“I Know that Voice”: Voiceover Gurus You Will Recognize

There are voices we all immediately recognize. In some cases, we may know the voice and be able to tell who it belongs to. In other cases, there are voices that sound familiar, but the talent and voiceover gurus responsible for them are not necessarily a household name.

These voiceover gurus create content of different types, such as trailers, audiobooks and documentary narration.

Is it possible to acquire such voice talent for a project? Is this is feasible or even necessary? We will explore such topics too and offer some suggestions.

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This post has been updated in August 2021.

Trailer Voiceover Gurus

Don LaFontaine

Don LaFontaine is an immediately recognizable, even mythical voice for movie fans worldwide. He was responsible for over 5000 movie trailers and countless commercials, amongst other voiceover works, until his passing in 2008.

LaFontaine became well-known by his trademark phrase (with which he kicked off many trailers): “In a world…” He explains the importance of the phrase: “We have to very rapidly establish the world we are transporting them to. That’s very easily done by saying, ‘In a world where… violence rules.’ ‘In a world where… men are slaves and women are the conquerors.’ You very rapidly set the scene.”

Mark Elliot

John Harrison Frick Jr, known professionally as Mark Elliot, is an unforgettable voice, particularly for Disney fans. Critics point out that “anyone who has watched a Disney DVD has heard Elliot say “And now our feature presentation.”

After a long career as a disc jockey in radio, he worked in voiceover. He was the main voice for Disney from 1983 to 2008. In this role, he was responsible for countless movies, trailers, promos, and commercials. He was also the voice for CBS and FOX for several years as well as a voice talent in many non-Disney trailers.

Nick Tate

Nicholas John Tate is an Australian actor, who found great success as a voice artist.

Tate started acting in ‘My Brother Jack’, an Australian television series and had an illustrious career as an actor of film and television. He was active in both Australia and the United States, taking part in productions such as ‘Dynasty’, ‘Hook’, ‘The X-Files’, amongst many others. He was also a successful theater actor.

His voiceover work in trailers included films such as ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘Braveheart’, ‘Schindler’s List’ and many others.

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Audiobook Voiceover Gurus

Jim Dale

Jim Dale is an English actor and voiceover narrator, amongst several other things. He is the voice behind the ‘Harry Potter’ audiobooks, having recorded all seven books. He voiced 134 different character voices in ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ and 146 voices for ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’.

Some voices were particularly grueling, such as Hagrid’s. Dale says: “I started to speak in a very low voice for Hagrid when I first started recording the first book. And I thought, ‘Whoops, I’ve made a mistake’ I said ‘I can’t continue this low. It’s going to ruin my voice.’ You shouldn’t have to scream or shout as a narrator. Let the emotion do it, not the volume.”

Jeremy Irons

Jeremy Irons is a famous English actor, with a long, successful career on stage, television, and film. He also has an impressive resume of voiceover work. He has voiced the audiobooks for Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’, Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ and several National Geographic and PBS documentaries. Jeremy Irons gained great accolades for voicing ‘Scar’ in ‘The Lion King’.

Regarding his performance as ‘Scar’ and the fame accrued by it, Irons states: “It’s not been a millstone round my neck at all. That’s the thing. Things you’re successful in, they’re there, they’re color. If you’re hugely successful in them that’s a big color.”

Documentary Voiceover Gurus

David Attenborough

Sir David Frederick Attenborough is an English voice that is immediately recognizable. He is the voice behind the documentaries ‘Life’, ‘Blue Planet’, ‘Planet Earth’, amongst many others.

Although these days Sir David is not doing that much traveling, he is still very much involved in the editing process and writes the scripts. He then reviews the footage and starts doing voiceover work until he is happy with the result. He is still able to record a one-hour show in two hours. His approach to voiceover narration is quite simple: “One, don’t say too many words. Two, use words that are comprehensible. Don’t use unnecessary words. But don’t skimp the facts.”

Sir David’s voiceover narrations are widely hailed and admired. Hans Zimmer, reputed composer, who has also worked with Sir David, states: “[Attenborough’s] voice makes it feel like he’s only talking to you and he has something very important to tell you.”

