In light of the recent SUPER UPDATE TIME, the group has talked about doing shorter blog posts. After all, we’re not a large group and writing long entries takes time that can result in long gaps between posts. Additionally, I hope that these brief musings might serve as points of discussion within the audio community. Let’s jump right in!

So the fantastic VO artist, DB Cooper, has an entry on Designing Sound titled Sounding Real: Directing VO for Games. If you’ve not read it and you are new or newish to this VO direction thang, you should definitely give it your eyeballs. It’s informative, concise, and hits on some great points about helping make a session go splendidly. If anything, you should see the picture of her in her hat. MAN THAT HAT.

The first part of the article focuses on authenticity in delivery and it’s all great insight and advice. Again, please read it. However, the second half stood out to me, especially when I took in this piece of info:

During the actual session:

Interrupting an actor may seem like a time-saver, but what it really does is alarm the actor and undermine his confidence which can lose you a strong performance, or it will irritate the actor and make him less likely to be receptive.

On the count of interrupting an actor during a line read, George Hufnagl has been found… GUILTY! Yes, when I first started VO direction/coaching, I made this mistake, because like DB says, I thought that the actor needed to know what I had in mind right this second or it will be completely forgotten! WRONG. I admitted my wrongdoing on Facebook and we had a nice little exchange.

VO Dialogue

She’s totally right, too! No one likes to be interrupted while they’re talking in real life conversation and the same goes for a VO session. It throws a wrench in the works, the actor might get frustrated, and then the chi of the session is all off.  I’ve since learned from my mistakes and really just needed to take a beat with my thoughts. In addition, when you have two or more people monitoring the session, listening and waiting to respond is ever more important to the rhythm of the process. It’s really about etiquette and being a good listener. The title of this collection comes to mind.

Luckily, this is simple to fix! The easiest solution I’ve found is to format your script in such a way that you and the actor can write your thoughts down as needed. This is by no means definitive and I’m sure there are variations on this theme, but here is an example of what works for me.

Script Example

  1. LINE – the naming scheme used to differentiate text. In addition to numbers, you might use some other system to help with naming your files during editing, whether that’s you or someone else.
  2. PHRASE – the text read by the actor
  3. NOTES – this is where you jot down your thoughts instead of interrupting. Whether it’s to mark a line for which you’d like another take, a word you thought sounded odd or some other issue entirely, make a note here and wait for an opportunity to share your thoughts.

Additionally, when working with a digital copy, as might be the case in a remote recording session, I’ve found tracking information in Google Drive to be a fantastic solution. When recording with a VO colleague remotely in Australia, I created a spreadsheet doc with Google Drive, which contained all the information you see above. The actor also had access to this doc during the session. It allowed us to see notes as they were written down and comment on the fly. Super great time saver! Just be sure you mute your keyboard while they read, of course.

It’s a very simple solution, but to keep the wheels moving forward, fluid communication is key. After all, we just want everything to go smoothly and on time. Happy recording!

If you’d like a copy of the sample document above, feel free to download it here (Microsoft Word Doc).

(feature image by Kristine Dinglasan)