Recording voiceovers – job harder than you could think
Some may think that we just click the record button and then the actor says some words to the mic and it’s done. In fact, it’s much more complicated than that. :) We will try to describe the whole process now.
Below you can see what happened when we tried to record a voiceover of the character talking underwater. We made it using a glass filled with mineral water :D Yes, that job sometimes is really funny.
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We really wanted to put true, honest and propper emotions into every voiceover so we decided to work directly face to face with actors in the studio. (We will explain why Polish voiceovers have huge influence on English voiceovers later in this update)
To be able to work with actors we had to take our whole equipment and move it to a totally different studio, so the setup is a little makeshift but does its job really well. :D
You could think that we could do the same job just sending the script to actors and working with them at a distance by web-cam. However, our experience shows us that when you work with actors in the same room you could in the best possible way instantly explain every tiny emotion, character motivation/behaviour and timing of speech. This is really important, especially in a story as complicated as in The End of the Sun.
1. Meeting and acting on “stage” before recordings :)
Before we started any recording we decided to do the thing that is really rare in-game design workflow. :)
We had a meeting with the actors to read the whole script and explain the story. This is a practice used in cinematography.
No, it isn’t our local edition of “Got Talent Show” :D We’re watching and listening to actors on stage and giving them our feelings and ideas on how to do it better) (Hmm on the other hand it really sounds like the description of Got Talent Show :D)
According To Wikipedia:
The read-through, table-read, or table work is a stage of film, television, radio, and theatre production when an organized reading around a table of thescreenplayorscriptby the actors with speaking parts is conducted.
Why we did that?
Mainly because even if the script looks great on paper and sounds awesome in Your mind it could sound really bad when someone is saying a certain line of text. Thanks to that meeting we made a lot of small fixes to our script. Second thing is that we were able to hear and see simplified acting. This gave us huge feedback and many ideas on what will be (or could be) the look of in-game scenes.
We got like 3 hours recording from the meeting, sometimes it was really great fun, especially comparing it to proper recordings which were really hard work.
Below You could see some funny moments from our meeting :) It looks really ridiculous when You look at it but that meeting gave us an instant view if something was wrong with any game scene. (We removed the sound of the video to don’t spoil anything)
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2. Interesting characters need interesting sound
Below You could watch a few seconds of video from our recordings in our temporary studio. Julia Starzyk is creating the voiceover for one of The End of The sun female characters.
The voice acting is really specific here as that character is quite “unusual”. It is a mythical character so we have been thinking a lot about how she should sound. This is something that is worth writing another update about but we can’t spoil more for now. :)
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Below You could hear the final version of the same line script recorded directly by our mic:
You could follow Julia Starzyk on her Instagram Here:)
3. Why do we record Polish voiceovers firstly?
Unlikely our budget is limited so we decided to record Polish voiceovers at first and use them with our custom workflow. We have been working with voice actors face to face in the studio. Then we are creating all cutscenes/puzzles/adventures using those recordings.
When the game with Polish voiceovers will be fully tested we will send it to English voice actors who will make recordings based on emotions from Polish voiceovers. So basically this is also the best way to get emotionally proper English voiceovers without working directly with English voice actors. We have been thinking about this workflow for a very long time and in our opinion, that kind of production process will give the best results in the final game.
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Here is the same part of the script recorded by our mic with added some music for a better atmosphere.
The good news is that almost all polish voiceovers are already recorded. We will of course ask testers for opinions before we will use voiceovers in the final game.
4. Recording many versions of a single line of text.
Preparing the studio for our needs took us one day and working with actors next 7 days (10h per day). We recorded many versions of every single line of the script. Sometimes even 25 different versions (emotions, more oldish sound, timing)
Below You could see how similar recordings versions are. It is really hard to choose sometimes :)
In the Polish version of the game, Bogdan Krok is acting as Dalim (Dalimir). (Yes You have right we didn’t share any info about that character yet but You could hear the voice sample above :) )
5. Work on distance? – We have a workflow for that too!
Few of our actors work with us on distance. It is pleasure for us to work that way with Liz Katrin. You could hear her amazing vocalises at the start of our game trailer. She will also share her voice for one of our characters in the Polish version of the game now! :)
To get the best possible quality we recorded all needed voiceovers by ourselves and make an emotional base that Liz could base on when making her recordings. That workflow is much faster than making a description of every single line of script :) (Heroine played by Liz is also unrevealed yet and there will be a separate update about it for sure :) )
Below you could hear a sample of a voiceover from Liz Katrin:
6. Difference between Old and Young voice.
At The End of the Sun game, you could travel in time and meet the heroes in the different stages of their lives so actors have to record in different voice styles. The first kind of voice is for the young character, the second voice is for the middle Age and the last one is for the old heroes. The problem with old characters was that we wanted it to sound like a natural old voice and not Cartoony or a fairy-tale hero.
Some of the game characters are not only old but also sick or… crazy :) Here is the video during the Nadimir old age character’s voice testing. This is the voice of Nadimir which You could also know from our Kickstarter trailer.
