Internal vs. External Voice Over

People are always asking me what I mean by “internal” and “external” when I teach my voice over classes. Great voice over, counterintuitively, is not about the voice.

“Whaddaya mean, voice over is not about the voice?! It’s VOICE over, Bruce! Of course it’s about the voice.”

In truly compelling voice over, the voice does not lead. You move through a scene with your head and heart and the voice follows. When you move voice first, you are operating externally.

When you move head and heart first, you are operating internally – from the inside, out.

To move externally, is to manipulate your voice without really feeling or understanding what is actually going on in the scene. Sooner rather than later, a really good writer or producer will challenge you in a way you are not prepared for. I hear a lot of broadcasters moving externally.

Take the game of Chess

If you don’t understand what’s really going on, you think it’s a game of moving pieces on a board. But it’s not. That’s only the external. What’s really going on is strategy. Chess is about strategy, which is internal, hidden. If you don’t understand that, then you think it’s a game of simply moving little pieces on a board, which can be very deceiving.

Same with voice over

Let’s focus on the actor inside, not the voice outside. It’s not about manipulating your voice. It’s never just about words on a page. These are the external things. Compelling voice over is about the internal world you are creating and living in. It’s about being in a scene and filtering someone else’s words through your own experience and emotions and sending them out the old pie hole spun with your particular emotions and point of view. This is the real work. The real work is Oral Interpretation. And that’s very different from a great set of pipes. You can buy a fantastic musical instrument – a Stradivarius violin. But playing it? That’s another matter entirely. Voice acting, like any fine performance, is an internal art.

“That’s not a recording booth, it’s a scene.
That’s not a microphone, it’s someone’s ear.”
~ Bruce Carey