What do you think of when you hear the names Morgan Freeman, Sean Connery, or James Earl Jones? Aside from their stellar acting talent, another quality immediately comes to mind — their iconic voices.
As long as radio and motion pictures have been around, voice talent has played an essential role in communication. In fact, part of the reason we can recall a popular TV or radio advertising slogan is the voice that broadcasts the message.
Have you ever wondered how the commercial voice-over got started? Who developed voice-over equipment? Keep reading as we explore this fascinating topic!
When Did Voice Over Begin?
The earliest known recording of a human voice dates back to 1860. This came three years Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville invented and patented the phonautograph — the world's first sound recording device.
Today, there is an 11-second recording of the Frenchman singing Au Clair de la Lune, but it is the oldest surviving "sound clip" on earth.
Fast-forward to 1900, Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden successfully transmitted a weather report via radio signals to an audience within a one-mile radius. Six years later, he broadcast festive Christmas messages across an 11-mile radius, even reaching ships off the coast.
Famous Names in Voice Talent
By 1922, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) was formed. It transmitted broadcasts from kings, politicians, and other noteworthy figures across the British Empire. One hundred years later, BBC reaches nearly half a billion listeners worldwide.
Meanwhile, commercial voice-over (as we know it) started in America with Walt Disney. His 1928 production of Steamboat Willie was the first synchronized voice-over in animation history.
In the 1930s, one of the greatest names in voice talent history emerged. Mel Blanc gave life to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Woody Woodpecker, and dozens of other iconic characters. He was also the first credited voice actor and the reason why today's voice talent receives recognition for their work.
Over the next few decades, countless actors and actresses lent their voices to the recording world. Some of the most famous include Tarzan's signature yell (Johnny Weissmuller, 1932) and the War of the Worlds radio drama (Orson Welles, 1938).
No discussion of voiceovers would be complete without mentioning the undisputed king, Don LaFontaine. You may not recognize his face or name, but you'd instantly recognize his deep, iconic voice. He recorded his first radio spot for 1962's Dr. Strangelove — and the rest is history.
LaFontaine's voice narrated virtually every movie trailer for the next 40 years. Sometimes he would record up to 35 different promotions in a single day! In fact, many today simply refer to him as "that announcer guy from the movies."
Not a bad way to be remembered, if you ask us.
Do You Need to Record a Commercial Voice Over?
Technology has grown by leaps and bounds since the first phonautograph recording in 1860.
These days, talented individuals have turned their voice talent into full-time careers. If you need to record a television or radio voice-over for your products, the voice you need is just a few clicks away.
Click here to request a quote and get one step closer to the voice that's perfect for your brand.
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