Voice acting vs. acting

Not sure which art form to choose? Read the biggest differences between voice acting and traditional acting in this comprehensive guide written by a voice actor.


Rafael Botelho

1/8/20248 min read

a woman holding a clapper over her face
a woman holding a clapper over her face

Voice acting vs. traditional acting: What's best for you?

Did you know that the global entertainment industry, ripe with acting opportunities, is expected to reach an astonishing $2.78 trillion by 2027? You stand at a crossroads: the decision between voice acting and traditional acting.

As someone who's lent their voice to animated characters and stepped into diverse roles under the spotlight, I offer a unique perspective.

In this exploration, we'll delve into the differences between voice acting and traditional acting, unraveling which path might align best with your aspirations and talents.

What is voice acting?

Voice acting, also known as voiceover acting, is the art of using one's voice to portray characters, narrate stories, and provide voices for animated films, video games, commercials, audiobooks, and more.

It is a specialized form of acting that requires actors to convey emotions and create compelling performances solely through their voices. Voice acting is an art form where your voice becomes the tool to bring characters and narratives to life.

It's more than just reading lines; it's about creating a persona using only your vocal cords. From animated characters in a child's favorite cartoon to the persuasive voice in a commercial convincing you to buy that fancy blender, voice acting is everywhere.

What is traditional acting?

Traditional acting, on the other hand, refers to the more familiar form of acting that involves performing on stage or in front of a camera. It encompasses various mediums, including theater, film, television, and commercials.

Traditional actors use their entire body, facial expressions, and gestures to bring characters to life.

Voice acting skills

  1. Imagine bringing an array of characters to life, from a whispering fairy to a booming giant, all with the power of your voice. That's the magic of vocal range and control in voice acting. It's about playing with pitch, tone, and inflection, not just speaking but truly embodying different emotions and personalities.

  2. Characterization: Voice actors must be skilled at creating distinct and believable characters solely through their voice. They need to develop a deep understanding of the character's background, motivations, and emotions to bring them to life.

  3. Script interpretation: Voice actors often have limited context when recording their lines, so they must be able to analyze scripts quickly and make strong choices in their delivery to convey the intended message effectively.

  4. Microphone technique: Voice actors must learn how to use a microphone effectively to capture the nuances of their voice and deliver high-quality recordings. This includes controlling distance, avoiding plosive sounds, and maintaining consistent sound levels.

For example, if you have to voice a villain in a video game, you'll have to find a menacing yet sophisticated voice. It's all about modulation, pacing, and emoting purely through your voice.

Unlike traditional acting, it's not about how you look or move; it's how you sound.

Traditional acting skills

  1. Physicality: Traditional actors rely on their physical presence to convey emotions and tell stories. They must be able to use their body language, facial expressions, and gestures to communicate effectively with the audience.

  2. Stage sresence: Traditional actors need to have a strong stage presence and the ability to command attention. They must be comfortable performing in front of live audiences and have the stamina to sustain their performance over multiple shows.

  3. Emotional range: Traditional actors must be able to tap into a wide range of emotions and convey them authentically. They need to be able to connect with their characters on a deep emotional level and bring their experiences to life.

  4. Improvisation: Traditional actors often encounter unexpected situations on stage or during filming, and they must be able to think quickly and adapt their performance accordingly. Improvisational skills are highly valued in traditional acting.

Voice acting opportunities

  • Animated films and TV shows: Voice actors are in high demand for animated films and TV shows, where they can bring animated characters to life through their voices.

  • Video games: The booming video game industry provides many opportunities for voice actors to portray diverse characters in immersive gaming experiences.

  • Commercials and advertisements: Voice actors lend their voices to commercials and advertisements, helping to sell products and services through their vocal performances.

  • Audiobooks and narration: Voice actors have the opportunity to narrate audiobooks, bringing stories to life through their captivating storytelling abilities.

  • Flexibility is a massive plus in voice acting. You could be recording at a studio one day and from your home setup the next. And the diversity of roles! Your physical attributes do not limit you.

Challenges and cons

  • Unlike traditional actors, voice actors often work behind the scenes and may not receive the same level of recognition for their performances.

  • The field of voice acting is highly competitive, with many talented voice actors vying for limited opportunities.

  • Voice actors must be able to create compelling characters solely through their voice, which can be challenging without using physicality and facial expressions.

It's a competitive field. Sometimes, you might feel like you're just a voice and nothing more. Remembering to care for your vocal health is also paramount – I learned this the hard way during a particularly grueling audiobook session.

Traditional acting opportunities

  • Traditional actors have the opportunity to perform on stage in plays and musicals, connecting with live audiences and honing their craft.

  • Traditional actors can pursue roles in film and television, reaching a broad audience through their on-screen performances.

  • Traditional actors often appear in commercials and advertisements, showcasing their versatility and ability to connect with viewers.

There's a certain thrill to traditional acting that's hard to match. The instant feedback from a live audience or the camaraderie on set is exhilarating. Plus, there's more recognition in this field.

Traditional challenges and cons

  • Traditional actors face high rejection, as the casting process is often competitive, and not every audition will lead to a role.

