Most voice-over and dubbing projects are cast from pre-recorded talent samples. But marketing videos, brand collateral, TV/web series and other kinds of content can have very specific casting requirements, so that they benefit from custom auditions. Because these audition samples require a significant amount of effort, however, it’s critical for multimedia localization professionals to know how to maximize their value – and get them right.
This post will list five tips to ensure your custom voice-over casting auditions are cost-effective and successful.
[Average read time: 4 minutes]
Why use custom casting auditions for voice-over & dubbing projects?
Some projects require very rigorous voice talent casting. For example, a corporation looking for brand voices for its international markets will need talents with the resting tone, acting range and technical skill to record all of its marketing and customer-facing collateral. Likewise, a series producer will need to know that the dubbing actors selected for a show’s principal cast can pull off their particular characters' story arcs. A pre-recorded sample may not have all the information these clients need to make their voice artist picks.
Custom auditions are also great on projects with multiple levels of casting review. It can be difficult to get stakeholders to approve foreign-language voice-over talents based on pre-recorded samples, especially since they may not be able to extrapolate a final performance from them. A custom audition that allows stakeholders to hear their project's text will often help to expedite this process. And, as a bonus, the audition sample can often be used as a baseline for direction in the studio session.
But again, sourcing custom auditions impacts budgets and timelines, so it’s critical to get them right. The following tips will help you do just that.
1. Limit your audition text.
You may be tempted to have the talent read your full voice-over script for a custom audition. And if you’re dubbing a 30- or 15-second spot, that should work well. But if you have more content than that, be sure to pare it down for custom auditions. Why? For starters, because talents are able to focus their performance better on a shorter amount of content. On top of that, reviewing multiple auditions is very time-consuming and difficult to track – and much more so if the samples aren't concise. For the sake of quality and expediency, keep audition scripts to 100 words or less.
2. But – make sure the text covers what you need.
Your script must include all the beats, tone shifts and any content elements you’ll need from the voice-over performance. For example, if you’re casting an online, radio or TV marketing spot, but think you’ll want to use the talent for corporate branding as well, make sure to add elements like product descriptions or tags to your text. Or, if you’re producing an e-Learning video with specific beats, make sure to build them into your audition script, even if it's in an abbreviated way. Likewise, if your principal character goes from naive to cynical during the series run, you’ll want to hear both tones in the custom audition.
No matter the type of project, make sure your custom audition script has the content and performance range you’ll need for the life of your production.
3. Add notes on the performance and beat changes.
Need the talent to switch from angry to supplicating on a specific line? Need them to emphasize a particular word or brand name in the copy? Need a sarcastic tone throughout? Be sure to note that in the script. Add context and descriptions. Include character bios for entertainment localization projects. In short – help the talents deliver auditions that really give you a sense of their capabilities.
4. Don’t forget the script translation/transcreation process.
Your voice-over script will need translation or marketing transcreation – and so will your audition script. Make sure to build this into your timeline. And remember that this may affect your budget.
5. Involve your in-country partners or stakeholders.
This is best practice for any multimedia localization, but it’s particularly critical when sourcing auditions. For starters, an in-country contact may be able to pre-translate the audition script. They can also provide audition performance notes that are attuned to their specific culture or language. And of course, they’ll be a key stakeholder when picking the final talent. Involve them as early as possible in the production workflow.
Build time into your pre-production workflow to find the right voice talent
Casting is time-consuming – there’s no way around that. And it’s especially so for foreign-language productions since talents have to be tested for native accent. And of course, sourcing custom auditions adds a significant effort to this process. So make sure to build a casting timeline that takes into account custom script creation, translation/transcreation, audition sourcing and stakeholder reviews. Because spots and series often have hard air-dates, it's imperative that the casting process has enough time to really work. After all, getting the right voice actor is critical to the international success of a show, product or brand.