Post tutorial RSS Voice Acting Tutorial #1

Hello and welcome to this Voice Acting tutorial! I thought I'd write a short piece on what I consider to be relevant for a Voice actor in training. This article has actually been sitting in my pc for the better part of two years now, but after seeing the other prima VA article posted up recently I decided to put mine up as well :) In this article-series of three I will be covering the basics of Voice Acting, Preparation, Execution and Finalizing.

Posted by on - Basic Voice Acting

Hello and welcome to this Voice Acting tutorial!

I thought I'd write a short piece on what I consider to be relevant for a Voice actor in training. This article has actually been sitting in my pc for the better part of two years now, but after seeing the other prima VA article posted up recently I decided to put mine up as well :)

You might shake your head in disapproval and think;

«Why is this even relevant? Voice acting isn't hard, anyone can do that.».

If you now find yourself nodding because I hit your opinion spot on, you might be surprised after having read the entire article. Doing good or at the very least 'decent' voice work can be just as demanding as making a high poly model or designing a beautiful map, it requires time, patience, creativity and a good ear for those killer lines that really makes a good game shine.
Voice work can, in essence, be cut into three major pieces; Preparation, Execution and Finalizing. I'll be covering each of these three steps while providing audio examples.

Preparation: Getting ready

In order to start recording at all, you'll be needing a microphone. The most common (and least expensive) type of microphone you'll be able to get your hands on are the standard ones that come with your pc if you bought a packaged one or the microphone on your headset if you have one.
The flaw with this type of mic is that the quality can be very varying, and unless your microphone can provide a clean file without background hissing or other forms of noise, chances are you'll be turned down in an application.
Never fear though, as even though your microphone might not record perfect quality, you can make up for it by being an ace sound engineer, applying filters and playing around with the settings, but since most budding actors usually don't have even a basic grasp of using software like that its a better call to just get a good microphone and save yourself the trouble until you've grown proficient with a program over time. I'll be covering a selection of sound editing software a bit further down that are both free (or almost) and easy to use, to help you achieve this goal should you want to delve into it.
If you REALLY want to record sound of high quality, you might have to dig into your pockets and part with some money.
Personally I went and bought an «H4 Handy Recorder» made by Zoom as seen here on this website:

Samsontech.com

It's going on four years now since I bought it, so the nextgen version of the H4 is out. It looks somewhat cubic and chubby compared to the somewhat sleeker design of the H4 shown in the link, but it makes up for that with a lot of useful extra features.
The reason why I like this recorder is that its directional, which means it picks up and focuses on the sounds emitted toward its front, excluding sounds that come from other sides.
Secondly you can choose what quality you want to record the sounds in, choosing between the small neat mp3 file to the big heavy 96khz frequency wav file.
You can also plug in earplugs and listen to your recordings straight from the recorder like an unbelievably fat mp3 player, which makes it somewhat easier to deem wether you made a good recording session or not.

But enough about that, for those interested in getting a serious piece of recording equipment without building a studio in their basement, you can check the link for more details on the H4 or message me privately if you feel the need for a second opinion from someone who's used it for some time :)
Speaking of studio's, thats the second solution, but unless you know someone who works in a studio or go to a school/have access to a studio and can get you in if you ask nicely, I wouldn't really recommend it.
On the upside you get professional help from a sound technician, use of gear you could only use otherwise if you took up a loan and the ability to go truly bananas without the microphone giving you any trouble.
On the downside though, you'll most likely have to pay for the use of a soundstudio, which in the end will probably cost you as much as if you'd bought a recorder of your own. In addition you have to set off a goodsized portion of the day just to make sure you make good use of the time you get once you're there, and if you screw up you have to rince and repeat the process.

Next step is software, and even though I poked some fun at it earlier, it's something you should have and should be able to use, at least for doing basic clean up and preparation of a soundfile.
There are quite a few free or 'as close to free as makes no difference' sound editing programs out there, here's a list of a few of them:

Goldwave
FL studio
Audacity

I've tried only a little bit of FL studio and none of Audacity so I can't say very much for their ease of use, but they both have the benefit of being completely free. Audacity in particular has no bars as its an opensource software program.
The program I'm using is Goldwave. Even though its interface looks somewhat simplistic at first, its a great program because of its intuitive use and ample alternatives when it comes to pretty much everything. Some more advanced options can become slightly tricky though and the stock plugins and filters could use an upgrade, nevertheless, for an actor who is mostly planning to slice and dice his sound files into a presentable piece its more than enough.

The only real downside with goldwave that I've encountered is that its a timed trial. You can trial the program for a certain amount of time before it locks you out until you cough up the money for the full version. Considering how easy it is to use I had no problems parting with that money, which isn't much either.
And since we're on software, there is one thing you need to be very wary of when working on sound clips for game mods and I can't stress this enough.
Find out what format they want the soundfiles to be in.
And no they're not in essence all the same, even though I've worked for both HL1 and HL2 mods where requests have gone in every direction for both .mp3 and .wav for both games. First and foremost it uncomplicates things if you record or save in the correct format (depending on how much editing you're planning to do), but some games like for example «Battlefield 2» have their sounds hardcoded into the game engine, and as such are very insistent on both the filename being correct to the letter as well as being the correct format (BF2 uses .ogg).

