I believe the best part about being an indie game dev team is having the chance to work so closely with different talents. It’s a like a treasure cove for learning and gaining a front-row seat to how other creative minds think, rather than just being stuck in your own zone of expertise.
I recently had the pleasure to be a part of a cinematic narrative recording session with Mike, our sound genius 🙂 and Brad, our Game Designer. Despite the fact that Brad had never done anything of the sort before, several people in the team thought he could give us a great narrative piece for the introduction of our game, thanks to his strong, clear speech patterns 🙂
So I ignited the usual “I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing” fire and got our writers Indigo, Chris and Ayesha on the task of collating our story ideas together and writing an introductory narrative first person piece on the world of AWITT
I already had a pretty good idea of the art-direction I wanted to go with… Having always loved graphic novels and with so many games doing a graphic novel-esque opening cinematic these days, I thought – Hell Yea! Let’s make our own!
A lot of the writers hadn’t actually played the games I remembered having a great impact with a drawn story cinematic, but luckily the modern world has YouTube so that wasn’t a problem! I had them watch the openings to Deadlight and Infamous 2 below, to get an idea of the gritty-ness I wanted to portray in AWITT’s opening:
Once the writers were on board and had a clear idea on how to create the script, they got to work, thinking in the story-boarding style but applying it to their writing. This is what came of that process:
I would love to share the full picture with you guys, but… at the same time I don’t want to ruin the final awesome piece! The highlighted sections for example, are what made it into the final script and each writer had their own unique version to work on.
After that point, Brad and I stitched the different writing styles together, which was easier said than done… We went through three written drafts before we were happy with it. Now all it came down to was the actual recording itself!
Having little to no idea of what it takes to prep a voice actor for a recording, I read several articles and watched some videos and came up with some comical instructions, especially tailored to Sir Brad:
Brad’s first recording was quite disastrously terrible… which was why I made these instructions and later even went on to add in narrative prompts like:
The prompts definitely helped added the right character or personality behind the narrative and Brad’s second recording definitely improved, but there was still plenty of room for improvement. At this point I got pretty negative about the process, getting a little high strung about the specifics and just getting overall, very nit-picky about the whole thing.
Brad and I had scheduled a voice recording session with Mike, almost a month in advance and I had this sinking feeling that Brad needed a hell lot more practice before we could go in. I asked Mike how he felt about postponing the date or just doing this recording as a practice run but he insisted that things would be fine and he wanted us over regardless. And now I’m so uber glad we listened to his advice and went over, because we ended up recording a final version!
Just look at these two! It was so super fantastic seeing Mike in his element and surrounded by all this cool sound gadgetry equipment stuff, clicking and tapping away in the sound zone 🙂 As we went through take after take, all of the little kinks in Brad’s narrative started getting ironed out.
It was honestly an amazing feeling hearing the changes happening actively with each take and when we were done; the final version and Brad’s first practice recording, sounded like two totally different people! I remember my sister (Ayesha, also one of our writer’s) saying:
He sounds too joke-y, like he’s going to crack a pun or a dad joke. Brad’s just that kind of person right? You can hear it in his voice!”
Well Ayesha, I can’t anymore! When she heard the final version, her eyes hahaha – pretty priceless!
We learnt so much from Mike and got a really great taste of what it’s like working with a sound professional, in person! The following list is in no way, exhaustive, but I wanted to note down some of the cool things we learnt from Mike and in general, the overall experience that night:
- It’s best to record the whole narrative in one go, rather than in sections because then the voice actor can really get a flow going, for the entire piece!
- Having multiple recordings enable us to stitch together the best sounding pieces and it’s a good practice to record even the practice sessions
- After 2-3 takes is a good time to take a breather and a break
- If you stumble or stutter or anything really, just start back at the top of the last sentence and keep going, don’t stop and restart because that messes with your vibe
- Adjust the script if necessary(and the prompts too), if the voice actor has a tendency to say things a certain way that is just natural for them and the script change makes no big difference to the meaning, go ahead and edit it!
- Here’s a big one: Just Chill. I guess with my technical background, I can get very 1,2,3 about things (Like this list for example), but Mike had a very cool, casual approach to the whole thing and I definitely had a little bit of an ‘aha’ moment seeing him direct the show 😀
- Adding in pauses where they didn’t exist can actually change the feel of a line, rather than re-recording. I was quite surprised with this one and wouldn’t have ever thought of it!
- Have the voice actor listen to their recordings, all of them. Telling them “Hey this line here was kinda iffy because blah blah” is not a bad thing, but at the same time, it isn’t as effective as them listening to their own voice and hearing the mistake for themselves. Another gem from our seasoned sound expert Mr. Romaniak!
- Share the piece with the team, get everyone on board, especially the artist who will be drawing images to match the narrative. For Dan, this will be his auditory guideline and will fuel the art ideas behind the feel and personality of the character speaking.
Honestly there’s probably a myriad of other things we all picked up that day but I’m now drawing a total blank! So with that, I will bid adieu with this post and hope all our readers got a cool sneak peak into this experience!
. Amina Khalique | Technical Director .