You have heard them in between the programmes introducing anything from documentaries to reality TV shows. They are the continuity announcers, but how do you get into that line of voice over work?
First of all let's set some context; TV continuity announcers are really a European phenomenon. On the continent they are largely glamorous people on camera, but in the UK and Ireland the majority are out of vision and voiceover only. In the US, Australia and Canada they rely on station imaging to ident the station, but here we prefer a more conversational tone of voice.
I am going to concentrate on television, but radio continuity announcers play a very important role too - these days this is limited to BBC Radio 4.
Interestingly the bigger channels use live voice overs who are sitting there watching the programme in real time - they are effectively a bridge between the viewer and the TV channel. Live continuity can be found on BBC1 & 2, ITV (plus STV and UTV which still has in-vision announcers), Channel 4, More4 (the station I work on), E4, Channel 5 and Sky 1. Other smaller channels may have a limited live service, for example BBC 3.
The rest (and there are currently over 500 of them) are pre-recorded. Ireland has a similar set up with RTE One & Two, TV3 and TG4.
So what qualities do you need to become an announcer?
Certainly the essentials of voice over apply: ability to bring words to life, a good sense of timing and an appropriate voice that matches the particular channel's audience demographic. However you will also be expected to write the 'links' that connect the programmes and reflect the station's image in what you say.
So how can you put yourself forward for this kind of work?
I recommend recording a specific demo that features a night on the channel you are applying for. Write and record various links eg "coming up in half an hour our history series examines the effect on the Royal Family when King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936. First on (insert name of channel) the latest news and sport from our news team in London". Vary your tone as the programming changes. You should not be introducing comedy shows in the same manner as heavyweight documentaries.
Announcers also read out public announcements such as "the series is available to download via our video on demand service" and give warnings into contentious content: "the following programme contains scenes of violence" etc. It is therefore a good idea to include some of these on your reel.
Unlike other voice over jobs, continuity announcing does not require you to work from home. If the TV station uses live announcers you need to be prepared to do shifts, often at weekends so make sure this fits in with your lifestyle.
Still interested? Then have a look at this current list of British television broadcasters and start making that demo.
Gary Terzza teaches voice over skills at his Voice Over MasterClass.
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