Hard Light Productions Forums

Modding, Mission Design, and Coding => Help Wanted/Offering Help => Voice Acting => Topic started by: jg18 on February 13, 2022, 01:11:22 am

Title: More tips for aspiring actors
Post by: jg18 on February 13, 2022, 01:11:22 am
Rather than necro the old stickied thread (https://www.hard-light.net/forums/index.php?topic=65794.0), I figured I'd start another one.

My experience comes mainly from voicing Delta 1 in the Battle of Neptune's bonus mission (https://www.hard-light.net/forums/index.php?topic=97876.0), "Command Responsibility", but I also had a couple lines in Diaspora R1 and have a wingman persona in FotG.

Equipment

I've always used my laptops' built-in mics with no extra equipment without a problem, so if your computer has a mic, try that first.

Built-in mics are likely designed for videoconferencing and consequently are directional, meaning they're unlikely to pick up background noise. When I was recording Delta 1's yelling lines, I had a loud fan running nearby to try to drown it out, and you can't hear it at all in the takes.

You can even try recording on your phone/tablet, but see "Software" below.

If you need to get a separate mic, try something intended for videoconferencing, for the above reasons.

Headphones are handy for listening carefully to your takes, but the mic should be all the recording equipment you need.

Keep your mic in a fixed position and maintain the same distance from it for all of your lines. Otherwise, your takes may sound uneven when compared to one another.

Software

Audacity (https://www.audacityteam.org/) is free and easy to use.

Press R to start recording and Spacebar to stop, then Spacebar again to play it back.

You can play a clip on loop by pressing Shift + Spacebar.

To play only part of a clip, first select that part of the waveform by clicking and dragging with the mouse.

If you have multiple clips in the window, they'll all play at the same time. To fix that, use the "Solo" button on the left side of a clip to play only that clip and mute the others.

To save a clip, first press the Solo button if you have multiple clips displayed, then go to File menu > Export > Export as OGG. The Ogg Vorbis audio file format (.ogg) results in small files with very good recording quality. Never use MP3.

The one exception is if the lines will require the FREDder to do heavy post-processing (e.g., Vasudan translation), they may ask you to Export as WAV instead.

Be sure to delete any silence before/after your line from takes before saving them.

I like to delete a clip after I save it, but you can bring back deleted clips with Audacity's Undo/Redo commands (Ctrl+Z/Ctrl+Y on Windows).

For listening to the takes, Web browsers should be able to play .ogg files.

If the waveform goes too high/low, it'll get cut off at the top/bottom (called "clipping"), which results in a crackling background noise. To fix it, lower the mic volume in Audacity using the toolbar slider near the upper-right. Turning down the system sound won't help, because that doesn't affect the mic volume.

To package up a bunch of takes, put them into a folder and compress the folder to the .7z file format. On Windows, install 7-Zip (https://www.7-zip.org/), then go to Windows Explorer and right-click on the folder. In the pop-up menu, go to 7-Zip >> Add to "<folder name>.7z".

If you'll be submitting multiple packages of takes for a single role, be sure to include a numbering in the folder names, so that you don't get the packages mixed up.

If you try recording on your phone/tablet, look for an app that will export either directly to Ogg Vorbis or at least to WAV format, which you can then open in Audacity on your computer and Export as OGG (example iPhone app (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/auphonic-recorder/id1081792712)). If you export to a different compressed audio format, such as AAC (.m4a file), converting to Ogg Vorbis later may affect audio quality.

Acting

A character typically speaks with an "objective" to make another character do something or feel something. Consider figuring out what your character's objective is for a given line, and then try focusing on that objective as you record that line.

My first few takes of a line often sound flat/underacted, but as I keep trying out the line, I get a better feel for how the line should sound.

While overacting/overemoting is bad in general, I like to intentionally try it for a line. The result may be awful, but it may also have ideas I like and want to keep, or I might even like the result! This is especially important if, like me, you're normally quiet IRL. For one of my auditions, the FREDder's favorite take was the one I'd thought was over-the-top, so you never know.

When you record, try doing gestures, facial expressions, subtle actions, etc. that match what your character is feeling in that moment. Even though no one will see them, players will hear them in your voice and the sound will be richer. Just make sure the mic isn't picking up any noise, and always speak directly towards the mic.

