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Including Direction Notes

Directors are a very important part of any production, from movies to commercials. They help to guide the talent and create the the right feel. Voiceovers can also have directors, especially when done in-studio, but it's more rare for remote VO work. While in some cases talent may be patched into the client (you) or a director remotely during recording, more and more frequently talent handle the entire recording process on their own. Providing direction notes is a way to guide them when you aren't there. We've previously covered tips for writing VO scripts, as well as ways you can best communicate the vision you have for your project. This time we're going to sort of combine those things and discuss direction notes and other ways you can help the talent efficiently voice the project you envision.

Direction notes can extend beyond simply describing at the start what type of tone and feel you want in the script. They can also be peppered throughout, letting the talent know things like whether a certain line should be delivered with irony or in a different voice, etc. As an example, perhaps it's a script for an e-learning course where you want the talent to be perky and bright throughout most of it, but then slow down their pace and take on a more serious tone when covering a certain subject matter. That would be a good place to make a direction note.

You can make these notes in any manner which clearly illustrates it is not part of the script to be read, whether it's by including them in brackets, a different font color, in a table format, or any other way that feels right for you. It also helps if you let the talent know at the top of the page which text is to be read, versus which text is there for direction. Also be sure to remain consistent in the manner you use, or else it could cause confusion.

Direction notes can be used for other things besides tone and pacing. While a talent often accepts as part of their job that they'll have to look up the pronunciation of things like unfamiliar names, places, foreign words, and field-specific terminology, you can make their jobs easier by providing those pronunciations for them. Sometimes for audiobooks, an author will even provide the talent with an audio file of themselves saying all of the potentially difficult names, terms, etc (especially helpful for fantasy novels that don't have real-world equivalents the talent can research). You can also include links to things like dictionary pages with audio samples, videos that discuss the person referenced and say their name clearly, or any other source that aids the talent in maintaining accuracy. Before providing these examples or pronunciation guides, you can also check to see if the talent is already familiar with some of them. Some talent may have experience in the field the training video is for, as an example, or have studied the language(s) that certain terms are derived from. If you're using a source like FlyVoiceovers, some of this info may be on the talent's bio, but you can also ask us and we'll be able to find out promptly.

Direction notes can help you establish a consistency with how the talent reads things like years (do you want them to say twenty-twenty or two thousand and twenty, for example), and numbers (fifteen hundred or one thousand five hundred). If not specified, the talent will use their best judgment and create their own consistency, but that might not result in what you'd had in your head when writing it. A quick note can help clear it up, and doing one in-text (be it in a bracket or other pre-established method) can also help their eyes focus on the spelled-out way of saying the number as they read, preventing a hiccup in their pace or a mistake in their delivery.

There are no real draw-backs to direction notes, as they can help the talent know exactly how you want things read and you get the right recording without any need for pickups. Before you send in your next script to the talent or agency, pause for a moment and consider whether it may benefit from some of these notes. A few minutes to type in some direction notes could result in a world of difference.

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