A voice-over is an audiovisual technique. Often, it’s used for translating content. However, it is also narrative by nature. So, voice-overs are also used in their original recorded language as well. In addition to the various uses, you will have heard at least one or two different types. Whilst you may not have noticed it, they’re always present. Such as, on tv, commercials, documentaries, the news, online courses and more.

However, voiceovers aren’t used solely in visual content. You’ve probably heard them on the phone and through your GPS. With the rise in localized content, we’re seeing many more uses for this technique. It seems to be popping up in audiovisual media all over the world. So, why is this method becoming so popular?

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The definition of a voice-over

Firstly, let’s start with the definition. If you’re asking yourself, “What’s a voice-over?” the clearest explanation is as follows:

Voice-over is a production method that takes an unseen actor’s recorded voice and uses it to explain things, or acts as a narrative on different types of media.

Professional voice-overs are often referred to as VO in the industry. I will likely use the VO abbreviation a lot, for the sake of brevity.

Below is the google definition:



  • A piece of narration in a movie or broadcast, not accompanied by an image of the speaker.
  • “The budget is summarized in a voice-over at the end of the news”

You may be asking how this technique came about. See our article Voiceover: The history of the technique.

Voiceover, dubbing or subtitles?

VO is technically a form of dubbing. In regards to multimedia translation, you have three options: VO, dubbing or subtitles. Subtitles translate in the written form. Whilst they appear at the bottom of the screen, they do not affect the original dialogue in any way. In contrast, the other two translation techniques do. Both are methods that translate audiovisual media and change the original dialogue.

For a deeper look at the differences with examples, please see the article, Dubbing or Voiceover: The main differences.

To sum it up:

  • Both dubbing and voice-over are techniques for re-recording a message for a new audience or market.
  • VO style dubbing doesn’t replace the original dialogue. It is noticeable to the audience. In addition, VO doesn’t always show emotion or tone.
  • Lip-sync dubbing aims to fully replace the original dialogue. It is not noticeable to the audience. Furthermore, it shows the same tonality and emotion as the original.

Guide to Voiceover as an audiovisual translation service

Types of voiceovers

Often, you’ll hear people refer to the category of a voiceover rather than the actual definition or the style of recording. However, the actual techniques are different, because of the way that they are recorded and made. To sum up the different categories, check out our list of the 11 popular categories of professional voiceover services.

Now, let’s go over the most common voice-over styles:

UN-Style or VO-Style Dubbing

  • This method consists of a voice over a voice. The original voice can still be heard. At the same time, the newly recorded version is played louder.
  • For example, if you’re watching the news in the USA, and there is an interview with a German-speaking politician, they will add a UN-Style voiceover in English. You can still hear the German language faintly in the background, but the louder volume of the English translation is what you absorb.

Off-screen or Narration

  • This method consists of a voice talent reading a script that’s intended to go over visuals.
  • For example, if you’re watching a nature documentary, you’ll most likely hear a voice explaining what’s happening in the video. Think David Attenborough explaining how a pride of lions live in certain conditions. You aren’t watching him explain it, you’re listening to narration and watching the lions.

Voice replacement

  • Thirdly, you have voice replacement. This technique is exactly how it sounds. You mute the original audio and replace it with the newly recorded voice or translation. Whilst this method is not the same as lip-sync dubbing and is a lot less precise, it is more complicated to record than the first two styles.
  • For example, if you’re watching an advert that has been translated with the voice replacement technique, you will notice that the new recording will match the timeframe of the original. However, it won’t match as perfectly as if it were dubbed.

More niche styles:


  • Known as the Polish lektor, and meaning “reader” in Polish, this niche technique is mainly used for this market. One person reads every translated line of all of the actors on-screen. Although there is no emotion portrayed, it is timed so that you can hear as much of the original dialogue as possible.

Gavrilov translation

  • Whilst this style originated in Russia. It is the same concept as lektoring. It takes its name from Andrey Gavrilov, a famous voice talent in Russia.

Voice-overs for different industries

As mentioned previously, multimedia localization has become extremely popular in the last decade. We often associate voiceovers in film or tv as the only type. However, they are becoming a popular globalization translation technique for many different purposes.

Here are some examples of industries using the Voice-over technique:

  • Advertising and commercial voice-overs
  • E-learning voice-overs
  • Character/Animation voice-overs
  • Video Game voice-overs
  • Product video voice-overs
  • Interview voice-overs

There are many more uses for professional voiceovers. The list above is just a few examples. It is a popular audiovisual technique that costs less than lip-sync dubbing. Whilst it isn’t as precise as lip-sync dubbing, it works brilliantly as an alternative translation method. See our infographic on the Voice-over process to find out exactly what it entails.

If you’re looking for more information about what method is best for your content, you should speak with a localization company that will guide you and explains the best technique for your media.

Voiceover translation languages

Any good voiceover company will assist with any questions you have in regards to the markets you want to reach and the languages and dialects that you want to use. There are usually different prices associated with different voiceover languages. For example, English to Japanese is more costly than English to Spanish. There are also different dialects of certain languages to consider.

With so many languages available for global reach, you should search for professional voiceover services that only use native speakers and linguists. See our guide on How to choose a professional voiceover company to translate your content.

Here are some of the most popular languages used for voiceover translation:

  • English voice over
  • United Kingdom English
  • North American English
  • Australian English
  • Spanish voice over
  • Latin American Spanish
  • Mexican Spanish
  • Columbian Spanish
  • European Spanish
  • French voiceover
  • Candian French
  • French
  • Italian voiceover
  • Portuguese voiceover
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • European Portuguese

The list could go on. But, you get the point. There are many dialects and languages used for VO. So, it depends on the specific market you are reaching. When selecting a voiceover company, it’s best to make sure that they fully understand the target market.

Should I Use Professional Voiceover services for content translation?

There are many benefits to choosing professional voiceover services. They are a relatively cheap way to translate and maximize content. It really comes down to your unique project goals. See our article on How much do professional voice-over services cost?

Some questions to ask when choosing professional voice-over services

  • Budget How much money are you looking to spend on the translation? For example, VO translation is a lot cheaper than lip-sync dubbing. Defining a budget previously is of great importance to explore your options realistically.
  • Target market expectations – What are your target audience use to? Dubbing, Subtitling or Voiceovers? What would they expect? Are they willing to read the translation in subtitles or do they normally prefer voiced translations?
  • Type of media – What translation method is normally used your type of content? Is there a specific reason that the same style of work is normally subtitled, dubbed or has a VO? If so, does it impact your choice?
  • Style of Voice-over – What style and technique are you looking for? Is it a niche style, such as lektoring or the Russian Gravilov translation?
  • Professional voiceover company or bootstrapping – Is this something you can do in-house or are you looking exclusively for a professional voiceover company? How formal is your content and what’s level of quality are you looking for?

There are many different questions to ask yourself when making a choice between translation services. If you go through a localization company, they will help you make the right decision based off of your needs, vision and budget.

Want to reach more audiences with your content? SPG offers voiceover services in over 40+ languages. Speak with one of our experts today:

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