Voice Over Terms: Glossary of Industry Jargon
As an aspiring voice over artist, getting into the industry can be quite overwhelming. From finding your voice to dialing in on specific techniques, there’s a lot to consider and practice. Plus, you need to fully understand the industry. Within this, there’s a broad list of industry-specific terms every voice over talent should be familiar with. These voice over terms are used on a daily basis on the job, and if you happen to land a gig without a full understanding of the terms, you’ll find yourself lost amidst all the jargon.
Seeing as that the Voice Shop seeks to help all levels of voice actors properly pave their way through the industry, we’ve laid out a glossary of voice over terms to help you better understand your surroundings. As you perfect your voice, create a demo, and look for work, take some time to familiarize yourself with the terms and definitions provided below. Of course, you can find plenty more voice over resources on the pages listed here:
Voice Over Terms & Definitions
A - F
AAC - An acronym for advanced audio coding, AAC is a common type of ISDN connection—which allows voice over artists to record remotely from their home studio without losing audio quality.
ADR - Another acronym for automated dialogue replacement, ADR is a means of replacing the original audio from a scene with voice over during the post-production process. It’s often necessary when the audio of a specific shot or scene has been compromised.
Ad Lib - Another word for improvised lines when recording. In other words, an ad lib is not written into the script—the voice over artist may add it in spontaneously or when they see fit.
Ambience - While not specific to voice over, ambience is the background noise behind a voice over. It’s typically used to set the tone for a specific scene or setting.
ANNC - Used often throughout scripts, ANNC is simply an abbreviation for announcer.
Billboard - A direction for voice actors in which a line from the script is to be emphasized. However, the voice actor should remain in the same tone.
Bleed - Any noise that comes from the headphones and is captured by the microphone.
Buy - Essentially another word for a selected take or recording. While it can also refer to purchasing a commercial spot, a buy is typically the take a client chooses to use.
Call Time - This is the time scheduled for an audition. Those looking for work should never miss a call time, so write it down!
Cattle Call - A name given to an audition where hundreds of voice actors try out for a specific role.
Cold Read - Much like a salesman’s cold call, a cold read is essentially an audition where the voice actor doesn’t have a chance to rehearse. You’ll be handed a script to start reading right away.
Copy - The copy is simply another term for the script—though it’s more commonly used than script.
Cross Talk - Similar to a bleed, cross talk denotes when one voice actor is picked up by another's microphone.
Cue - A simple signal from the engineer telling the voice talent to start reading.
Dead Air - Whether the result of poor timing or a hesitation from the artist, dead air denotes a long break between lines or words when recording.
Dubbing - As opposed to ADR, dubbing is done to place another language (dialogue) over the original, such as in foreign films.
False Start - Not specific to voice over, but common, a voice talent makes a false start when they misread a line or mess up in the beginning of a recording. Typically, they'll start the take over.
Foley - Foley are sound effects for movements, where the sound must be matched with what’s happening on screen. This could be footsteps, dropping a glass, etc.
G - L
Guide Track - In some cases, voice artists will be given a video or audio clip to reference for pace and correct pronunciation—deemed a guide track.
Inflection - Used to emphasize the meaning of a word or phrase by altering the pitch of your voice.
IPDTL - IPDTL or IP Down the Line, is similar to ISDN in that it allows voice over artists to connect and record with a studio from virtually anywhere. In fact, IPDTL is a more common choice over ISDN these days.
ISDN - As mentioned above, an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) allow for remote recording. More specifically, ISDN utilizes special phone lines to transmit recordings from the actor’s studio to another.
Jingle - Jingles refer to the music made for a commercial, such as the Folger’s Coffee tune.
Lay Out - Lay out is simply a direction for voice over artists, telling them to keep quiet for a moment.
Level - Denotes how loud (or soft) the voice actor will speak at throughout the recording. “Getting a level” is used to establish the level of sound so the sound engineer can work accordingly. In other words, it’s easier to alter the gain of the mic then instruct the artist to maintain a certain speaking level.
M - R
Master - The master is original recording of any track.
Mix - Mix, or mixing, entails blending all of the pieces together into a final product, or final mix. By pieces, we mean the voice over, any sound effects (SFX), ambience, and music.
Monitors - Specific to recording, monitors are the speakers used in studios to “monitor” the sound of a recording. In many cases, the control room will have multiple monitors with different output quality to ensure the sound is optimal.
Music Bed - The music that’s placed behind the voice over. It could play as the voice actor speaks or be mixed in after the recording.
Overlap - A must for scenes with arguments or heated conversations, an overlap denotes any time one voice artist’s lines start before another’s finish.
Pace - Not specific to voice over, the pace is simply the speed at which the voice actor speaks or reads copy.
Patch - Patch denotes using a digital connection like IPDTL or ISDN for recording voice over. The recording is “patched in”.
Placement - Placement refers to how the microphone is positioned during a voice over recording.
Pop - The noise certain consonants (like P) make when speaking. Accordingly, a pop filter is often used on a mic to prevent such consonants from “popping”.
Punch In - Similar to ADR or dubbing, a punch in is a technique in which part of the recording is overdubbed to replace the original recording.
Residuals - Based on a contract or union rules, residuals are paid to the voice actor when a recording is used further than the initial compensation covers.
S - Z
Session - the total time of a voice over recording, starting from the initial call time.
Take - A single performance of a part of the script, or the entire read. Of course, this isn’t specific to voice acting, as it’s also used for regular acting. Certain lines or scenes may require multiple “takes”.
Three In a Row - A direction from the engineer or producer to read a specific line three times in a row with variations. This way, there’s alternate versions of a single line to choose from for the final mix.
Trigger - A trigger is simply an emotional or physical indication, prompting the voice actor to convey a certain emotion in reading the copy.
VO - VO stands for Voice Over, an acronym we use often at the Voice Shop.
Learn More with the Voice Shop
Looking for a career in voice over? Whether you’re just getting started or are simply looking to improve your skills, The Voice Shop offers a range of voice over classes to help talents of all levels find their voice and get jobs as a VO artist. If you’re ready to sign up for classes, give us a call at 212-213-9487 today!