  • Traditional acting can be physically demanding, requiring stamina, flexibility, and the ability to perform repetitive actions for extended periods.

  • Traditional actors must be able to perform under the scrutiny of cameras and crew members, often with limited takes and time constraints.

Which one is right for you?

Picture yourself at a crossroads: One path leads you to a studio, and your voice is your tool. The other takes you to the stage, where your entire presence tells the story. Where does your heart lead you?

Voice and traditional acting are each a journey guided by your unique interests and talents.

If you have a passion for storytelling and a versatile voice and enjoy the challenge of creating characters solely through your voice, voice acting may be the right path for you. Voice acting offers unique animation, video games, commercials, and more opportunities.

On the other hand, traditional acting may be better if you thrive on physicality, enjoy the thrill of performing in front of live audiences or on-screen, and have a strong stage presence. Traditional acting offers opportunities in theater, commercials, film, and television.

Ultimately, both paths require dedication, hard work, and a commitment to honing your craft. Exploring both avenues, taking acting classes, and gaining experience is essential to determine which path resonates most with you.

The diverse world of voice roles

Voice acting isn't just limited to cartoons. Think video games, audiobooks, educational videos, and even the voice that guides you in a GPS app. The variety is staggering. Each type requires a unique set of skills and approaches.

The physicality

Traditional acting is what most people think of when they hear the word 'acting.' It's about performing in front of a camera or a live audience, embodying a character physically and emotionally.

Whether it's theater, film, or TV, it's all about bringing a character to life, body and soul. In traditional acting, your entire being is your instrument.

Your facial expressions, body language, and interactions with your surroundings and other actors are crucial. It's a holistic performance.

Performance environments

One of the significant differences between voice acting and traditional acting lies in their respective performance environments. In voice acting, you're often in a studio, sometimes alone, creating worlds with your voice.

In traditional acting, you're on a set or stage, interacting with other actors and tangible elements. Both have their charms and challenges.

The role of appearance

Another key difference is the role of appearance. In traditional acting, sadly, how you look can typecast you. In voice acting, it's liberating. You could be a superhero one day and a mouse the next, regardless of your physical appearance.

Preparation and rehearsal

Voice actors require intense vocal preparation – keeping your voice in shape is crucial. Traditional acting is more about memorizing lines, understanding blocking, and physically embodying the character.

This can be physically demanding, with extended hours that can be grueling. And let's not forget the typecasting based on looks.

Getting started in either

Embarking on this journey starts with one step. Think of creating your portfolio like crafting your first masterpiece. Start local, maybe lend your voice to a community radio commercial, or dive into a role in a local theater production.

These are the stepping stones to your dream. Drama schools, local theater, auditions – it's about honing your craft and getting seen. Joining acting unions can also open doors to more significant opportunities.

Personal insights from experience

Voice acting allowed me to explore roles I'd never be considered for in traditional acting. But in traditional acting, the thrill of live performance, the immediate audience reaction – nothing quite like it.

Embrace your strengths

Whether leaning towards voice acting or traditional acting, understanding and maximizing your strengths is critical to a successful career. This section will help you identify which form of acting aligns best with your unique talents and how to make the most of them:

Vocal versatility

If you have a robust and adaptable voice and enjoy working in a more controlled studio environment, voice acting could be your calling. It offers the chance to:

  • Diversify your roles: From animated characters to commercial voice-overs, the range is vast.

  • Work flexibly: Many voice actors enjoy the convenience of working from home studios.

  • Focus on vocal skills: Hone your ability to convey emotions and characters through your voice.

Physical expression

For those who thrive on physical expression and interaction, traditional acting provides an opportunity to:

  • Experience the immediate feedback and energy of theater or on-set performances.

  • Master body language, facial expressions, and movement to bring characters to life.

  • Gain recognition through on-screen or stage roles, enhancing your professional visibility.

Make the right choice for your career

Understanding the differences between voice acting and traditional acting is just the start. Consider where your passions lie and what type of acting will fulfill you creatively and professionally.

Remember, the acting world is diverse; many enjoy and successfully explore both avenues. Trust your unique abilities and leap into the exciting acting world tailored to your strengths and aspirations.

Consider your strengths and what excites you. Are you more comfortable in a booth with a script, or do you crave the energy of a live audience? Both paths require dedication and a willingness to learn and adapt continuously.

Key takeaways

In wrapping up this comparison between voice acting and traditional acting, it's clear that both avenues hold their unique allure and set of challenges.

As someone who has navigated the ebbs and flows of acting, I understand how deeply personal the choice between these two paths can be. If you're considering stepping into acting, remember that your unique talents and passions will be your compass.

I'd love to hear about your journey if you've already taken some steps in either voice or traditional acting! Sharing your experiences in the comments could offer invaluable insights and encouragement to others navigating these choices.

So, take that leap, and let's see where your story takes you!

actress dressed with black clothes acting with a serious face
actress dressed with black clothes acting with a serious face
camera crew on set filming woman acting beside lite window
camera crew on set filming woman acting beside lite window
voice actor wearing headphones and recording audio with microphone
voice actor wearing headphones and recording audio with microphone