If you have a line where your character's speech gets cut off, make up extra words to add to the line, so that the line expresses a complete thought that your character could be trying to express at that moment. Record that extended line, then delete the words you added from the take. This'll make delivering the line a lot easier.

Don't assume that your natural voice will necessarily correspond to a character your age. Just try auditioning and let the FREDder guide you. Even though I'm in my mid-30s, Dilmah G felt my voice fit Delta 1, even though the character is just 21. :nervous:

Recording

Some VAs like to submit just one take per line. However, when I'm not sure what the FREDder is looking for, I submit multiple takes, as different ideas on how to read the line. As I keep experimenting with the line, I overwrite my early flat takes with better ones. Submitting multiple takes also keeps me from getting emotionally attached to any particular take, so a request for retakes won't sting. Even if none of the takes are what the FREDder is looking for, they may give the FREDder some ideas on how to direct you.

The way I submit multiple takes: if the file is "line.ogg", then I'll number the takes as "line_take1.ogg", "line_take2.ogg", and so on. If you submit retakes later, be sure to pick up the numbering for that line from where you left off. That way, you won't get takes from different packages mixed up.

Try to keep your takes at the same volume, neither too loud nor too soft, but don't go overboard on this. FREDders will likely normalize the volume of all VAs' lines during post-processing.

Since having to repeatedly push keys to start/stop recording can be disruptive, try delivering the line multiple times in a single take. You can export only a part of a take by selecting that part of the waveform. and then choosing "Export selected audio..." from the File menu > Export. Just make sure to choose Ogg Vorbis from the "Save as type:" drop-down box before exporting. Also, include a pause between deliveries, to make selecting a take easier.

When working on a line, I like to keep a browser window open, where each browser tab is a different take on the same line. That allows me to easily review my takes, check their recording quality, remove duplicate ideas, and check if I have any ideas that I haven't recorded yet. Reloading the tab (F5 or Ctrl+R on Windows) will play the line.

Final thoughts

If listening to your recorded voice makes you uncomfortable, you're not alone! A number of our VAs feel that way, including me. ;) Just keep working through the discomfort. Try to move your focus from yourself to your character.

Even if the lines look totally impossible, try them anyway. You may be surprised! My audition line (Draco 3's death line from Battle of Neptune) looked super intimidating at first, and Delta 1's lines initially looked downright scary (I have to do what? :eek2:). However, once I relaxed a bit, it proved to be a lot of fun.

Hope that helps. Good luck! :)



EDIT: Revisions + added some more tips.
Title: Re: More tips for aspiring actors
Post by: Dilmah G on February 13, 2022, 10:17:08 am
Great tips from a great VA.  ;)
Title: Re: More tips for aspiring actors
Post by: Colonol Dekker on February 13, 2022, 12:55:38 pm
What's wrong with  my thread 🤪

I echo the points you make, I use the same naming conventions.  Plus I add outtake for any comedic mishaps the modder may want to include as Easter eggs.

Also, yep,  voice acting may likely include some "acting"  :yes: :pimp:
Title: Re: More tips for aspiring actors
Post by: jg18 on February 13, 2022, 07:24:25 pm
Great tips from a great VA.  ;)
Thanks, man. :)

What's wrong with  my thread 🤪
Heh, well, the stickied one seemed more targeted to an aspiring pro/semipro. Mine is more for a community member, like me, who just wants to contribute to our mods. Plus I figured an Audacity "quick start" would be useful, and Ogg Vorbis is now the standard codec, at least as far as HLP is concerned.

Also, equipment has come a long way since then. Given how ubiquitous videoconferencing via computer/mobile is nowadays, finding a suitable mic shouldn't be hard, and you don't need extra stuff like a pop screen. You could probably even record on your phone (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/auphonic-recorder/id1081792712), whose mic is surely plenty good.

I echo the points you make, I use the same naming conventions.  Plus I add outtake for any comedic mishaps the modder may want to include as Easter eggs.
Ah, cool. Glad you agree with my tips. And yeah, outtakes are fun. :lol:

Also, yep,  voice acting may likely include some "acting"  :yes: :pimp:
Indeed. I'll see if I can come up with more tips on that part. If you have any you'd like to share, I'll add them with due credit.
Title: Re: More tips for aspiring actors
Post by: jg18 on February 18, 2022, 08:27:08 pm
Added some more tips to the OP and re-organized it a bit.