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  • Adaptive Audio: A Beginner's Guide to Making Sounds for Video Games

    - Dan Carter and Michael Worth

  •  Dialogue and Voice Acting
    With games becoming more story-driven and immersive, vocal recording and production is becoming a very important part of game development. And, just as in composing and sound design, organization is the key to survival. A simple spreadsheet is an audio designer's best friend for keeping track of what dialogue needs to be recorded, the naming convention of the dialogue, and any additional performance notes you need. For a great example of a dialogue spreadsheet, see the work done on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

    Oftentimes, the audio designer is also the additional dialogue recording (often called ADR) supervisor. It's the ADR supervisor's job to get a clean recording, and a good emotional (or unemotional, if need be) take from each recording.

    The best and fastest way to get a clean recording is to book a recording studio, with a vocal isolation booth and state-the-art microphones and preamps. For students who don't have access to a studio and anyone else making a low-budget project, an effective way to fake a vocal booth is to lay a mattress against the wall, take two boom mic stands and put them at 90 degrees to the wall, and hang heavy blankets over the mic stands. Presto! Instant isolation booth!

    In any professional recording session, time is money. The ADR supervisor needs to work efficiently and clearly with the vocal talent. Here are some tactics used to help guide and explain the vision to the talent:

    • In addition to describing the emotion of the line, explain the intent behind the lines. We all laugh at that cliché phrase, but it stands the test of time. Explain why this line needs to be spoken, for example, in a frustrated tone; maybe the character just realized his +5 sword doesn't match his plate mail.
    • Use pre-existing examples of movies, games, and characters. It can really help to tell a voice actor to think of Brendan Fraser from The Mummy when speaking his snappy one-liners.
    • Give the performer a quick biographical description of the character to read. This should be two or three lines, with the character's age, education, upbringing, occupation, and a couple of tidbits about his family and friends.
    • Create options. A great way to create good dialogue is to ask the voice actor to read the same line a few times with several different emotions, or with different timings. Oftentimes, forcing that variety will open up some very pleasing results.
    Once the recording is done, the audio professional should assemble one final take from all the assorted takes. Two-track audio software can be used to remove any lip smacks, gulps, and other unwanted noises. The best parts from each take can be cut and pasted together to make one "production" file. Effects can be used to smooth out the audio levels and make them crisp and loud. Every single asset that the audio designer submits that sounds sharp, clear, and emotional is another feather in her cap!


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