Beyond, dubbing and localization, sometimes the audio for video voiceover projects need to be recorded in multiple languages. Living in a bilingual city myself, this is de rigueur and bienvenue à (welcome to) Montréal. It also happens in a lot of US states where there’s a large Spanish-speaking population. And of course, if a project goes global, the translation and subsequent revoicing of that project can involve five more, ten more, or a hundred more languages.
Casting a Long Term Voiceover Project
Our need for multiple languages in North America is relatively small. (i.e. limited French or Spanish usually) But an ongoing project I manage involves voiceover artists in eight countries and seven languages. It’s a telephone answering system for an international biotechnology corporation. The voice over artists represents greetings in the US, Canada, and five European countries. System updates happen on a regular basis, every few months.
The original client request came as an invitation to me to be the English North American (US and Canada) phone system voice and to cast the voices in several other languages. I used the voice casting site Bodalgo to seek the European voices and set up casting invitations in French, UK English, Italian, Spanish and German. Within the two-day deadline, I had between 30 and fifty audition samples submitted per language to listen to. The client requested that the voices be similar to mine in tone. So I narrowed my shortlist down to five or six voice samples each and forwarded them to the client.
I suggested my go-to French Canadian counterpart (our voices are similar enough that we will often work on projects in tandem) and a choice of three very talented Spanish American voiceover professionals. The client came in with another talent selected for the Spanish American voice and I have no contact with her – they deal with her directly.
Translation and Copyediting for Voiceover Projects
Once they selected their voice choices, they sent me another task, to translate the script into all the various languages. So I hired one of my go-to translation services in Europe for the various EU scripts and my French Canadian translator for those destined for Québec. I have found it’s very important to make certain the translation company is located in the same market as the listeners. Once all the translations were complete, I had the happy job of contacting the selected talent and sending them the scripts.
On a separate recent project of 40 hours of content for a story and mediation app I was hired to narrate, the company had hired a UK translator for (French to English) and the scripts were all wrong for American markets. The scripts were strewn with Britishisms like “Brilliant!” and “rather” and peppered with direct translations of French like “famous” and “precious” that were jarring, especially in the context of a relaxing experience. So with the app producer’s blessing, I arranged for a copyeditor to go through the translations and make them more fitting to American ears. Voila, success.
Both of these projects were audio-only, but I’ve also noticed a marked increase in the need for dubbed content. Probably to answer our constant thirst for fresh content amid production shut down during the pandemic, we all became more amenable to dubbed and subtitled content. Critical factors in dubbing project success include a great translation that not only maintains the original intent and talent that can not only match or mimic the original voice but, at minimum fit the timing of the beginning and end of the original mouth flaps, and in well-dubbed projects sync where the lips match when coming together on the plosives (p’s b’s) and fricatives (f’s, v’s).
Communication with Multiple Voice Artists
Working with multiple artists on recurring or long-term projects requires quick and clear communication. Time zones, varied schedules, different holidays, and artists with full schedules all come into play. I always ask for a heads up when a project is coming through and give my talent a heads up it’s on the way. Most of the time this works very well. For large corporations and organizations, there are sometimes hold-ups and delays (these increased in the pandemic) as multiple levels of clearance and approvals need to be hurdled.
Then, once files are collected, QA’d, and delivered, your coordinator collects invoices for the talent and bills you for the project.
Best Qualities in a Voiceover Project Coordinator
I am not the only voiceover artist who also manages projects. Ask your selected talent if this is something they do. Ask about any previous projects they might have managed and if they have references you can speak to or completed projects you can see. A voice over artist who can also manage projects will often have some experience in directing (but not always) and is generally very organized, goal-oriented, conscientious, and a great and quick communicator. Importantly, you want to make certain your timelines align.
Many people looking for voiceover artists think they have to go to voiceover repositories with management services in order to offload these duties. Possibly because there are hundreds out there. But going directly to your talent for these ancillary services will save you time, money, and headaches.