ways.

A question I am often asked is whether I do accents. The answer is hardly ever. Generally if a client wants a particular accent, especially for a corporate or commercial voiceover, they will want that accent to be genuine – not my version of it! If I worked more in the animation/gaming world then I probably would do more accents as directors often ask their voice actors to play multiple characters, and of course they all need to sound different.

So, there is no hard and fast rule as to whether you call yourself a voice actor (VA) or a voice over artist (VO), but to me the distinction lies in which fields of voiceover you work in (or want to work in).