Step 3 is a rather easy one compared to the previous two (and a half if you count the format section above), but is equally necessary. You need to know how and where to host or bundle your files. The most common way I use myself is simply to zip or rar the soundfiles into one merry bundle and then send the wound up pack to whoever its marked for. This is an easy and secure way of doing it with no chance of the files wandering off on their own.
Some times though, if you're not overly concerned with the security of the files you're sending, you can use hosting sites for your soundfiles.
When I wrote up the first blog I scoured the net for a suitable hosting service where the readers could stream the audio clips without having to download them first, and finally I came up with a site that fulfilled most of my needs:

Yourlisten.com

It's easy to register and easier to upload sounds. I've got it bookmarked for future reference.
Another site that has proved invaluable to me when sending larger packs, seeing as the limit is 25 MB per attachment on most emails, is a site called:

www.yousendit.com

This site allows you, for free (it only throws questions at you every once in a while asking if you want to sign up, which is very much worth it and still free, or if you want to pay an extra small fee and get bonus features, none of which I've needed at time of writing) to send a package of up to 2GB to whatever email you wish (The reality is rather that it sends a notification to the email on the recieving end with a link that the recipient can click to directly download the package) DIRECTLY. No hosting that others might stumble across. No middleman. Free. Awesome.

Step 4 is finding a location, or in most cases 'locale', in which to record. Your ideal location should have the following traits in order to be a sufficient 'studio':

Normal size: If a room is too large or too small it will affect the quality of your recording. A too large room reverberates imprinting the size or echo of the room on the soundclip and a too small room/ dampened room can give the sound a flat character. Neither are good attributes to your recordings. Your source material should be as non-affected for better or for worse as you can get it in terms of quality, that way you can skew it to which way you like later in the editing phase.

Noise: Even though this might be somewhat hard to accomplish, your locale should be as unpolluted as possible by noises and sounds coming from both outside and inside the room. You can't work if your clips are continously chorused by passing cars or similar sound sources.

Isolated: Yes I really mean isolated, but only so much so that you don't have to worry about anybody hearing what you're saying or how you're saying it. If you know of an area thats somewhat soundproof to other rooms that helps as well. If you're somewhat new to acting and recording this is something you'll most likely encounter at first and then disregard as you grow in confidence and experience.

The final step for preparation is also perhaps the most important apart from having hardware to record with.
The most important tool for creating a sound clip, is your own body, and if your body isn't prepared for the efforts you're going to put it through you might as well just drop it.

The most obvious part of your body you'll need to warm up is your voice. A warm and flexible voice will be more comfortable to work with, will sound better on a recording, makes you relax and trust your voice more in addition to making it easier to experiment with your lines should you get stuck on a particular line.
Here is an example of exercises that helps you warm up:
*Remember that you can stream the file directly by pressing play on the small player. No need to download. I know it sounds corny but bear with me here xD*
Mmmmm
Yourlisten.com

Other exercises you'll find useful are articulation exercises, the better a player can hear your characters lines, the more interested he'll be (of course if your lines are bad he won't be interested anywho, but we get to that later).
In general not having good enough diction is perhaps the most telltale sign of an unexperienced VA and the most apparent fault anyone will notice. Luckily its very easily fixed as long as you're aware of the dangers surrounding it. The example I'll use here is a very common rhyme, but it is a very tongue in cheek rhyme if you do it really fast:

Yourlisten.com

Lastly, you also need to have contact with your body. Even though you're only heard and not seen on a voice clip, you'll find its hard to record lines where you really sound scared to death because you're fatigued, being shot at and are one second away away from being stepped on by a giant mech if you're just sitting around comfortably in your chair.

Exercises for getting your body into motion are simple ones like stretching, massaging your muscles and generally just looseing up any stiff muscles you can notice.
Having a body that isn't asleep while only your upper torso does all the work is a requirement for making the more demanding lines sound credible.
In reality, all work should emanate from your center, which is a section of your body ranging from your thighs and up to your lower abdominal muscles, but getting to know that technique takes education under professional terms and I'm just getting to know this technique myself under my opera studies, so unless you're planning to become a professional voice actor, you can pretty much ignore these last few lines.

What I've experienced though, is that lines come more easily if you're in motion in addition to sounding more credible. So if you get stuck on a difficult line, try walking back and forth or just staying in motion while you say the line. Take care though not to use soundclips where the movement is so audible that its apparent on the recording (shuffling of feet, creaking floor etc). The danger of talking away from the microphone is also very much present in this situation.
Thats it for the first part of the tutorial, in the next I'll go step by step on the actual content creation, working on a line from the OpBM script and show step by step how I'd go about creating it.

If you liked this first tutorial, the second part has been released and can be found here:

Moddb.com

Comments
sdafsdfasd
sdafsdfasd

This is a great tutorial!

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Demenzuz
Demenzuz

Indeed!!

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|KILroy|
|KILroy|

Very good insights!

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EliteAssassin
EliteAssassin

Man, id love to be a voice actor for the mod. I can do some good voices and accents and my dad has a good quality mic and software but thats strictly for the editing of his TV show so sadly I cant use it at the moment. Maybe he will allow me to use it eventually since I want to be a voice actor for mods. Anyway that was a very good tutorial. Good luck.

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