Voice Acting in Games

We’ve begun the process of casting a voice actor for the next game trailer we’re working on.

It always strikes me that there’s often an overly theatrical approach to voice acting in games, in general. I think we accept it only because we’re used to it.┬áMany an article on voice acting makes a point of the fact that voice acting is a different beast entirely from screen acting. I think that’s obviously true in the process taken – but I find it hard to accept that the end result should be as different as it often is.

Theater acting is different from film in that there is a distance between the audience and the actor requiring projection and exaggeration. Voice acting for a radio show is a different discipline from either as there is no accompanying visual to assist in telling the story. With games, however, there is an accompanying visual and I feel the performance could go either way – if there are no close-ups and / or other filmic devices then perhaps a more theatrical approach is warranted (e.g. if the game maintains a top down view, not allowing the camera to go in close to see the characters – or if the characters are limited to reduced animations). The other situation is one in which you do have filmic syntax (close-ups, characters animated in sync with the story e.g. mocap) and that is the kind where I feel the standard approach to voice acting (being enclosed in a tiny booth without any of the environment or other characters to react to) is perhaps a less effective one.

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Games like Uncharted are getting closer to the best tactic, in my opinion, where the actors are being mocapped and delivering the dialogue at the same time. They are acting out the moves of the character while talking and responding to the other characters in the space.

I’ve often wondered whether a better approach might be similar to that taken when “looping”. One could get the actors into some kind of space and film a sequence using a standard video camera. Then, in the studio at a later time, essentially carry out a standard looping session – having the actor read back their lines as they watch themselves perform the scene on video. The purpose of this is to allow the actor to holistically embrace the emotion of the scene and to have them feed off the other players (if there are any) in the space. Budget-wise it wouldn’t have to cost too much extra – unless you wanted to dress the actors and the set, of course. I’ll be trying this on a future project and will do a write-up on its effectiveness!

Speaking of overly theatrical, the embedded video shows a behind the scenes look at the Dawn of War 2 voice actors. I mean in no way to cast aspersions on the approach taken for Dawn of War – if anything, they support my assertion that the theatrical approach may be warranted in places where cinematic devices are limited. The voice acting in DoW2 usually accompanies talking heads and topdown viewed characters so it makes sense that emotion and inflection is left for the voice to convey.┬áThere’s a lot of talent and ability on display here!

Oi! Besides providing the deep tones of Captain Davian Thule, Fred Tatasciore has been in almost everything else – from games to cartoons – including the voice of The Hulk in Ultimate Avengers and Hulk Vs, Damon Baird in Gears of War 3 and Saren from Mass Effect!