Today, my sound designer (Mark) and I began voice recording all the characters. My flatmate who goes to drama has announced for me opportunities for voice acting to the society regarding my project. Three volunteered, the perfect number of people.
Before coming in, I sent them a link to the animatic. When they arrived we decided on the roles. After that, we ran through the entire script together just to get a feel of it.
We individually recorded each character by talking through the script in sections. After a number of takes for a section, we would move on to the next section. Adapting and giving different emphasis in speech was helpful to give thought to the final selection. The reason why it was necessary to separately record was for clarity of the recording.
Mark helped with the recording and editing. After the session, we listened to the recordings. In hindsight when putting the recordings together, we realized that it seemed disjointed at some parts. One thing to consider in the future is to practice the script with all the actors together to get a better feel of continuity and flow. Mark also began to realize another issue that would have helped in efficiently selecting the takes to create the final audio is to have an audio guide whereby I would read out the dialogue for all the characters and the actors talk with a similar pace to control the timing (that helps with the animation as well). Although I do feel that may loose the expressiveness of some characters or perhaps I realize later on that there is a better way of saying the dialogue.
I wanted to dig deeper into the perspective of voice over artists and searched for interviews. One such talent is David Kaye who talks about his experience and his advice is to ‘never grow up’, in interacting with people in order to also be relaxed when performing.
From an article by Animation World Network, below was quoted wise words from John Lasseter.
Animators should focus on the acting…make the characters think and act…start with the body first, next focus on the eyes, and last focus on the mouth. When reviewing reels we look at the acting first.”
— John Lasseter, November 4, 1996 during a lecture at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles.
The article continues to mention not only do animators have to understand the process of acting in order to create a character, but they also have to be able to direct and communicate with actors for projects involving live actors for reference or motion-capture.
I continued to research through the book Performance and Acting for Animators and in chapter 8 titled ‘Working with Actors’, it details helpful information about how to get the best out when working with voice over artists, as well as the finer details of the operation process.
A common misconception is that the rehearsal is the place where the performance is decided upon and finalized and that the recording session is where the performance is recorded. In fact, the rehearsal is actually about opening the script, delving into it and coming to a common understanding; finding out what the movie is about for each character and playing with the material. It is not intended to have things fixed in stone, rather to explore the possibilities. Some directors do not like this process because they believe it removes the spontaneity of the performance.
It is true that voice actors nowadays are recorded not in the presence of the other characters. However there are times where they are able to listen to the recorded voices of previous voice actors.
The book discusses how to talk to actors and mentions if one is directing, it is assumed that one would be more outgoing than implied and one would be used to talking to people like producers to give direction to animators and the rest of the film crew. It is recommended if within the budget to hire a voice director, not saying to take over completely but to translate what the director wants. Before each take, the actors should be given some context, physical actions and envisage what the character is doing. There is the idea of using verbs, acting coach Judith Weston calls “action verbs”. For example if a character is angry with another character, instead of saying “more anger”, it is better to ask to “scold” or to “intimidate”. Giving feedback at the end of a take is also very helpful for both director and actor.
It is quite odd to be reading all this information after the recording session, however after processing and editing all the dialogue, if needed it is possible to call the actors back again. Fortunately, the direction that I had handled in interacting with my sound designer and actors was more or less in line with what was described in the book. However, more research and a better group practice session would have been better in connecting the characters and improving the flow of the dialogue to make a more convincing take.
Hayes, D. & Webster, C., 2013. Acting and Performance for Animation. 1 ed. s.l.:Focal Press.
Lieff, J., 2000. Performance And Acting For Animators. [Online]
Available at: https://www.awn.com/animationworld/performance-and-acting-animators-0
[Accessed 22 May 2017].