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Best Kept Secrets For Voiceovers
By Lani Minella

After doing over 300 game titles, 365+ voices, casting, directing and writing for all platforms, I am still amazed at how many people do those things the hard way. Guess what? You can have gobs of fun, get the best voiceover talent and not be bogged down with "Hollywood" hype. Let's dispel some myths first:

1. It's okay to save money and use in-house people for voices.
In house talent who are not actors or professional voice people will inevitably sound dead, take 10 times longer to record because of all the mistakes, and take longer to edit in post.

2. Use a Hollywood casting agency or send your needs to talent agents who will supply you with just the right group to choose from.
Agencies deal primarily with radio, TV, and largely with commercials. Games have entirely different requirements. All casting and talent agents have are headshots and cassettes that feature ads or narratives. Many don't know what their actors can do, nor are they expected to be good judges of great acting ability. They send out pics and tapes based on whose picture fits the description or whoever's tape they happen to have. You might get their house CD with everyone doing one voice with "Today, shop at Sears!" commercials on them. When acting and/or voicing games, voice-over actors need to do things more emphatically and sometimes with expletives not found in real-life. For example, on the "Die Hard Trilogy 2"—as voice over characters we all had to make different noises when dying by a bullet, a grenade or a rocket launcher in 1.5 seconds or less. Other games have voice-over talent making attacking noises, which differ from using a club, a fist, a flame-thrower, acid venom, sword, or even unleashing a psychic force. No "traditional" actor who has not done games can effectively sound like he is dying in lava versus having his throat slashed unless you use a good director and an actor who takes direction well.

3. Use celebrities to give your game notoriety and marquee value.
This is like presuming that starving Ethiopians will be better nourished by rice boiled in Evian water. Gamers are not going to buy a game because a star's voice is in it. But you sure can waste huge wad up front and maybe even royalty points later on when you sign legendary acting talent. For example, one major company had a list of possible talents they wanted to go for to voice their lead cartoon character, which needed to sound like a 16-year-old boy. Their wish list included over 20 names from Stephen Baldwin to Ray Liotta, and even Dennis Miller and Freddie Prinz Jr. It is doubtful that you could get any of these people for less than $75,000 and it could cost over a million easily with a cast of celebrities. Compare this to the minimum union day rates for good, non-celebrity talent and you will wince.

4. Spend most of your money on music and sound effects. - Whatever is left can go to voiceovers. Also, wait until all else is done before thinking about recording the voices. I always get those last-minute panic calls from people who need something yesterday, but still do not have the script finalized. They ask how much it would cost to get everything done - or they want me to give them a general quote for no specific amount of dialogue so they can formulate a budget. This is like asking an airline reservationist, "How much does it cost to fly somewhere? I don't know where or when yet, or how many are traveling, but could you give me a rough idea?"

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To read more, click over to part 2.

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