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The Differences Between Voice Over and Voice Acting

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The world of voice acting and voice overs can seem very similar, but the two could not be further apart. This may not be obvious to those listening to the voices. However, some key differences should not be overlooked.

Voice acting utilizes actors who perform for characters on television, radio, movies, and video games. Voice over, on the other hand, is narrative in content. Voice over actors read for commercials, game shows, and movie trailers. They are off-screen announcers.

There are many other more nuanced differences between these two types of acting, and even some crucial similarities. Read on to learn more about these two incredible forms of artistry.

Key Differences Between the Voice Acting and Voice Over

Though these titles may sound similar, it is important to remember the many differences between them. They are key to understanding how this very niche world is divided up.

It is beneficial to start with the separate descriptions of the two art styles. From there, we can move further into the more nuanced distinctions.

Definition of Voice Acting and Voice Over

Understanding what is involved in a career is crucial to differing it from others like it. This is the case with voice acting and voice over.

These two forms of artistry have very different definitions. This is the biggest difference, and the most important to understand before diving into the other things that separate them from each other.

What Do Voice Actors Do?

Voice acting is an art that has grown over the years, increasing in popularity over a variety of platforms. Everyday, more and more formats of entertainment embrace the craft. Some of the biggest places voice acting is used include:

  • Video games: Such as Fortnite, Assassin’s Creed, and World of Warcraft
  • Movies: Such as Secret Life of Pets, Ratatouille, and Ice Age
  • Television Shows: Such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Curious George, and The Simpsons

Among many other genres, voice actors all across the board provide speech in the format of emphasized acting. It is a heightened state of saying words without being seen.

What Do Voice Over Artists Do?

Voice over, on the other hand, is the sister talent to voice acting. An actor performing must also use their voice as their medium. Voice over artists tend to lend their craft to:

  • Commercials: As announcers, narrators, and more
  • TV Shows: As announcers for game shows and even more
  • Audiobooks: An artist reads the book from cover to cover

Though there is a little bit of overlap in the industries that the two artists work in, these two styles of acting are very different.

Terms That Define Voice Actors and Voice Over Artists

Voice actors and voice over artists go by different names in the industry that they work in. There are many to know and understand for each talent.

Once you know each term, you can be more comfortable with the different layers of talent within these industries. It is crucial for anyone wanting to become involved in the creation of voice art.

What Do You Call a Voice Actor?

There are a couple of different terms for people who take on acting and performing with their voice as a career. Some of the most popular titles for voice actors include:

  • Voice actor/actress: As in an actor who performs with their voice
  • Voice artist: An artist whose medium in their vocal cords
  • Voice talent: Like any other actor, a voice actor is a form of ‘talent’

All of these names suit someone who is using their voice as a means of professional acting.

You can even switch between these, as they all mean the same thing. The important thing is to clarify that the individual works in the world of creating art with their voice.

What Do You Call a Voice Over Artist?

Just as someone who does voice acting, there are also a variety of names for someone who performs a voice over. Some of these may include:

  • Voice over artist: Someone who uses their voice as their medium might be called this, similar to a voice actor
  • Voice over specialist: This is a name for someone in the voice over industry who has had many years of experience
  • Voice over announcer: Voice over announcer is applied to the people who announce, such as in commercials, game shows, and even television shows

All of these, and more, work as titles for those who lend their vocal abilities to the world of voice-over. Unlike voice acting, many of these names can only be applied to certain individuals at certain points in their careers.

Job Roles

As we have already discussed, the jobs these two artists take on are very different. One resides in the world of narration and announcement, while the other takes on acting behind the scenes.

While both are rooted in the world of entertainment, they are on different planes. One entertainment lies in reality while the other one exists in the domain of animation.

In other words, many voice acting jobs will take place in animated features while voice overs often occur during non-fiction elements such as documentaries or game shows.

Vocal Style

More often than not, voice acting and voice over call for two completely different styles of voice. This is because the need for a narrator requires something completely different than an actor.

Vocal style can vary between each kind of acting. However, there are general niches that encompass a wide amount of actors within both voice acting and voice overs.

Voice Over Styles

Some styles of voices used in the voice over industry include:

  • The narrator: This genre of voice over talent is what you hear when you watch a nature documentary, because they sound informative and entertaining all at the same time
  • The announcer: The voice over performers are utilized in commercials and game shows because they are energetic and memorable without ever being seen
  • The actor: Not to be confused with the voice actor, this type of voice over artist is used for audiobooks and other forms of reading where slight variation is needed

All of these are acting to some degree, but they are not taking on a character. They are becoming a persona.

Voice Acting Styles

Voice acting, on the other hand, has a wide range of styles to fit all of the characters that exist in the world of entertainment. Some of these common characters include:

  • The child-like voice: As seen with characters such as Timmy Turner and Bart Simpson, there is always a need for an actor that can pull off the difficult intonation of a young person
  • The villain: Unique villains require unique voices, and these are often either high or low in nature to an extreme degree
  • The hero: The deep-voiced hero is a common trope in animation, and there is always a demand

As you can see, the tropes of voice acting require the artists to tweak their voices to a much more extreme degree than voice over artists.

While voice over artists speak, voice over actors contort their words to fit into the persona of a new individual.

Frequency of Jobs

There are different ways that jobs are offered to actors within this industry, and they tend to come in varying ways. These differ between voice acting and voice over actors.

There are many ways that these jobs may be similar within the world of voice acting. However, there are general ways that employers typically go about acquiring voice talent for each.

