Most corporate and e-Learning voice-over projects require one talent per language. But some – like e-Learning scenarios and client testimonials – have multiple parts that require voicing. While this may not sound like a particular challenge, these projects can end up having serious consistency issues or not cutting together at all if the different sessions aren’t managed properly. What can you do to avoid these issues?
This post will list the four things you must keep in mind when recording multi-talent VO projects.
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For one main reason – that you won’t have all of the talents for a single language come to the studio at the same time to record, or even have them come to the same studio altogether. Foreign-language voice talent casting requires searching for talents around the world, especially for languages with relatively small numbers of speakers. That means that the cast for a single project may be in various places around the world.
That presents several technological and performance challenges to the recording sessions. Fortunately, they can be overcome by following production best practices. Here’s what multimedia localization professionals need to do to get these projects with large casts right – and avoid pick-ups.
Professional recording studios all have slightly different base specs and preferences, and no two studios record exactly the same. This produces minuscule differences in the audio that aren’t noticeable – unless you hear the audio side-by-side. Which is, of course, what happens when you record audio from different talents and cut it together into one file. It can be particularly egregious in conversations, in which the audio goes back-and-forth constantly between two recordings.
For this reason, it’s crucial to have all the audio sound the same – to record it all at the same specs, with the same levels, noise floor, and peaks. That requires a supervising studio engineer to create full spec sheets, communicate them to partner studios and producers, inspect audio, and oversee the mixes and post-production. Of course, this is something JBI does for all projects, across all languages, to ensure consistent audio quality.
The audio must also be consistent from a performance standpoint. All of the actors and narrators involved have to maintain a particular tone and pace. On top of that, any conversations have to cut together and still sound like the different voice-over talents are speaking to each other – asking questions, responding and reacting to each other. How do you get that when recording with multiple talents, often in studios that are thousands of miles apart?
One way – by ensuring that each language in your project is overseen by a native-speaker, bilingual VO director. The director will set the tone for each language – both matching the source English and ensuring that the recordings work for their locale. He or she will also ensure that all of the audio “works” by checking previously-recorded talents, keeping notes on script context, giving direction to the talents, and even getting alternates when necessary to avoid pick-ups.
Of course, JBI Studios provides a native-speaker director per language on every single voice audio or video dubbing production.
Remember – your script contains not just the exact lines to be recorded in your project, but also the context for each one. And getting this context locked in will help get all the voice talents on the same page. Make sure that it’s clear in your script when talents are speaking with each other. Group conversations together, and provide the context for each one – for example, add a comment with the setting and circumstance (“Bob is confronting Larry in the cafeteria”). And finally, add notes about emotion, especially if you have narrative lines, like in an e-Learning scenario. If your character is being sarcastic, note it. Same if they’re angry, sad, bashful, earnest – or anything else. Succinct notes will help ensure that the different lines cut together properly.
Finally, it’s critical to provide the source reference files to your audio and video localization studio. The reference will often answer questions about tone and context, as well as give the foreign-language directors and talents an idea of the baseline performances, especially for conversations. Finally, as a bonus, the audio reference will help ensure that your production is consistent across all languages.
Finally, the best way to ensure that your recordings with multiple talents cut together seamlessly is to allow enough time for a standard production workflow. That means ensuring that scripts are reviewed thoroughly, and any questions are answered before going into production. It also means allowing time for optimal scheduling – for example, recording talents with large amounts of content first, to act as tone reference for the bit players. And of course, that includes ensuring enough time during cleaning, looping and editing to make adjustments in pacing and pauses, both of which can have significant effects on how performances mesh together. In short, it means taking the time to get your production right – which, after all, is the only way to ensure that any project delivers on time, on budget and on scope.