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You could hear the result in the “work in progress” video from one of the missions we are working on now:
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And here is some sample result from our mic:
Please notice that Nadimir’s character when old is sick which is influencing his voice too.
Szymon Florczak is face of Nadimir character too. You could check out his Instagram here. :)
Nadimir character in-game – simple idle animation and eye movement gif.
7. The female voice is getting older in the opposite way as the male.
Every woman’s voice is getting lower pitch with older age. It works the opposite way for men, as they get a higher pitch when becoming older.
Another important thing is that older people talks slower than young people. Also, the human voice is getting more “mouth clicks” and munching when getting older.
Dominika Myśliwiec is acting as Mira in the Polish version of The End of The Sun. You could check out her Instagram here:)
To get a better result of older heroes’ voices we had to research what is the difference between a young and an old person’s voice.
Basing On that research we post-process our younger version of male actors’ voiceovers with lower pitch and females with a higher pitch. We did exactly the opposite way for older heroes’ recordings. We also noticed that it is much easier to make the Young voice sound older than the opposite way. Of Course, post-processing is only the final touch, actors need to have skills to imitate the older sounds.
Mira young age voice sample:
You may notice that the voice is more “cute” (basically this is the difference between the middle age and young age version) This is the most natural voice of Dominika who is playing Mira’s character in the Polish version.
Mira old age voice sample:
In that case, Dominika is talking much lower and slower, as Mira’s character is an old person in that part of the script but she isn’t sick in any way we decided to make it like a warm grandma voice. We of course still tried to avoid a cartoony voice.
If You are interested in how we scanned the model to get the Mira character face check that update:)
8. Final job – choosing the best voiceover versions.
Choosing the best versions of recordings took us much more time than You could expect. We had to listen to all voice over versions many many times and choose the best one.
Our priorities were the best emotions (that fit our imagination and story) but also we were focused to keep the best diction of words at the same time. Sometimes we also mixed sentences from a few versions of recordings to give the final version an even better overall sound.
Below You could see what is happening when the actor and director have totally different imaginations of howscript lines should sound :D
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9. English Voice Overs
For now, we cooperated with 3 amazing English voice actors! We will introduce them here to You in a short way, cause we are going to prepare another special Update about English voice acting when we will choose all actors and everything will be fully recorded :)
Of course, This is not the full list of the English version cast (but You could already listen to Adriana, Joe and Martyn in The End of the Sun gameplay video from Kickstarter or some sample below )
Joe, Adriana and Martyn have big experience in making voiceovers ( video games, tv series, movies) You could check out their IMDb profiles below too.
What we have been working on for the last few months?
-As we already mentioned we recorded all Polish voiceovers (only outsourced narration that won’t take our time is still waiting for records), which took us over 2 weeks. Then we spent 4 weeks choosing proper versions of voiceovers and processing them with mastering and effects.
-We already fully finished the creation of 4 missions – We still have to finish the creation of 15 missions, but don’t worry good news here is that preparing a single mission is taking us about 1 week. All systems are ready now and assets are done so Basically connecting everything together is ultra-fast comparing it to the whole development process. To be honest, connecting everything (graphics, voiceovers, scripts, systems) into missions/puzzles is like 15% of the whole development.
Screenshot from one of the puzzles and cutscenes we have been working on last time. What You can see is the old man and rope making machine :)
-We created the whole Main menu, Settings Menu and Pause menu – It took us over a month. Seems like something easy to do but it’s the opposite way. Basically, we had to code everything from scratch to fit our game. We added options for language settings like choosing subtitles and voiceovers independent way (something you ask us to implement)
We also coded fully gamepad support, and really advanced graphics settings (allowing You to set even such details as the rate of global illumination refreshing time. We also implemented “Save profiles” so You could start a new game without losing actual progress. In the menu, You will also find cool “Credits place” with a fire theme. This is where Kickstarters supporter’s name will be shown.
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-We made many minor fixes and changes and made the gameplay a better experience. Polishing the game is always a lot of work impossible to predict in any way. Also, there are many features that we have been working on, but it’s just hard to write about every single one here.
What do we have to do before release?
We have to finish the creation of the rest of the missions as we already mentioned. Test the game and basically, that’s it!
Of course, we still have to record English voice actors and translate the game to all languages but outsourcing creators will prepare it so basically, it won’t take us our work time. It will be done simultaneously with game tests.
The problem is that we don’t know what problems we will be dealing with after testing the game so we still can’t say anything about the specific Release date. For now, we still won’t change our predictions and aim to Release the game this year, if we decide to move Release we will inform You about it in Update.
Thank You for Your understanding
As We mentioned in Earlier Updates the situation in the world and especially in our country isn’t perfect. This is why we are even more thankful for Your understanding, the love and the warm words You are sending to us!
The Summer holidays are coming so… have a great time!The End of The Sun Team
All sample recordings posted in this article belong to The End of the Sun Team. You could share it and re-post it on Your webpage but You cant use it in any commercial product.