Comments on

Vox in Socks

Original entry posted: Mon Mar 31 14:57:35 2008

That Fuzzy Bastard @ Mon Mar 31 11:36:46 2008 EST

Seconded, thirded and fourthed on the repetitive dialogue! It's become a convention that once a character starts repeating themself, you're done talking to them (marvelously parodied in the movie eXistenZ), but it still pulls you way out of the immersion.

On dialogue, it's an even bigger problem. I'm enjoying Mass Effect (great, great combat system), but Bioware's desire to tell big, moving stories is constantly undermined by the lumbering, overwritten dialogue. Hopefully the DS's technical restraints will reign them in for the Sonic RPG, though I fear their talk of making it "dark" will mean a lot of painful adolescent dramatics.

I think you're right about the need for more B-movie dialogue---if any game could muster the tight haikus of, say, "Kiss Me Deadly" their quality would shoot up. And Yahtzee makes the excellent point that if the game has to stop dead for your deathless prose, you need to write way less of it, since it's getting in the way of, like, the game. Psychonauts took the right tack, I thought, in this as in all things, both in keeping the tone relatively light, and also in splitting the dialogue between stuff you had to hear and stuff you could choose to hear.

But all this is burying the lede---what are these "little tricks" you've developed for working with nonprofessional (or noncompetent) voice talent?

P.S.: Sorry I couldn't comment on your FCP post---server wasn't taking comments for some reason. Just wanted to say: Sorry the new version is having that problem! It used to be a big issue with FCP 4.5, but was fixed by 5---very, very sad to hear it's back. I was holding off on upgrading to 6 for the sake of a client who's still on 5, but it sounds like there's another reason to wait.

Thomas @ Mon Mar 31 12:27:32 2008 EST

The big two, as far as I'm concerned: commas, and smiling.

Commas are symbolic of a wider problem: you need to write differently for voice, and then there's another subset for people who are not professional talent. It needs to be easy for them to read--they're already worried about how to sound, so they don't need to also worry about tripping up. I go for much shorter sentences, read the script aloud several times to check for inadvertent tongue twisters, and add lots of commas, so people will know when to breathe.

The second point is to ask people to smile. A) it's really goofy advice, so it puts people in a good mood. B) you can really hear the difference when someone's smiling, even if they're faking it. They subconsciously vary a little more in tone. I combine that with getting them to slow down until they feel like they're crawling: one of the things I learned in Forensics is that most people naturally speak WAY too quickly, and they speed up when they're nervous.

These are pretty basic--you probably already know them, and I've mentioned them here before. But they help a lot. If you have the time to throw out most of the first three attempts, so the talent has a chance to get used to the idea of reading into the mike, you can get a pretty decent performance out of most people.

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