Call-ins can be incredibly useful for voice-over and dubbing sessions. After all, they allow clients to provide feedback in real time, as well as approve the final audio. But when recording foreign languages, call-ins can be trickier, and sometimes can even cause issues. Fortunately, multimedia localization professionals can avoid these issues by keeping a few tips in mind.
This post lists what you must know to ensure that call-ins to foreign-language sessions are successful.
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What are voice-over & dubbing session call-ins?
A call-in is pretty much what it sounds like. The engineer in a professional recording studio sets up a channel in the Pro Tools audio session so that the client can call in via a phone line, Skype, Source-Connect or some other kind of patch. The client can then listen in on the recording, give feedback to the talent and director, make slight changes to the script if necessary, select keeper takes – and approve the final audio before the session is done.
Call-ins are particularly useful on shorter, creative content like radio and TV commercial spots, in which a minor turn of phrase or tone adjustment can make a huge difference. They’re not as common on corporate videos or film & TV dubbing, which require longer sessions. Likewise, clients seldom use them on content for which there’s a more objective standard of quality and accuracy, like on e-Learning or instructional narration.
So what do multimedia localization professionals need to know to make sure their call-ins go well – and actually help to keep their project on budget and on time? Let’s jump right in.
1. Know when call-ins are truly useful.
There are two drawbacks to call-ins. First, they add a hurdle to production timelines since project managers have to line up studio, talent and director schedules with client availability. Second, they generally make sessions take longer since they add a person giving feedback. This means that while they’re very useful for shorter content – again, like radio and TV spots on which client input is critical – they will almost certainly raise costs and lengthen timelines on larger projects.
Think of an audiobook narration, for example – most will require 10 to 15 hours of initial recording, followed by QA and pick-ups. Most clients will not have the availability for the initial sessions. Moreover, their presence will make the recording process take much longer, especially when they ask to listen to audio after a cut-out or glitch in the connection. (More on that later.) In this scenario, a call-in will almost certainly delay production and raise costs.
In short, it’s critical to understand when a call-in will actually be useful to an audio project – and when it will raise costs and delay project timelines without providing a significant advantage.
2. Make sure to get a native speaker for the call-in.
Call-ins are most useful when the clients patching into the studio speak the language being recorded. For example, an in-country marketing manager would be the ideal call-in for a Japanese dubbing session for a TV spot. Why? Because that person will know whether or not the talent’s tone, pace and overall delivery work for their specific Japanese cultural setting. They’ll also have a sense of what their in-country audience expects from a brand or product. And of course, they’ll be able to provide real-time feedback in Japanese to the director and voice talent.
The opposite can also be true. Call-ins are less effective, and can sometimes run into snags, when the clients patching in don’t speak the session language – especially if they expect the foreign-language voice-over talents to match the English-language pace, tone and delivery exactly.
3. Use your voiceover director.
This is particularly critical if you don’t have a native speaker calling in to your session. Remember that your director is a VO professional with years of experience, as well as someone who understands the cultural requirements of your local audience. Lean on them. Tell them what you want your spot to communicate to your audience, and give them a chance to get the right performance from the talent. In short, let them do the heavy lifting for you – after all, they’re there to ensure the quality and accuracy of your session. This, of course, is why JBI Studios provides a native-speaker director on every audio project.
4. Not sure you heard right? Ask for another playback.
Remember that you’re speaking to the studio over a patch, so the connection won't always be great. In fact, sometimes it’ll cut out, or you’ll hear glitches, or even get interference from the source audio during video localization sessions. If you’re not sure you heard something right, just ask the studio to give you another playback. And if you think you hear a problem in the audio, ask the studio if they can hear it too. In short, don’t be shy about making sure you get a good listen to your recordings.
Remember – a call-in isn’t always the best option
As we mentioned, call-ins make for longer sessions and production timelines. On top of that, they can also limit voiceover talent casting options, sometimes severely, since they can’t be supported for every foreign-language voiceover artist. Fortunately, there are other options on projects in which clients want to have more input. For example, clients can request custom auditions, then use these short sample files to make sure that the talent sounds right when recording their content. Likewise, they can request to have a conversation with the director before production starts, to communicate exactly what they want. On longer projects clients can also call in for just the first few minutes of a session, to “dial in” the tone and pace – getting the real-time feedback of a call-in without adding significantly to the session time. In short, clients have several options to ensure that their audio is recorded exactly as they want. The key is choosing the one that will deliver their project on time and on budget.