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JBI Studios' Blog on Voice-Over, Dubbing, and Multimedia Localization.

Pre-Booking Voice-Over Talents for Rush Projects – The Pros and Cons

Talent availability is the most unpredictable part of any voice-over recording – even in Los Angeles, where we have one of the largest multilingual talent pools in the world. Pre-booking talents can often ameliorate this issue, lowering turn-around times, sometimes drastically. However, it’s not a perfect solution, and even has a few risks associated with it.

This post will look at the pros and cons of using pre-booking for rush multimedia translation projects.

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Talent availability drives voiceover services timelines

Native-speaking foreign-language talents are in high demand. This is especially true for languages that have a relatively small number of native speakers – think of French Canadian voice-over, Swedish voice-over or Dutch voice-over projects. This means that scheduling talents (as well as a native-speaker VO director) drives audio localization timelines.

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If the talent is available right away, projects can be completed quickly. But this usually isn’t the case. Talents may be booked already, sometimes on shows lasting multiple days, or that take them out of the city or country. Or, they may be sick – even a mild cold can take a talent out of commission for 2-3 days. This unpredictability is the biggest issue to production timelines – and why it’s crucial to buffer them.

This can also be ameliorated with pre-booking. Pre-booking a talent means scheduling a session with them ahead of time, before a translated script is finalized – as opposed to scheduling a session after receiving a final script, which is more common. For example, if you know your script will be ready in 5 days, you could pre-book a talent for the day after that. Because you’re booking a week ahead of time, there’s a better possibility that a talent won’t be unavailable that day, or even the following one. Effectively, you’re adding a buffer to the project before the script is ready.

It’s a simple, cost-effective solution – but one that has real draw-backs. Following is the breakdown.

The pros

1. Can shorten timelines significantly

We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating – pre-booking can shorten timelines dramatically, by effectively taking out the uncertainty of talent availabilities.

2. Predictable workflow

Once a voice session is booked, the rest of the audio and video localization process is put in place – the quality assurance reviews, audio cleaning, mixing, and marrying to video, along with recording any corrections. Since this entire workflow can be scheduled earlier on as well, it can sometimes be made quicker as well. This affects scheduling on the client end as well, for in-country reviews or in-house editing, mixing or video integration.

3. Better management of talent “blackouts”

There are times during the year when a large number of talents for a particular language will have limited availability. For example:

  • Brazilian voiceover talents usually go back home during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
  • European voice over talents often take most of the month of August off for vacation.
  • Asian voice over talents often take off the week around their respective New Year celebrations – for example, most Mandarin voiceover talents will not be available the last week of January.

Knowing these talent blackouts is crucial to ensuring project timelines. Pre-booking – especially if done well in advance of the sessions – can help plan around those times, especially since talents can often make arrangements around travel plans or religious celebrations, if they have enough time to plan.

The cons

1. Not a 100% sure thing

Even if you pre-book them, talents can still get sick, have family emergencies, travel delays or car trouble – the same issues that any other person might have. It’s good to remember that pre-booking is not fail-safe. That said, we’ve found that

2. Requires all other elements of a project to be on time

Pre-booking requires adherence to a strict schedule from all of the vendors in a localization project – all the way from the original audio or video producers and post editors, to transcribers, translators, editors, in-country reviewers, and project managers. This strictness may place stress on the production timeline, and cause issues like forgoing script reviews or settling questions before all information can be reviewed. Sometimes this may lead to pick-ups later on in the project – while this is uncommon, it’s good to keep in mind.

3. Can add to the project cost

Once sessions are booked, the talent turns away any other work that may conflict with them. Same for the audio engineer and voiceover director. And, same for the studio. If the session is cancelled, this almost always incurs a cancellation fee – which will add an unexpected cost to the project, often at the last minute. As with the pick-ups mentioned in the previous paragraph, this is not terribly common with pre-booked projects, but it’s still a potential risk – one that must be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to pre-book.

Pre-booking requires careful, methodical preparation

It bears repeating – pre-booking only works if all elements of a project are scheduled carefully, taking all elements of production into account. For example, it’s crucial to remember that there isn’t time between script handoff and the sessions, so pronunciation guidelines must be exact and comprehensive, and reference audio must be in place. This is true, of course, for all multimedia localization projects – thorough planning the only way to deliver a project on budget and on time. With pre-booking, these issues can be magnified, since production happens on a restricted – and less forgiving – timeline.

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Topics: Voice-over & Audio Translation & Localization Video Translation

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