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Explain Explainers To Me...

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

Heh heh heh heh. Funny thing is, this is a common question. I got this question from my mom this weekend during our visit and she asked what type voiceover I do? I love her. She has no clue about what voiceover is or what types of voiceover I do or even anything about it. Yeah, I get it. But hey, she's my mom.

Its actually a very good question. I mean, who hasn't seen an explainer video or two recently; even if you don't realize it. But if you've never heard of an explainer - and I seriously doubt that you haven't, its a short, usually animated video that 'explains' a concept, a procedure, an instruction, or anything that tells a short introduction on a subject. Its mainly to give the watcher a taste of the subject, inspiring them 'to learn more'.

So here is a short example of something I did as an explainer:

See. Its animated. Well, the little Admiral is. This is what an explainer does: it explains. Cute huh? A hand draws the characters, writes the whiteboard type, the other images. Nicely done! However, there is a lot of work that goes into creating the explainer. Some of which is behind the scenes and some of which I'll go over least from a voiceover point of view.

It all starts out as a means to solve a problem: How to get your viewers to understand what you're talking about? You could create a Youtube video about your subject. You could do a great job. Or, you just aren't photogenic. Maybe you're doing your video off your phone. Doesn't sound like you thought eh? That always happens. Not to worry.

So what do you do? You go online and look up "video production". Tons of results and way too many to filter through. Lots of competition and people who create explainers. Some of which are sites that will produce it for you! That helps! And it ranges in costs. I mean, I'm not the expert on explainer video pricing, but you will find a range of packages out there and one will certainly fill your needs.

That said, how do you start? Great question (again). As for me who does a TON of voiceover for explainers, I can say with confidence that the first step in getting your explainer done effectively is to (wait for it...) know what you want. Look, if you don't know what you want, take a few minutes and really think about it. Do the 5 W's: Who, What, When, Why, Where. And add in another W: Who (again). By that I mean, Who am I and Who am I speaking to? From there you'll get a great idea of why your information is important.

The next step, and I highly recommend this is either create a coherent outline of what you want to say or dangit, write the synopsis of what you want to say. This is critical to how the outcome will be.

Take for instance the above example I gave. The author thought about what he wanted to say and then made it happen on paper (er...screen). Once down, the voiceover artist's job is to interpret what the intent and feeling is for that script. It has to lift the words off the page (er...screen) and capture the listeners attention. AND it has to be captivating enough to KEEP them on the page (er...screen). You get the idea there.

So, once that is done, the voiceover has been completed and approved, then the job falls to the animator who takes the voiceover and the script, then animates the video to it.

Now, right there is where a LOT of folks go wrong. I have seen WAY too many times where the video animation was done, approved, signed off on, but the script was not timed or even tested against what the animation was produced. Bad idea, multiple levels. I can't tell you how many times I've had to edit the video, adding in extra frames just to time the VO against the animation. It's mind-blowing.

So how do you resolve this? As a client who needs an explainer, do this: Record your script, or even what you think are your main talking points via your phone. No joke, don't worry. It won't be used. Then send it to the production company who is doing the explainer video. If they need to script it, great. Record that. At least it helps with timing. A good voiceover artist can come close to matching that pace and timing.

Once that is done, the VO should have little issue in creating the voiceover for your explainer. Bear in mind that some things do get muddled up. Some things do need revision. But overall this will be a much smoother process and you'll thank me for it.

Best of luck and let me know what I can do for you!

Woody has done well over 300 voiceovers for explainer videos and can certainly answer any questions you have about explainer video production. Contact him here for a consultation.

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