I’m talented at certain things. Photoshop isn’t one of ’em.
DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:
Among the people who get automatic email notification for whenever I post a new audioblog entry, my mother is one of them…so I figured, Mom, that this might be a good thing for you to wake up to! Undoubtedly there will be some people who cringe or roll their eyes at the fact that I’m using my audioblog for “mushy stuff.” To those people, I will simply say this: too bad, it’s my blog!
Nothing voice acting-related will be found in this particular entry. Well, kinda. Other than my public proclamation that, as moronic of me as it was to decide to pursue voice acting (half-joking…I’m referencing an earlier audioblog entry), a career with very little in the way of job security, my mother always been one of my biggest supporters. I can’t speak for everyone, but I certainly hope that you have a mother who has been as supportive as mine has. As time goes on, I have come to realize just how much my parents want me to be happy and to succeed–
–On that note, thanks Dad, I love you so much too, I’m just making this one to Mom seeing as it’s Mother’s Day. :)–
–and I could not be more grateful. So Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you!
Okay, be honest…when you hear the word “dub,” it’s either this or those old kung-fu movies that you think about, right?
DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:
Ask any voice actor what inspired them to become a voice actor, and the stories are usually pretty similar. They were told they had a great voice, they began in radio, they listened to cartoons…stuff like that. I consider myself a tad different in that regard. Technically cartoons and video games inspired me to get in, which is why I’m not enormously different. What makes me a tad different is that the cartoon and video game performances that inspired me the most…were not the original performances of the source material. They were dubs.
Shows like “Dragon Ball Z,” “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” and “Pokemon” may not have quite the same name power as “Looney Tunes,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” or “Rugrats,” but quite frankly, they influenced me way more than any North American cartoon ever did. Even when I grew up, bought the DVDs, and was able to switch over to the original Japanese audio track with English subtitles, the original Japanese casts didn’t resonate with me nearly as much as the performances of the English actors who dubbed them. To me, the English dub casts will always be the casts that matter. Which is a pity, really, because while their appreciation has grown tremendously over the years, dub actors, as Rodney Dangerfield would say, “Don’t get no respect”…comparatively speaking, anyway.
In discussing last week’s audioblog entry, it became apparent to me that there is only so much “mainstream” respect and awareness for what we do. Voice actors are relatively obscure in the grand scheme of things. However, even within our industry, there are obscure parts, such as dubbing. The reason I’m using Godzilla as my featured image is because, in all likelihood, that’s what many people think of when they hear the word “dub.” They imagine the original Japanese actors talking for extended periods of time, only for atrociously lip-synced dialogue to ruin whatever mood was originally set up.
Well, in this entry, I’m gonna show some lovin’ for the dubbin.’ I don’t think it’s nearly respected as it should be. That’s partially because, up until (relatively) recently, the English dub actors were not allowed to be credited to specific roles, and instead the credits would simply say “Featuring the English Voices of…” and then list all of the actors in a seemingly random order. However, there’s also a lack of awareness of the process and art behind dubbing. It has come a long way since it originally started! Some of the stuff here will be “old news” to voice actors who have done ADR or dubbing before, but like I said, in the interest of spreading awareness of the job of the voice actors who inspired me most, I’m gonna talk about the three “Methods” of dubbing (and the third one, I bet, will surprise even the veterans).
METHOD 1: The “Three Beeps” Method
This is, hands-down, the most common method. This is used not only in anime, but also in dubbing for foreign films and ADR. First, the actor is played a preview of what they will be dubbing. Following this, the engineer will set up three beeps at a set rhythm to be played to the actor through their headphones. Based on the rhythm of these three beeps, the actor tries to imagine in their head where the fourth beep should be, and is supposed to start saying their line on this imaginary fourth beep, taking care to match the lip movements of whatever it is they’re trying to dub. This used to be a pretty long process in the days of laying everything to film, when so many analog machines had to be timed to be in sync with everything, but ever since things went digital, this process is much faster. Here’s an example of the talented Johnny Yong Bosch dubbing the main character of an anime called “Eureka Seven”:
METHOD 2: The “Rhythmo-Band” Method
DON’T WANNA READ? THEN (KEEP) LISTEN(ING)!:
While the Three Beeps Method has gotten faster, it’s still not nearly as fast as the Rhythmo-Band Method. This is a rare method of dubbing. In fact, it’s almost exclusive to France and Quebec. And…that sucks, quite frankly, because this method is so much more effective and useful for the actor. Rather than cue the actor with beeps, the engineer takes a blank strip of film and writes out the revised dialogue by hand onto the film strip. This film strip, the “rhythmo-band,” is then projected onto a separate TV screen beneath the main TV screen that shows the visuals that the dubbing actor will dub. Towards the left end of the rhythmo-band screen, a static red line is projected. As the visuals of the main screen move along, so does the rhythmo-band. Because the engineer took the time to precisely calculate how long everything should be pronounced, and adjusted the size and length of their handwriting accordingly, the rhythmo-band’s text scrolls from right to left in sync with the picture, and the dubbing actor simply reads the rhythmo-band’s moving text as it intersects with the static red line.
In doing so, the rhythmo-band displays to the actor the exact speed and timing at which they’re supposed to say their lines. An example of this is shown below, using behind-the-scenes footage of the French dub of “Pokemon” (fast-forward to the 3:29 mark):
YOU REALLY DON’T WANNA READ, DO YOU? WELL, LISTEN, THEN!:
Okay, actually, before I move on, I’d like to clarify one thing. I will thank all of my older readers and listens–and Herman Cain–to STOP mispronouncing the damn show’s name! It’s “POE-kay-MON,” not “POE-kee-MON.” It annoyed me when I was 11, and it annoys me now! Do you people not have ears? It’s in the theme song! Listen!
