Updated: Feb 3, 2021
In every genre of voice over acting, pacing is a key element.
In narration work, a corporate video may already have visuals completed and it’s up to the voice actor to match the visuals. In news reading, there are specific time frames the narrator has to stay within. Commercials are presented in 15, 30 or 60 seconds and sometimes there are 90 seconds of words that must fit. When completing long form narration, the pacing must match from day to day. And in character dubbing, the animation and original actor’s interpretation has been set and it’s up to the dubbing actor to match the picture and the mouth flaps (when the character’s mouth opens and closes).
Most art has two elements to it: technical and artistic (sound like the scores for ice dancing at the olympics?...well...yah). The artistic side is what we spend a ton of time and effort on in our acting classes and vo workouts, but in sessions, the technical side is one of the most vital. If the technical side hasn’t been worked on and locked down, the artistic side will always live a little bit in technical land...making the artistic storytelling side less connected and therefore, less grounded in truth.
When you’re practicing your voice over skills, look up a narration timer online (here’s one on Kim Handysides site) and find your natural pacing. Then start timing yourself on what it sounds like when you speed up or slow down? When you speed up, are your words clipped? Do you sound like you’re running out of breath? Does your voice go up in pitch? When you slow down, are you reading the words at the same speed as before and just putting longer pauses in between the words? Or are you making more of a legato (musical term for smooth and connected) sound? What happens to your diction in both cases? Make gentle observations and write them down. The next time you practice, discover if anything has changed.
The more aware you are of the technical side, the easier it is to let go when it’s storytelling time. There are so many balls to keep in the air, nail down your understanding of pacing and the next time you have 90 seconds of words to shove into 60, you’ll make it look easy.