Voice Acting Jobs

These are often long-term unless the actor is a guest star or in the position of a cameo role. Contracts for voice actors can be:

  • A couple of episodes: Sometimes, a voice acting job may only be for a few episodes
  • A season: A character may only be in the show for a season, and a contract will be signed for the number of episodes needed
  • The duration of a show: A contract can last with a show or movie until the end of its creation process, or until that character is removed from the network in one way or another

With most voice acting gigs, it is over some time. It may be long or short, but it is more than a one-time affair.

This may, however, differ from job to job like any creative position.

Voice Over Jobs

Voice overs, on the other hand, are normally not long-term. A few of the most common methods of action in getting a voice over artist job include:

  • Commercial gigs: A voice over artist may be booked for a singular job with a company, which can turn into something longer if the voice becomes a staple of the company
  • Book readings: A talent may sign a contract to read one book, where they are paid for that book and then set free
  • Movie narrations: An artist may be signed on to read narration for a movie, which is normally in the style of a documentary

Voice over artists tend to book single gigs, rather than ones that stretch out over long periods. There are exceptions to this, however.

If a TV show needs an announcer, that might turn into a longer job. Every chance to create is an opportunity to be hired again.


Many, many people would like to be involved in the voice acting and voice over industry. However, voice acting tends to be the more popular of the two. This is for a couple of different reasons:

  • Freedom of voice: When acting, you are freer to stretch, change, and alter your voice than you are in the art of vocal performance
  • Character-based: In voice acting, you can picture the character that you are providing life to
  • Fame: Though it is quite hard to get famous through this art form, many people pursue it in the hopes that it will be a stepping stone into the world of Hollywood

This is not to say that there is not a massive amount of human beings trying for a spot in the voice over industry.

Voice acting is just the favorite out of these two. Perhaps voice over art will continue to grow in the years to come, as it has its own set of perks:

  • Mellow environment: Where enthusiasm lacks in the voice over world comes a mellow attitude when things are being created
  • Freedom to choose: In voice over acting, you can choose what gigs you want and which you do not
  • Less pressure: Voice over acting is the more laid-back of the two, because there is no pressure to get the acting perfect

Though voice acting is more popular, it is easy to see why people also enjoy voice over performing. They are different in ways that appeal to two varieties of people.

Key Similarities Between Voice Over and Voice Acting

Although there are many differences between voice acting and voice over performance, there are many similarities as well.

These similarities are important to know when comparing these two careers. Similarities matter just as much as differences.

Pay Rate

As an artist in the area of acting, it is hard to get up on your feet and make money doing what you love.

This rings true for both types of voice performers we have been discussing. The average entry-level voice artist makes around $30,000 a year.

Unfortunately, it is also not uncommon to make less than this. If you go into either of these industries you need to know that the likelihood of making a living in it right off the bat is very low. You need to be prepared to deal with a lot of low-paying jobs before success.

This is not to say that it is impossible to make more than that. Phil Crowley, the announcer for shows like Shark Tank, is worth millions of dollars.

Tara Strong, a beloved voice actress, is worth even more than that. It is not impossible. It just takes a lot of hard work and patience.

Celebrity Dominance

Unfortunately, there is another reason why these two are similar. In this world, if a celebrity wants a job, they get it. While this seems great, it may drive away opportunities from beginning actors who would like to get a start in the industry

Some big-name actors who have taken their stand in the voice performance industry include:

  • Morgan Freeman: Freeman has become a staple of the voice over world in the last ten years, where he frequently narrates for Earth Day specials and other nature-based shows
  • Selena Gomez: A past Disney star, Gomez has voice acted for dozens of characters over the years
  • Matthew McConaughey: McConaughey is most famous in the voice over world for his stint with the Lincoln car company

While it is not a bad thing to allow famous actors a chance to voice act, it is unfortunate for the less experienced. Voice performance relies on a notable voice.

Sometimes, only celebrities can bring attention to a film or a commercial that needs to gain popularity. This is a huge disadvantage for vocal talents of all kinds.

An Underrated Art Form

The biggest thing that these two formats of acting share is the fact that they go unnoticed by so many people in the world and the creative industry.

While many are drawn to the lights and dazzle of being on screen, many do not even consider what happens off-screen.

Working with your voice is a career that holds many benefits that so many actors do not even realize:

  • You can work in pajamas: If the company or client you are performing for does not have a policy, you can perform with your voice in your pajamas
  • You can be whoever you want: When you are just using your voice it is easier than ever to become the person you have always wanted to be
  • You can fly under the radar: Even if you are making good money with your voice, chances are the paparazzi will not know who you are so you can be an actor without the fear of unwanted publicity

Along with many other benefits, voice acting and voice overs are unique careers that often get tossed to the side. They deserve to be in the limelight more often than they are.

Which is Better?

Now that we have compared and contrasted the two, you might be wondering which is the more dominant form of voice artistry.

There are certainly a lot of reasons and arguments for both of them. However, the answer is not as simple as that.

There are benefits and disadvantages to both. In the end, your personal preference should drive you if you are interested in becoming someone who performs vocally.

They are both unique and fun in their own special ways. Both make money, support the arts, and pave a way for those who are to come into the industry.


There are a lot of differences between the arts of voice acting and voice over performing. They are created for different things, occur for different amounts of time, and even have varying levels of popularity.

However, there are also a lot of similarities. As easy as it is to pull these two industries apart, it is just as simple to see how they belong together.

They are very different but in the end, they support a wide community of artists and provide excellent entertainment to the world that we reside in.