By Lani Minella
Metamorph At Large
Production Company)

Part 1:

Part 2:
What Price, Talent?
"Stars" and Union
talent costs

Part 3:
Other Voiceover Costs

Part 4:
Finding Great Talent: Audition Secrets

Click to hear Lani's Voiceover Demo Reel

Lani's Credit list - Voiceover talent
for over 400 games
and counting

Lani's Credit List in PDF format



Recording the ultra-cheap way
Obviously if you need to scrimp, there are some ways to cut costs, and not sacrifice too much quality, although you may spend a lot more time getting out the final deliverable product. Studios cost between $75- $150/hour depending on if you are going to DAT or direct to computer using Pro- Tools for instance. This price should include the engineer. To save more money, bring your own DATs, cassettes or recordable CDs. Going to acting classes either in the private or school sector may expose you to some eager actors who will work for practically nothing.

Record in a quiet home studio with someone who wants credit and a copy of the game in exchange for his engineering skills and recording equipment (make sure the equipment is good though). As long as the mic is good, the DAT or computer program is professional and the room is sound proofed correctly, you don't need to go to a posh studio with track lighting, leather couches and a 128 channel mixing console. However, sometimes you get what you pay for; so be forewarned about cutting too many corners! Another budget saver is to use people who do more than one voice convincingly and can stay in character.

ADR-Audio Dialogue replacement, looping, localization and walla groups
This is a specialized area of replacing existing dialogue with other voice tracks. It is done frequently in movies after the film is shot because the sound during the actual take was not clean. Another time this is done is for Japanese anime or foreign films where you might replace a pre-existing foreign language with American speech. Timing is everything here, and I've found that it takes a special knack to watch the visuals and speak within the given time parameters while maintaining character. Fees for looping can run the same as for any voiceover but walla is where you record the background sounds, like a crowd in a bar. Walla group talent usually gets paid $50 minimum an hour but again, depending upon experience and session duration.

Child actors & line reads to any actor
This is tricky business, especially since you need to have a parent or teacher present during the sessions. It is rare to find kids with a lot of voiceover experience and even more unusual to find ones who take direction well. Here is where a good director or a producer that knows what he wants is a must. I suggest giving any actor (child or adult) a line read and letting them mimic you, rather than hoping they will come up with the right take. I like to give the director two or three takes that are different: if the director doesn't like one, the director gives me a line read or we go off in a whole new direction. If you are casting actors, give them a line read as a test to see how well they mimic you, and to make sure that they are not too full of themselves to take direction. Have them die, attack, and scream.Do this to weed out the wimps and the wannabe's.

Pick-ups and fix it charges
After the initial voice recording session, inevitably there are new lines or changes made requiring another session. If you wish to ask the talent if they will do pick-ups or fixes free, go ahead and ask. It really depends on how many lines you are talking about, if perhaps the talent has his or her own studio and can easily whip out and e- mail a couple of fixes, or if there is an exorbitant amount of new text, expect to pay like a normal session.

The "Phone Patch" method
You need not necessarily fly in talent or pay to transport them to a studio. By using ISDN or DGS you can record between two different studios equipped with those systems. The talent can be in one city and the studio doing the actual recording could be anywhere else. This method can cost in the neighborhood of $250 an hour at each end and that does not include the talent.

I often use what is called a Phone Patch, where my mic's signal is fed into the phone directly through the mixing board so it is very clear through the telephone where my client can listen as though he is actually in the studio. At the other studio the client can direct me instantly because his voice is fed right into my headphones. As for all the nuances you listen for, such as technical difficulties or mouth noises, the recording engineer does that during the recording. Run a back up DAT; send the recorded one by overnight delivery and you have a safety tape in case something happens to the first one. NO extra charge is incurred, except your long distance phone bill, which will no doubt be a lot cheaper than ISDN or the plane flights. I have heard producers say they want to see the talent perform, but if you take away the visuals, you are more apt to concentrate on that which is important, the voice.

If you still feel like flying yourself to a studio, or paying for a talent to go outside his home turf, allow money for travel time and prepare for possible delays in air or freeway traffic. Only prima- donna voice talents request being put up in a hotel the night before, unless you do the unspeakable and ask us artistic types to get up too early to start a session. Then we all sound like Lauren Bacall.