The Final Frontier: How a Good Voice-Over Complements the Effectiveness of Virtual Reality
Remember An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary on global warming that picked up two Academy Awards in 2006? Would that have been effective without former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore’s voice-over narrating the reality of climate change?
The year before that, the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature went to March of the Penguins, which had a voice-over by Morgan Freeman. But if you think they were successful because the voice-over artists were celebrities, that cannot explain why other Oscar-winning documentaries featuring causes had relatively unknown VO artists.
You don’t need a celebrity vice-over artist. What you need is someone who can effectively tell the tale.
Virtual Reality is changing the way causes are shown to viewers. For instance, the 2017 edition of the Sundance Film Festival features Jeff Orlowski’s Chasing Coral in the New Frontier section. Using virtual reality, viewers are taken to Australia’s Lizard Island. They are then informed how the Great Barrier Reef is under threat because of increasing water temperatures.
It doesn’t end there. The documentary takes them under the sea – using virtual reality, of course – and then exposed to firsthand the phenomenon of coral bleaching, something that happens when the coral is under stress. It turns white (this is shown using the time-lapse technique of storytelling), hence the name ‘bleaching’.
All this is enough to make the audience understand for themselves the effects of climate change. And the VO artist is Zackary Rago, whose voice is actually what takes viewers along their journey in the six-minute short film / documentary.
Have you heard of Zackary Rago? The chances are that you haven’t – he is actually only a scuba diver and marine researcher, with no other voice-over experience whatsoever. This is proof that it isn’t the celebrity voice-over artist’s contribution that brings in audiences and critical acclaim. It is the effectiveness of the voice.
Another example is Zero Days VR, which takes a look at the Stuxnet virus that penetrated nuclear facilities in Iran. Although it was suspected that the virus originated either in the United States or Israel, nothing could be proven.
The voice-over for this 15-minute documentary too is not a celebrity. They needed someone to be the voice of their confidential NSA informant in the film. Obviously, they couldn’t use the informant’s real voice. The end result is just as effective in meeting its objective of telling a story successfully and communicating the intended message.