From Script to Screen: The Art of Voice Performance in Gaming and Animation

From Script to Screen: The Art of Voice Performance in Gaming and Animation

From Script to Screen: The Art of Voice Performance in Gaming and Animation

 

Breathing life into characters for games and animation is a huge part of many Voice Actors’ work. Many games have become cinematic masterpieces, almost indistinguishable from film in both the visual and the audio aspects. Along with that, the voice performances have become truthful, nuanced, and real, akin to film and TV acting.

But how does a Voice Actor transform the words on the page into a living, breathing character?

Understanding the Character

It all starts with the character brief. This is where the actor draws all the information about the character from. The more detail, the better. Who is this person/animal/monster? Where have they come from, and where do they want to go? What do they sound like? What do they look like? What do they care about? What do they fear? What do they hate?

Answers to questions like these will help the actor create a fully-rounded character that feels and sounds three-dimensional. The backstory and personality traits of the character will inform how certain lines are said and add subtext to what’s on the page.

A line as simple as “This is where I grew up” will sound very different if a character has experienced severe childhood trauma compared to someone who had a happy and carefree upbringing.

At this stage, close collaboration with the director and writers is key to try to find as many nuggets of wisdom about the character as possible. After all, at the point when the Actor joins the project, the writers and directors will often have spent months or even years with the character. They are the ones who can give valuable insights to help add even more detail to the performance.

Finding the Voice

Once the character feels real, it’s the actor's job to find their sound. If the preparation work was thorough, often the voice will naturally follow. How a character holds themselves, their background, their age, and their accent all influence what they sound like.

Here, vocal versatility is key. To be able to adapt to different ages, accents and vocal qualities will massively expand an actor’s casting possibilities and will help create more varied and nuanced characters.

However, the most important factor is consistency. The actor must be able to maintain a certain sound or accent over long recording sessions, sometimes over the space of months or even years. Working with accent and voice coaches to really solidify those elements of the performance can be a game changer (no pun intended).

Feeling the Feelings

In addition to vocal versatility, the actor needs to be incredibly emotionally available and adaptable. This is where a solid acting foundation comes in. No matter what acting technique an actor employs - be it accessing their own experiences to relate to the character, purely working with imagination, substitution, or another technique that works for them - the actor needs to be able to authentically convey the character’s emotional state through their voice.

Considering that voice acting is usually sight reading, there often isn’t much time to find a certain emotional state and the actor has to be very good at “switching it on and off” from one moment to the next.

On top of that, most recording sessions happen solo in the booth, with no other actors present to play with. The other lines will be read in by the director or, if they have already been recorded, might be played into the headphones of the actor.

Sanford Meisner said: “Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances”. When it comes to voice acting, the circumstances could not be any more imaginary. There are no props, no costumes, no set, and no other actors. Everything has to happen in the actor’s imagination, making voice acting an incredibly challenging discipline of acting.

Voice Acting Is a Full-Body Experience

Physicality can be hugely helpful for this. Despite not being on camera or on a stage, a good voice actor will always use their whole body when acting. This helps to add depth, detail and authenticity to the performance that might otherwise end up sounding a little static.

Here are some beautiful examples of actors getting physical behind the mic to breathe life into their performances:

Specifically for video games, a very important topic for actors is vocal health. A lot of games contain combat where highly projected work is required from the actors. Specific training to perform those types of roles safely and repeatably is an absolute must for any actor working in games.

In order to maintain a character’s voice across hours and hours of recording, a solid vocal technique foundation as well as hydration, breaks, and self-awareness are essential.

Voice Actors Are Team Players

This is where communication between the actor and the director is key.

It’s the director’s job to guide the actor through the script and they can only do that if the actor is malleable in their performance and open to discovering the character together with the director, all while communicating their needs and letting the director know if they experience any discomfort during the session.

After all, creating an incredible work of art like a video game or an animated movie, or a TV show is a team effort. Everyone needs to be on top of their game and work together to make the project a success.

The actor is a small cog in a huge machine. So it’s important to approach the work with humility, a real desire for collaboration, be prepared, and show up ready to play.

Because when everyone brings their unique selves, creativity, and perspective to the project, that’s when the magic happens.

 

Author: Leonie

Leonie is an award-winning multilingual Voice Actor, bilingual English/German and fluent in French. She works across Gaming, Animation, Dubbing, and Audio Drama as well as Commercial and Corporate Narration.

Leonie has given life to characters in popular AAA video game franchises like Assassin's Creed and Cyberpunk 2077 as well as various AA and indie games.
www.leoniedoesvoices.com 

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