As a voiceover artist for many years I had initially dismissed YouTube as a platform that could ever seriously rival traditional TV. I had never considered working as a narrator for YouTube videos. How wrong I was! Personally I probably watch as many hours of YouTube each week as I do TV or on-demand channels.
The digital age has unlocked opportunities for skilled creators to bring to life their imaginings that until a decade or so ago would have remained just that – imagined projects that could never become real due to lack of funding or unattainable technicalities. As a documentary narrator, I’m excited about the future for this kind of content on YouTube.
Ok so there’s a load of rubbish on the platform and you need to wade through it but the helpful algorithm will hopefully guide you and create for you, your own personalised collection of never-ending content.
Documentaries on YouTube
That content includes many thousands of documentaries, some of which gain a far larger audience than the equivalent available through on-demand or traditional TV.
I remember speaking with a documentary producer I was working with and I mentioned that a YouTube doc that I had voiced had over 4 million views. This producer stated that for the programmes their documentary production company work on, they could only dream of such numbers across non-YouTube channels.
Millions of views on YouTube
4.5 million views so far for this one video alone!
I’ve voiced hundreds of videos that sit on YouTube; these are mainly explainer videos for a whole raft of companies worldwide. Although it’s nice to see the finished product, it’s not something I get excited about. But one of my favourite and regular jobs is for one of the most popular history channels on YouTube. The channel is Invicta History which has over 1.4 million subscribers and whose short documentaries reach audiences ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions.
I’m just one of a large team lead by Julien Blarel, the founder of Invicta. The team includes writers, historians and Penta who create all of the animations.
To date I’ve voiced nearly 100 of their documentaries which cover a huge range of mainly military history and also some fantasy work too.
Here are a few examples.
Re-enactment showing Roman Army Training
Fantasy – I’ve voiced for a couple of Warhammer games but this is a Lore Documentary about Chaos Dwarfs
Another Lore Documentary – this time for Dune
The process of working as a narrator for YouTube videos
Like an audiobook narrator but not
Narrating for a YouTube channel is similar in many ways to the work of an audiobook narrator. However, unlike the audiobook narrator who only has their voice to tell the story, on YouTube there are the visuals and my job is to assist in the storytelling rather than being the solo storyteller.
These videos, although long in the planning stages, are quite a quick turnaround once we are all in ‘creation mode’. The script comes through to me and I have the time to go through it for sense, pronunciation and clarity. At the same time, the animation team are hard at work preparing each set of visuals. When I’m recording, I’m working purely with the script and have no access to the visuals.
A typical script will take a day to record and edit and then this is sent to the animation team to match up with the visuals and any music/fx they will be using.
Everyone involved works very hard to release something we can all be proud of. A bonus for me is that I’ve always been interested in military history and I learn so much from voicing these videos.
AI narration versus the real thing
In recent years, deep learning algorithms and neural networks have enabled the development of AI-generated narration for YouTube videos. This offers a number of advantages over human voices such as time efficiency, budget savings, creative control and consistency with multi-lingual support options. As a professional narrator, I will of course always argue in the favour of employing a human but I also understand that sometimes the budget doesn’t allow for this at the early stages of starting a YouTube channel. Nothing can really replace the warmth and engagement that comes from an authentic human voice.