Difference Between Voice Over And Narration

Difference between Voice Over and Narration

Do you remember how you felt when you heard Morgan Freeman narrating a scene of a movie (think ‘Lucy’ played by Scarlett Johanson)? What kept you listening? What do you think keeps you hooked about voices like these? Mustn’t there be something magical about a voice which doesn’t have a face, but simply grabs your attention? Keep reading on to know more.

Voice over and narration are two elements of vocal communications which are usually overlapped, from a superficial and brief perspective. These are two subcategories which have unique outputs, and thus quite distinct. It must be noted, that although a voice-over  and a narration are similar in their form or mechanism, they are distinct in the aspect of functionality.

A popular point of usage for voice-overs is movie trailers, or even as part of Bollywood songs (e.g. Gulzar Ji’s voice in the intro of the song ‘Sajde’ from Kill-Dill). Voice overs can and do get mistaken for narrations, making their contrast quite fuzzy. On one hand a voice over is a method used during production, where it is separate from the original story. On the other hand, a narrative is a spoken commentary of the complete story.

To jog your memory a little, do you remember the ‘Voice’ you would hear spoken over a movie trailer? That is what voice-overs used to be primarily used for. Trailers typically are created to give us an idea of what’s coming up in the movie. And a voice-over is a supplement which builds on the trailer’s content. To narrate a story is pivotal around who the narrator is and how the story is being told.

In the case of Morgan Freeman, his voice has become very notable and well-known, because of the presence his voice gives the audience. Along with the video content, he involves his own angle, his own curiosity.

Remember the famous line “In a world..divided by fear”? A line spoken by a deep, husky, baritone voice, possessed by the late Don Lofantaine. His voice became the de-facto standard in the industry. Voice overs are also generally performed by Actors themselves, since they help connect the audience with the lead character of the scene generally played by them itself.

Some notable voice-over actors from India include the likes of Ninad Kamat, Gul Panag, Boman Irani, Meena, Juhi Chawla, Jaaved Jaffrey, Chetan Shashital, and the list goes on. With India already possessing such a plethora of languages and cultures, imagine the variety of artists to choose from when working with voice-overs and narrations. What a pleasant dilemma isn’t it?!

Whether the scene needs a male, female, or even a gender-neutral (non-binary) voice is an important decision to make. Care must be taken that the artist shows what the audience does not already see. Narrations and voice-overs share the commonality of adding elements to the content or story, at the care of not manipulating or destroying the overall narrative.

What does gender have to do with voice-overs anyway? It had immense relevance in the past era, however as of now, the binary line is also getting quite fuzzy. Initially, the gender of the artist would be chosen largely depending on the target audience for the product.

One excellent example would be that of the Toy industry, where a male voice would be used for marketing toys targeted for use amongst boys and vice versa for girls. Likewise for clothing, cosmetics, housing, sports, etc. With the advent of focus on the message importance rather than the messenger, Advertising managers now want more research and emphasis on the intention and tone behind the voice used, rather than the gender.

No longer does authority and power need to be associated with only male voices, or trust and delicacy with only female voices. This also may place a rather refreshing impression on the audience that they too, are not limited to only what they hear.

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