Hello and welcome to my page and my second blog!
This piece will elaborate on what I consider my 'proffession', meaning one of the things I'll be trained to work as both directly through my own initiative on moddb and jobs in dubbing should I recieve one through the dubbing agencies I've registered on, and indirectly through my acting classes at school.
I first decided to try out modding just before starting my first term in acting school. I'd just recently bought an H4 handy recorder for the purpose of recording myself when singing and then listening to it, trying to hear what I did wrong so that I could better understand the how's and why's.
It was during a particularly dry gaming season that modding came into play. I remembered having played the goldsource mod 'Azure Sheep' and thought that there had to be more mods like it out there, even if they hadn't been featured in the pc-magazine where I'd first spotted 'Azure Sheep'.
It didn't take long for me to discover moddb and I registered as a member, trying out all the Half Life mods I could get my hands on.
My first discovery was that the quality on the mods were varying. A distinct few were so great that I would gladly have paid money for them, like 'Afraid of Monsters' and 'Paranoia', but what I noticed in the majority of other mods was that the voice acting usually consisted of either the stock sound files from the Half Life generation pack or had been done by voice actors with little or no training and that lacked the basic equipment to do decent recording and editing.
Thinking that, with my new equipment and at the time basic acting training, I'd easily find work where I could hone my abilities, I started looking for interesting projects to join.
The first project I discovered was, ironically considering my inexperience, Black Mesa Source.
Not being familiar with the structure and nature of news on moddb, I instantly applied as a voice actor, only to realise the news 'update' was by then, in november 2007, somewhere between 6 and 7 months old. In addition I had no past work or experience to point to, so in retrospection I realise I'd made a poor case even if they had still been recruiting voice actors. I then realised that I had to somehow build my portfolio on the subject in order to strengthen my chances.
After my botched application for BMS, I continued to hang around their site for a while, listened to their music (I practically worshipped the first track on their main page) and browsed their forums. It was then that I first heard of Operation Black Mesa. A group of people had started a thread where they were openly bashing the mod for some past wrongdoing that had evidently killed it somewhere around 2006.
Now though the mod had been reborn and was under new management, and even though there were no lack of people expressing their dislike of the mod for its past, there were enough posters wanting to give the new management the benefit of doubt and a fresh start for me to seek the mod out.
Ironically though, while BM was past its voice recruitment period, OpBM at that time was too early in its startup phase to take on voice actors. We still are at this time if you were wondering at the choice of phrase, but if things continue to go like they are, we might be getting some openings soon, but I digress.
My first optimism for getting to work on the HL2 version of what I considered the best installment in the Half Life series, dabbed when I was told of the project not looking for voice, but I decided to hang in there and do other kinds of work that would speed up the mods progress while I waited for the mod to reach the point where they'd be needing voice.
And so I took up writing, but that is for another day, another week and a completely different blog.
Realising I still had lots of spare time and no voice work forthcoming, I decided to look for smaller mods where I could do some work and hone my skills. In this article I'm going to take up and dissect my past projects and in hindsight look at what I've learned from them.
The first project I came across was a one man project called «One must fall: Destiny», which was a mod for a sidescrolling mechfighter game, and I was to give voice to the journalist reporting on the results after the dust settled and one mech stood victorious.
I jumped at the assignment with gusto and was quickly made intimately aware of my hardwares moods and delicacies. At the same time I started working on two HL2 mods, «Lost Hope» and Logistique. I started on all three mods somewhere around late April, early May and of all three only Logistique is still in the works. Logistique is also the mod I've felt I've done the best work for of the three. The following 'lessons learned' are all things I can think of that I did wrong in the example soundclips. Listen to the clip and then read the 'Lesson' and see if you agree with my statement:
* A handheld recorder should be treated as a microphone, same rules apply. You need to be up close for everything to sound clear while at the same time being careful not to slip on breath and sharp consonants like 'P's and 'T's which easily resound in the clip with an «air explosion». It also helps to hold the microphone at an angle above your head and speak slightly down from the mic, the sound will register and you'll dodge those pesky airpops.
