Maximizing talent reuse is critical to cost-effective video game voice-over localization. Why? Because games often have hundreds of distinct characters, many of which have just a few lines, so that talent reuse can be relatively heavy while still maintaining a high level of quality. What can video game producers and multimedia localization professionals do to ensure the most effective talent reuse?
This post lists 3 tips to maximize voice-over talent reuse in your video game localization.
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Why exactly is voice-over talent reuse critical to video game localization costs?
Because talent fees can add up quickly, especially when localizing into multiple languages, adding to your video game localization budget. Of course, there’s a flip-side to this – excessive talent reuse will lead to a game with characters who all sound alike. Or worse yet, your audience will be able to tell that multiple characters were voiced by the same talent, or even be confused as to which character is speaking.
How do you find the balance that gives you a dynamic, high-quality game, as cost-effectively as possible? The key is to make sure that you reuse actors in a way that allows for proper voice separation – that is to say, that still keeps each character sounding distinct, at least within his or her context. The means limiting how often each talent voices characters who speak to each other in the game, and in a way that fully takes advantage of each actor’s range and versatility. This is easier said than done, of course, and requires a professional voice-over & dubbing studio with project managers, casting directors and voice directors, like the ones at JBI Studios, who have experience with this kind of project.
As a video game producer or multimedia localization professional, here’s what you can do to help your professional partner studio with talent reuse.
1. Segment your game’s voice-over script in a way that helps casting.
Remember that your partner studio will have to ramp up on your video game, no matter how familiar they are with your productions. The casting director has to assess the number of playable and main characters in your universe, as well as any that require lip-sync dubbing. He or she will also try to determine which characters speak with each other, or are present at the same time, to ensure proper separation. And of course, he or she will note which characters require heavy audio filters – like robots, omniscient beings or particularly grotesque monsters – since that aids voice separation.
So what can you do to help this process? First, note in your script which characters are playable, which ones partner up and which ones have dubbing requirements for scenes. Make sure to note characters that can appear at any moment of the game, or that interact with your universe at large. Likewise, if your game has worlds that don’t interact at all, note who’s in them. Or, if there are other circumstances that keep characters from speaking with or "near" each other – for example, if characters only appear in a particular part of the game’s timeline – note that as well. And note any heavy processing or other post-production required for a character. Finally, make sure that this information is relayed to your partner studio in a way that makes it sortable. This will go a long way to tightening the casting process.
2. Provide all references & localize all game documentation.
That includes character bios, world descriptions and scene recaps – and even settings or functional notes for events or specific lines. It may seem unnecessary to translate a 30-word bio for a character that has 3 lines, but that information is critical when making voice talent casting choices with a high level of reuse. These bios often have key information about the character’s associates and timeline events, which helps to avoid pick-up sessions just for re-casting. And of course, this information helps tremendously in the studio when shaping a performance, leading to a better-quality product.
Likewise, make sure to provide your character pictures and reference audio as well with your script. They don’t replace the bios or descriptions, especially for characters who have unexpected voices – for example, a large monster with a squeaky voice. But both of these elements give casting directors a quick reference when assigning characters, speeding up the casting process significantly, and also help talents find their performances during the recording sessions.
3. Rely on your professional studio’s knowledge of their voice-over & dubbing talents.
Finally, rely on your partner studio to know which foreign-language voice-over talents will be right for your characters, especially for the minor ones with relatively few lines. Remember that a veteran studio will have extensive experience working with these voice actors, and will have a sense of their range, which kinds of voices they can do, their overall performance ability, their dubbing ability, and even their proficiency with action lines. Moreover, a professional studio that specializes in foreign-language production like JBI Studios will be able to do this over multiple languages, keeping in mind that each one has a specific talent pool from which to draw.
Moreover, your partner studio will be able to advise on casting and production best practices. For example, the studio will know to “back up” tricky characters with very small parts, just as a safety. Or, to give a talent very different characters if there’s a chance they’ll speak with each other, to ensure better separation. Or even to place characters with a lot of action later in the session, to give talents a chance to warm up. Rely on your studio to get the tricky balance of casting a talent pool just right, and to ensure the quality of your production.
Allow enough time for pre-production, casting & recording
Finally, try to give your production a full schedule. Start engaging your localization studio during game development. Give them a sense of the game universe and worlds as early as possible. Discuss your language scope and potential challenges, like characters requiring kid talents, for example. And make sure that your casting process has enough time for questions and reviews, and that your production timeline can accommodate actors’ schedules since versatile game talents are often in demand. This can be quite difficult in the world of multilingual releases and agile development, of course, but anything you can do to ensure full timelines will increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of your localized productions.