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Tuesday, September 4th, 2012
For the Gabuduck app Miko and Cola we had inexperienced child actors playing 3 of the 4 major voiceover roles in the book. And this book is big by iPad ebook standards, 64 pages of fun and frolic! So how do you wrangle child actors, keep their interest while recording over 120 lines of copy and ensure you get a great performance? Patience, fun and preparation!
The characters Miko and Cola were played by Ava and Karmen, two precocious 8 year old girls with big personalities. We decided to cut their roles together to let them read against one another. It took three sessions with the girls to get their lines dialed in: session one was a piece of cake with the girls just nervous enough to quell their natural tendency to be, well, 8 year olds. Through sessions two and three, in spite of a heavy duty raid on the studio’s cookie jar, the girls really hung in there even while getting a little crazy. They both took direction like pros and there were no situations we couldn’t handle. If the lines got a bit tough they helped each other out, stayed on mic most of the time and gave line repeats until we had what was needed. They were real pros.
The character Sherman the Mouse was played by 4 year old Declan and he was a trooper. (Full disclosure: he’s my son!) Dad would feed him the line the way it needed to be read and Declan would repeat back until he nailed it. There were moments where he no longer wanted to read and the trick here is to take the break and do some playing. Sherman’s lines were cut over three or four days in my home studio with frequent stops to play Hot Wheels or Wii Star Wars but when it was all done and the edits were finished we had a great read by the little man.
Cutting child actors is a big change for the VO director. You need to get out of your chair, get in the room with the kids and help them through their lines. Mic stands and headphones can be intimidating to adults, just think what it’s like when you aren’t even 10 years old yet. We used jokes, cookies, frequent breaks for play and lots of patience and laughter. We ended up with great reads from three wonderful kids and a fantastic story that I’m sure your kids will enjoy as much as mine does.
Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
The other night I sat in as guest producer during a voice talent workout. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a voice talent workout allows a group of talent to get together and put themselves through the paces without a client present. They critique each others reads, give encouragement and, ultimately, they create a community.
For the last decade or so the trend has been for voice talent to work from home. The joke most often heard is how nice it must be to wander down your hall and make money in your jammies. I’m not going to say that wouldn’t be nice but I do believe that we’ve lost something because of it. There’s no obvious peer group anymore, no obvious competition. The spontaneity two or more talent would bring to a script when in the same room has all but disappeared. Which brings us back to the idea of community and why I think all voice talent should get involved in a workout group. Get out there, meet your peers (and your competition) and hone your craft.
In this particular workout (I’m talking about you Melissa Moats!) the organizer kept things moving along nicely with a speciﬁc schedule, an absolute necessity. Comments were kept positive, each talent was encouraged to choose something outside of their normal comfort zone and everyone had three chances to read the script and get it right. After a break there was an audition round, in which everyone had a chance to audition a script chosen by the organizer, and then Q and A with the guest.
As a producer I walked away impressed, motivated and excited about the talent in our market. Being an active reader of many audio forums, I’m forever amazed at some folks in LA or NY who claim there are no good non-union talent. Certainly the talent is more concentrated in those two main markets, but to outright dismiss anyone outside of those zip codes is patently ridiculous. There are some real gems in smaller markets like Las Vegas–people who regularly book jobs nationwide–and it was great to be reminded of that. We all need voices to get our work done; someone has to carry the message. Creating a community of talented voice professionals right here at home can only benefit each of us who has a hand in producing media.
Thursday, July 29th, 2010
This post is going to focus on the building blocks of a sound design job; not the most fun part but its gotta be done to keep the project organized and on track. So you get the phone call and MondoGameCo wants you to bid on their new project. Problem is, MondoGameCo is kind of new to the whole outsourcing thing and they not only don’t have an asset list and brief for you but they all use their own internal tech speak to describe to you what they need. How do you turn that meeting into a coordinated and concise estimate? Easy; listen, take notes and ask questions. Can MondoGameCo show you a working version? If so, have them walk you through it and every time they use their internal language to describe an event ask them to explain the meaning in laymen’s terms (it won’t take long before you are speaking their language). Next thing we do is develop an asset list with the client; time to break out the spreadsheet and get busy. We recommend Numbers which is part of Apple’s iWork package. It can open and save as Excel spreadsheets, it’s WAY easier to use and it’s so much cheaper it’s criminal (when I wrote this, MS Office Home 2010 was $125 for a single license on Amazon, iWork was $33, you do the math). We start with 3 or 4 columns, we’re going to refine this later anyhow. As we’re going through the game we ask questions about the action and make suggestions as to the effective use of sounds. Everything gets put on the spreadsheet which we use like an outline: column A is the title of the sound, column B is the description and column C is where we put our notes about that sound. It’s really quite simple and once you’ve taken the time to build this initial spreadsheet the rest of the organization is a piece of cake. Use this initial asset list to create your estimate and do a “save as” once your numbers are in. If you need to track the progress of the job across all designers just create a column for each and have them update at a specified time. Keep your client updated by creating a version for them that you can email over once a week. See, spreadsheets aren’t just the territory of accountants and lawyers, they can be a handy tool for us creative types too. Just leave the tie at home.
Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
New website, new work, new blog. In the past few months we’ve been awarded several interactive game titles, been featured in the advertising for our favorite software, Steinberg’s Nuendo 5 and created the soundtrack for (and played major roles in) Shmitty, McFunkle and Stump, a cartoon short currently airing on Comedy Central late night. We’ve even started creating our own sound effects library. So we thought, hey, some of this stuff might be interesting to our clients and friends, let’s blog about it! In this space we’ll try to regularly update you on what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and the tools we use to create sonic landscapes for all the crazy projects we’re involved in. We’ll even try our hand at posting videos so you can literally see what we’re doing. Thanks for reading, more to come!