Speaking loudly will NOT make up for distance to the recorder.
* Learn basic sound editing software. Trust me, its easier than you think. Apart from saving someone else the effort of doing a minor job you should be able to do yourself (And I'm not talking anything fancy, just learning how to remove the start and stop record 'tap' of your equipment, muting breath and so forth) it also enables you to create good showreel clips that you can send in for both trial and professional work.
* Learn your lines by heart. I can't stress this enough. A line you don't know by heart will always be halfassed until you've repeated it over and over and over again so that you know it up and down.
* Be clear with your lines. Unless you're voicing a role thats a mumbling maniac the players will want to actually hear what you're saying.
* Find the lines purpose and setting. This might sound self explanatory, but the majority of actors I've heard in mods I've played seem to forget this. Why is your character saying the line? What is his agenda? How does he feel? What is he doing? Is he wounded? Also avoid using descriptive and labeling words like «Afraid», «Angry» or «Sad» as these labels tend to make you sound false because you 'act'.
Instead, if you take «Angry», why is your character angry? What does it feel like to be angry? What do you do when you're angry? How do you talk? How serious is the situation etc.
Now compare those two with this second clip (December 2008) I did for the HL2 mod Logistique:
Still not perfect, but a clip I'd have no problems with encountering in a game. The volume is sound (no pun intended), its pretty clear whats happening and the characters feelings about this shines through.
One month later I also applied to the swedish HL2 mod «Halvt Liv 2» and «A Combines life», both dead mods at the time of this articles writing. Since most who read this won't understand a word Norwegian, (Colonel Cubbage was to be Norwegian instead of swedish) I'll rather post a few clips from «A combines life».
* In some cases it pays off to repeat a line and 'search' for the style or dialect you feel fits, which you can hear in this clip. It also helps you overcome your 'microphobia', which some might feel when they start recording. Turn on your recorder and repeat the line over and over until you're comfortable with it, unless you've stumbled across a version that you feel actually works, THATS when you really start working...
o ...And in some cases saying the line over and over will end in a tongue roll, which gives you something to laugh about later.
The last bit I want to take up as relevant for this blog is one of the two mods so far I've worked on thats gotten released, a mod for Fallout 3 called «Cube Experimental».
In this mod I voiced the 'Hacker' and what I feel is special about this mod is that it pushed my limits. The mod was already finished, but was voiced and written in german only, and the team behind it was working on an English version. The German version of the mod, I realised after looking it up, had gotten some very heavy praise for its voice work, and after hearing all the clips done by my German counterpart, I realised that I had one big challenge ahead of me.
First of all since the team had finished a mod already, there would perhaps be opportunities for continued work if I made good clips. In addition I could practically hear the future critics spell out that the mod was okay IF you played the German version because the English voice actor had fallen on his face and delivered subpar work if I screwed it up. I've read too many examples of just that in other games both commercial and hobbyist to know it doesn't present a good image.
And as such I had to push my limits. I'm very happy with how the end result turned out. Echo and static filter applied by SureAI, 'Cube Experimental' project lead:
Or you can watch my first showreel and skip to approximately halfway in where there's a "Cube Experimental" segment.
Working with all the projects I've been part of has been a learning curve both in acting and in the use of technical equipment and I'm sure that what I've learned so far and hopefully will learn in the future will help me pursue a career within the game industry as well as in any other acting endavour I'll pick up. At the moment I've got a lot of projects in the works a few among them being:
* OpBM (of course ^^)
* Cry of Fear (from the makers of Afraid of Monsters)
* Project Reality; Norwegian Forces mod
And a few Indie games:
* Omega Warfare
* World of Mandana
In any case, thats all for this times blog, I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it, and if you managed to pick up a trick or two from what I've learned, so much the better :)