Let’s say I have my audio drama script and my cover art.  It will be a dull and lifeless project without voices right?  In the last post I explained how I find voices and some of the places I’ve gone to find the artists behind them.  But there’s an even greater question here.  One that comes before I actually begin a voice artist search.

  • Where – as in where do they live?
  • How – how will their lines be recorded?

There are two camps that audio producers often fall into.  One camp insists the artists perform the show together, and are recorded together, in the same space.  The other camp insists that a voice artist can deliver an outstanding performance by recording her lines remotely, by herself, and at a different time than the rest of the cast.  I straddle a line between the two.  There are pros and cons to both practices, which I’ll get to in a moment, and reasons why a new producer may prefer one over the other.

At the time of this writing I’ve produced 14 podcast series, 11 of which have been audio drama productions.  Of the 11 audio dramas 10 have been recorded remotely and 1 recorded using a mix of remote and live performances.  Which do I prefer?  Both actually.  If I’ve done my job right as a producer the listener will never know the difference.  A seasoned audio producer might be able to tell, but I would also wager that they wouldn’t be 100% sure themselves.

So let’s start with remote performances.

 

Remote

Pros

  • Actors are able to record their lines when convenient to them
  • A producer can more easily find artists with genuine accents should the production call for it
  • The excitement of working with a diverse cast of international talent
  • Remote voice artists are relatively easy to find

Cons

  • The artist must record her lines solo without being able to work off of, or react to, another artist’s delivery
  • Artists will be recording using different mics, setups, and in different environments
  • The ability to direct the artist’s delivery is greatly hampered
  • Production scheduled may be impacted by delays
  • More prone to re-takes (having the artist re-record a line)

 

These are the main themes when working with remote talent.  To help alleviate some of the concerns mentioned in the ‘con’ list I will always ask for a few test lines from the artist if I haven’t worked with her before.  This will give me a good idea as to how their recorded lines will sound when it comes time for the actual production.  A good, quality sound can always be worked with and tweaked to match the quality of recorded lines delivered by other remote artists under different conditions.  I also provide remote actors with director’s notes prior to any read-throughs or recording sessions. These notes usually consist of character nuances, scene directions, motivations, etc.  (typically 1-3 pages depending on the size of the character).   I also require a full cast read-through via Skype prior to any recording.  This gives the artists a chance to interact, and to hear how lines will be delivered by those they are working with.  It also gives me another chance to provide guidance or direction outside of the character notes.  I also ask the artist to record as soon as they can after the session so that the session’s dynamics are still fresh in their mind.  In some cases I’ve provided artists with another artist’s recorded lines to work off of.  This can be beneficial depending on whose lines take precedent (or are less ‘reactive’).

 

Live

Pros

  • Artists are working off, and reacting to, each other
  • Artists can react to body language
  • Greater control of environmental factors (noise, location, equipment, etc)
  • Greater ability to lend direction and guidance
  • May, arguably, lead to a stronger performance, or set of performances

Cons

  • Dependent upon the ability to find local talent with the necessary skills, accents, etc.
  • The ability to find studio and/or recording space
  • Dependent upon the producer having the proper equipment, number of mics, etc.
  • More planning and scheduling needs (as opposed to allowing artists to have a more flexible recording schedule)

 

When I was new to all of this the cons of recording ‘live’ were very real.  The area I live in has a vast theatrical talent pool.  While dramatic skills are certainly a plus, delivering a stage performance is much different from acting in front of a mic.  I found it much easier to find strong, experienced voice talent remotely.  My scripts also included characters with accents (Bryar Lane is set in a small english village).  With a few exceptions, I prefer to work with artists whose accents are authentic.  There are definite advantages to recording the performances in the same space.  Waterguns & Rainbows is a mix of recorded and local talent.  The two leads (Jessica Rainville and Brent Davidson) were both recorded live at my home and the results were amazing.  The chemistry they had wouldn’t have been the same had they recorded their parts separately.  The rest of the cast consisted of smaller roles and these were delivered by remote artists.  Listen to the park scene (Episode 05) when Crystal (Jessica) and Jordan (Brent) meet Harry (Mark Coutu).  If I hadn’t told you that this scene is a mix of remote and live actors would you be able to tell?

Once I’ve decided how I’m going to proceed when it comes to artist location I can then move forward with the talent search.

 

 

Other Posts in this series:

Photos by Slava Bowman  & on Steve Richey on Unsplash

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