There are some enjoyable and challenging opportunities for dialogue work in the new world of voiceover from remote studio work. Traditionally, we’d find voice over dialogue actors gathered in a studio and performing together in real-time. Dialogue crops up often in voice over work, and the prepared artist has an idea of how to approach handling it.
That hardly ever happens anymore, except in walla or loop groups. But as remote recording has taken off, voice artists have found ways to make dialogue seem seamless even when working on different coasts at entirely different times. This means casting agents can fling their nets further afield.
So how do we make the magic happen? My biggest tip is to remember. It’s not all about you.
Tips for Bringing the Other Characters in Your Scene to Life
Avoid focusing too hard on your character and ignoring other characters in your scene. Easier said than done when no one is physically there, but this is a transferable skill from other acting elements (i.e., imaging the fourth wall to stay in the scene and not be distracted by a theatre audience or film crew). The other side of your dialogue should inform your response, and often what is NOT said is just as important as what IS said.
Work through the script line by line keeping an image of the person in your mind. Often you won’t get a lot of background into your character, let alone other characters in the scene. Dialogue is a give and takes, not a solo act, so leave space and think about the other side of the conversation. Imagining them fully will help you have more to work from in your responses.
So make it up. Breathe life into your character. Take whatever information you have, use that as a base, and then layer in your creativity. Look upon it as an opportunity, not a drawback. Other things to consider include:
- If you have a noisy computer, cooling fans can be a problem. Make sure it isn’t too close to your recording space as it might interfere with an otherwise clean take.
- A good internet connection is often a prerequisite for studio-to-studio sessions. You can bump up your connection stability and speed with an ethernet cable instead of relying on WiFi.
- Make sure to establish your overall setup. A good mic, soundproofing, all the bells and whistles to make sure your dialogue is showcased in the best possible light.
- Get ready to collaborate, remember to be versatile, and listen!
Understanding the Different Types of Voice Over Dialogue
Each type of dialogue comes with its pros and cons. Typically there are many kinds of dialogue that a voice over might be used with:
Commercials: In a commercial voiceover dialogue setting, we’re chiefly talking about radio spots. The dialogue is most often used as a setup for the announcer’s message, and humor or other emotional humanizing element is sought.
eLearning Scenarios: Dialogue in eLearning should sound as close to authentic dialogue as possible. Think testimonial and angina. Don’t be afraid to lean into emotions.
Audiobooks: In audiobooks, pacing will be a big challenge. You want your dialogue to flow and leave enough space for the reader to absorb what’s happening.
Primary Voice Over: Often called original voice recordings in animation. Primary voice over recordings means you won’t have the whole picture to work with. Nothing has been animated yet. It’s up to you and the director to build authenticity into the characters.
ADR Recording: You’ll need to provide multiple takes of the same lines, so don’t get too attached to anyone concept
Dubbing/ Versioning: Animation dubbing is considered simpler (if you can call it that) than live-action, where actors often mumble or don’t move their mouths much.
Master ADR Dialogue
ADR (automated dialogue replacement) is often much less flexible. You might need to replicate another character’s delivery. Alternately you might be a minor character with only one or two lines with the main character or someone having a chat in the background. If it’s an animation project that you are working on, then the animation is likely already complete. As such, you will need to master the art of matching mouth flaps.
Pacing your delivery and changing up lines can help to get it just right. It’s harder to get the tone and feel of a conversation when you are simultaneously playing Double Dutch with bilabials (b, p, m) or semilabials (f, v, wh, r). However, when you get it right, it feels so good.
The Full Cinematic Experience Through Dubbing
Dubbing versioning is a whole other party, another world, another planet. If you want a challenge, try dubbing. It’s a post-production process where the original voice is translated and replaced by a different voice over artist who does their best to match mouth flaps. If you had brought up the concept of dubbing with the average person a year ago, you likely would have been met with a blank look. Thanks to anime and platforms like Netflix, the concept has become much more mainstream.
Bad dubbing can be unintentionally comedic, which for more severe shows, movies and commercials can be disastrous. That’s why it takes a skilled voice over artist with a wealth of experience to do well. Most of the time, animation studios won’t reanimate their characters, so a voice over artist has to match mouth flaps that were animated for an entirely different language.
The scriptwriter has to do a lot of leg work to ensure the core of a scene isn’t lost in translation, but the voice over artist needs to sell and time it. There are also cultural differences that require merging the animation and dialogue, tailoring conversations and emotions to a different audience with a different perspective.
Embodying Character Dialogue
When it comes to ADR and dubbing, the character already exists. Someone else has formulated their ticks and responses. You are going to have to embody the character quickly. And remember, there are already fans of the show out there, and you wouldn’t want to do them dirty by misrepresenting a favorite character. Some find dubbing too stressful, and that’s completely fine. However, if you want to get into the dubbing arena, then practice is critical. Take online courses, hire a coach, and practice, then practice some more. Once you have the eye-to-mouth coordination down pat, you can start layering in personality and nuance. Eventually, it becomes second nature, a skill you can reach for whenever you need it.