Voice-over (also known as off-camera or off-stage commentary) is a production technique where a voice which is not part of the narrative (non-diegetic) is used in a radio, television, film, theatre, or other presentation. The voice-over may be spoken by someone who appears elsewhere in the production or by a specialist voice actor.
As a character device
In the 1956 film version of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Richard Basehart, as Ishmael, narrates the story and sometimes comments on the action in voice-over, as does William Holden in the films Sunset Boulevard and The Counterfeit Traitor, as well as John Mills in David Lean's Great Expectations (based on Charles Dickens's novel) and Michael York in a television remake of the book.
Voice-over technique is likewise used to give voices and personalities to animated characters. Among the most noteworthy and versatile of whom include Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, Don Messick and June Foray. Legendary NBC announcer Don Pardo has also done many voice-overs.
As a creative device
In film, the film-maker places the sound of a human voice (or voices) over images shown on the screen that may or may not be related to the images being shown. Consequently, voice-overs are sometimes used to create ironic counterpoint. Also, sometimes they can be random voices not directly connected to the people seen on the screen. In works of fiction, the voice-over is often by a character reflecting back on his or her past, or by a person external to the story who usually has a more complete knowledge of the events in the film than the other characters.
Voice-overs are often used to create the effect of storytelling by a character/omniscient narrator. For example, in The Usual Suspects, the character of Roger "Verbal" Kint has voice-over segments as he is recounting details of a crime. Other examples of storytelling voice-overs can be heard in Gattaca, Blade Runner, The Shawshank Redemption, Big Fish, How to Train Your Dragon, Moulin Rouge!, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Raising Arizona, Goodfellas, Clash of the Titans and Star Quest: The Odyssey.
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