Friday, 19 July 2013

Recording voice talent - a dummy's guide

Frank Gladstone directs actors in the sound booth

Every animator will eventually, at some point, find him or herself directing voice talent for a film project. Whether it’s a short film, a personal project, or a piece of animation for a client, you will eventually need your characters to speak. And for this, unless someone else does it for you, you will need actors.

So how does an animator or director go about recording voices? And how do you get a decent performance from an actor? Especially if you’ve never ever done it before? Follow the steps below - and you won’t go wrong.

Step 1. Find a proper sound booth

Yes, you can record something rough on your Mac or PC with a Microphone, but if you want some audio that actually sounds good, something suitable for broadcast, you need a booth. There is a reason why film-makers pay good money for a Soho recording facility – the sound quality is way better. But you’re a student – you’re broke. So what to do?

Luckily for our students at Bucks, we have state-of-the-art sound booths in abundance. Book them through the room booking system, get your self a technician (or better yet, a student) who knows how the press the right buttons, and you’re on your way. You can even take a tour here.

Sound booth at Bucks
Step 2. Find the right voice talent

This is the trickiest bit, but also the most important. Most people freeze up in front of a microphone. Even your friends who are funny, who do great voices in the pub after a few drinks, even they freeze up, and sound like a wooden cardboard character, reading their lines like a robot.

Luckily, Bucks again comes to the rescue. Put out a call on the Bucks New University Facebook Media Collaboration page – and find yourself an acting student who does voice-over work. Mostly, they’ll be pleased to get the experience. After all, we all need stuff for our demo reels.

Sound booths are located in the Gateway building, marked number 10 on the map

Step 3. Get Samples

Pro actors will have samples of their work online, doing different voices, in different styles. By way of example, check out the vocal work of Lizzie Waterworth-Santo here - she does the voice for Horrid Henry. Student actors most likely will not have this kind of online resource yet (though they should), but you can always ask them to email you some sample wav files.

Or, you can meet prospective voice talent in a quiet room (there are almost always some classrooms free at Bucks) and get them to do a few lines into your PC or laptop, just to check that they are right for the part. 90% of getting a good result on the day is casting the right person. Does the voice suit the role? Actors won’t be offended (or shouldn't be) if they aren’t right for the part; they understand the nature of the business.

What you don't want to do is waste a lot of time recording the wrong person in the booth. So get some good samples up front, and then pick the person who sounds right for the part.

Voice actors need this

Step 4: Recording day

Once you’re in the booth, make sure you get your voice talent a glass of water. Voice over work can be tough on the vocal cords. Be appreciative that they are helping you out.

Next, ask the talent to read all the lines all the way through, just once, to warm up. Give them some direction first. Typically, you want the voice-over to sound perky and conversational, like someone in a pub telling their friend about some great new idea. What you don't want is the sound of someone reading lines in a flat, listless way. Again, check out Lizzie's website for guidance. What style do you want? When the actor does their first read-through, tell them you're not recording them (but secretly do anyway - you might get some great takes). Then give them some notes.

After that, have the talent do each line read in groups of three, leaving a short gap in-between. Experienced actors will give you 3 different reads to choose from. Less experienced ones will give you the same line read 3 times. It shouldn’t matter though – if you have cast the right person, you should get a good result.

What if you don’t like the way they read the line? Should you do it for them? Well, yes…and no. When you record professional actors, don’t ever do the line for them. They’ll be offended. And if it’s a big star – they might be so offended they'll never work with you again. But with newbies, or your pals, it’s fine. We amateurs need more guidance. Whatever it takes to get a good result.

5. Recognition and credit

One last word. Whoever helps you out, whether it’s a sound technician or an actor, take down their full name. Good film-makers give credit where it’s due. Nothing burns your bridges faster than forgetting to give credit on your final cut.


No comments:

Post a Comment