He is still active and his latest release on Netflix is called ‘Our Planet’, yet another magnificent foray into the natural world. He recently also narrated the BBC documentary ‘Climate Change: The Facts’.

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog is a reputed filmmaker, with a particularly impressive roster of documentaries. His voiceover narration and sound of his voice are well-known to film enthusiasts around the world.

Some of his most famous documentaries are ‘Grizzly Man’, ‘Encounters at the End of the World’, ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly’, amongst many others.

Awards for Voiceover Gurus

Voiceover gurus are recognized for achievement in voiceover work. The Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator is an important award for such talent. The holder of this award is currently David Attenborough, whom we mentioned earlier, for his narration of ‘Our Planet’.

What Makes a Voiceover Guru?

There are a plethora of items which are needed to describe someone as a voiceover guru.

Technical prowess and training are a must. These are certainly the building blocks of a reputed voiceover artist.

Thereafter, a voiceover guru is someone who has acquired a certain status and even gathered a following. This is also the reason why they are sought after; much like a movie star is able to ‘sell’ a movie, so is a recognizable voice able to attach a level of prestige to a project.

Training and Experience

Voiceover gurus are people who have achieved an extreme proficiency in their craft. This usually comes after intense training and/or years of experience.

Education for a voiceover guru is varied. Some of them come from an acting background and are thus trained in theater. Others are performers of various kinds and many have worked with their voice before as singers.

Most importantly, though, voiceover gurus are constantly training and improving their craft by themselves. Trial and error and the role of experience are not to be discounted, as many voice artists find that they learn the most by doing.

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Hiring Voiceover Gurus

The natural inclination is to look for a hard-hitting, even famous voice to attach to a project. It is important to consider the pros and cons of using such voiceover gurus:

Pros

  • Recognition and Fame

Perhaps the biggest asset of voiceover gurus is recognition. Such a voice will instantly add a certain ‘gravitas’ which will serve the project well. This may help the quality of the content or the marketing of the finished project. Even things like fundraising may be easier if a big name is attached from the get-go.

Consider the documentary ‘A Life Apart’, about the life of Hasidic Jews in New York City. The work was produced by PBS and seemed to be a small undertaking. The voiceover narrators were Leonard Nimroy, who played Mr. Spock in ‘Star Trek’ and Sarah Jessica Parker who starred in ‘Sex and the City’. Such narrators instantly gave the documentary a greater potency and allowed it to intrigue more viewers.

  • Experience

Voiceover gurus carry with them a great roster of projects and consequently hours and hours of experience. Such a resume can give a luster and dimension to a voiceover project which other voice talent may not be able to give.

Cons

  • Costs

Voiceover gurus earn large rewards from their work. Unfortunately, such salaries may prove to be too high for someone who is putting together a project with a more limited budget.

Although it is true that a big name may lend their name to a small project, like the Hasidic documentary mentioned previously, it is also possible that such a performance may demand a high fee.

  • Exclusivity

Many voiceover gurus are in very high demand. This spells out a particularly difficult situation for the producer of a trailer, documentary, audiobook or any other sort of content. Booking such a high profile voice talent will inevitably be a challenge, even with the available funds.

Alternatives to Voiceover Gurus

It is possible to get a first-rate voiceover without necessarily acquiring a costly and famous voiceover guru. The idea is to be able to find voiceover talent that is able to provide what a voiceover guru does, at an affordable price.

This will usually mean finding a voiceover narrator, for instance, who has the experience and know-how but who perhaps does not have such a level of fame. This will mean fewer costs and a faster turnover rate. Providers like Bunny Studio are able to set up such a situation for a client.

In a Nutshell

Voiceover gurus create content such as trailers, audiobooks and documentary narration.

Technical prowess and training are the building blocks of such a voiceover artist. Thereafter, a voiceover guru is someone who has acquired a certain level of fame and status.

The natural inclination is to look for a famous voice to attach to a project. Such voice talent may provide recognition, experience and ‘gravitas’ to a project. Voiceover gurus, however, are usually very expensive and in high demand.

It is possible to get a first-rate voiceover without acquiring a costly and famous voiceover guru. This means finding voiceover talent who have the experience and know-how but who perhaps do not have such a level of fame yet.

Find your next voice over artist today at Bunny Studio. 

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