See, I’m not making this stuff up! So please, STOP it!
…Anyways. The reason the Rythmo-Band Method is awesome is because the guess work present in the “Three Beeps Method” is eliminated for the actor…
…But not for the engineer. The reason this method didn’t take off much beyond France or Quebec, is because it takes an exhausting amount of time to prepare for the engineer. Especially in the old days when they had to watch the film over, and over, and over, and over again so that they could calculate the proper length and size of their handwriting so that it would be in sync with the picture. Thankfully, they no longer write out the revised dialogue by hand, and have since developed software programs designed to mimic the rhythmo-band’s function and work in sync with audio editing programs like Pro Tools (one of which can be found here). I’ve heard rumors on the internets that a select few studios in LA use this method now. I’m all for this method replacing the Three Beeps Method, if only because I’m an actor and it makes the actor’s life much easier.
Well, that is, until we get to the third method…
METHOD 3: Revise The On-Screen Visuals
Since dubbing began, the idea has been that, since the on-screen visuals can’t be revised, dubbing actors had to do the best they could to sync their words to the mouth movements of the characters they were dubbing. Dubbing studios couldn’t go back to animation studios and ask them to draw alternative drawings to match the lip movements of the English actors, or ask film companies to shoot alternative scenes in which the actors on screen matched the lip movements of the dubbing actor. That would be absurd and impractical…
YOU ARE A LAZY, LAZY INDIVIDUAL..AND I RESPECT YOU!:
What you just saw (assuming you clicked the link–you DID, right?) is the result of a computer program developed by New York University called “Video Rewrite,” that uses CGI to rework the mouth formations of people on screen to match the mouth formations of the words spoken by the dubbing actor. They used Video Rewrite to dub an old video of JFK, making President Kennedy’s mouth look like he was speaking the words of the dubbing actor. The idea behind this is that, when mass-produced, needing to match lip movements in dubs will be a thing of the past, and the dubbing actors will finally be able to deliver their lines however they please, without regard for how the original actor did. This technology, though, is a long way off.
So for now, it’s mostly the Three Beeps Method and the Rhythmo-Band Method. Take some time to watch a foreign movie dubbed, or an anime dubbed (anything by Hayao Miyazaki will be good since Disney is in charge of dubbing his movies). For those of you who aren’t familiar with how the technology and artistic acting ability of dubs have evolved over the years, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
PS: From now on, I’m going to be doing something with my audioblog entries that I haven’t been doing before. Very often when I post my audioblog entries in social media forums, some GREAT discussions will come out of them. That’s good, for the most part…problem is, often some great material will come out after the fact. For example, in last week’s audioblog entry, I talked about how VO has zero presence in colleges except for Yale. Turns out…I was a tad misinformed. A few colleges do indeed offer it. They’re still few and far between, and I maintain that it needs to have a stronger presence, but more colleges were brought to my attention, and more elements of the issue were discussed. So, from now on, when I see a great discussion arise, I’ll post links to those discussion threads. Entry #20 has already been retrofitted that way, and I’m workin’ on the others. By all means, join in on the discussion! It’s not like you’re…actually, hold on a second…
It’s not like you have to wait for your time to speak!
Okay, not entirely accurate, but that’s how I envisioned myself when I found out that colleges don’t teach voice acting.
DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:
As a relatively recent college graduate, I can tell you that there were certain things I wish I had learned in college that I never did. Not because I didn’t pursue them, but because the opportunity just wasn’t available. I have a degree in theater, and I concentrated on acting. I was taught stage acting, mask acting, and camera acting…but never, at any point, was I taught voice acting. Whatever I know now, I had to pick up on my own (well, and with some coaches). So imagine the reaction I had when I found out that, apparently, some obscure college that no one’s ever heard of called “Yale,” does indeed have a VO class!
Here’s how I found out. In surfin’ around a few Linkedin forums, Jake Foushee, the kid who I mentioned in Entry #19, was brought up. I screwed up the pronunciation of his last name in that entry, but I can no longer permit myself to do that ’cause…Jake now has agency representation through Abrams Creative Artists! So it sounds like we’re gonna be hearing this guy a lot more! Still, he’s been quite the talk of a few VO forums, and in one of those forums, one voice-over talent expressed some concern that he’ll be competing against other VO talent who have much more experience and training than he does. Then, one of the replies said…
“…As a professor who teaches voiceovers at Yale, I can assure you that Jake will have the proper training and mentoring.”
However, that’s how the rest of the world read that sentence. Here’s how I read that sentence:
“…As a professor who teaches voiceovers at Yale–”
*sound of record scratching*
“WHAT!? They TEACH voice-overs? AT FREAKIN’ YALE!? I CANNOT BELIEVE–”
I then proceeded to rant, but it lasted for three hours, twelve minutes, and forty-six seconds so I’ll stop there. To summarize the rant, I was just cursing the fact that a college actually teaches VO!
To me, it’s something that no longer has an excuse not to be taught in an academic setting! I knew I wanted to get into voice acting when I was 12, so I remember back when I was 17 and looking at colleges, their acting curriculum was top of mind for me. Most had a good theater acting program, some even had a TV/camera acting program, but VO? Whenever I said, “Well, I really wanna do voice acting, do you guys have anything like that here?” The only response I would ever get back was, “Um…I mean, like, we have a campus radio station. Is that…is that what you meant, or…?”
Fast-forward a few years, the situation evolved to the point where I ended up teaching a one-day VO class. I don’t exactly mean that in a good way, though. Y’see, back when I was in the OSU theater department, it was mentioned by somebody that I did voice-overs. I’m not one to gossip, but many actors generally are, so the word quickly spread. For the next year, whenever I introduced myself to a fellow student at the theater department as “Dave Wallace,” their next immediate response would be, “Oh wai–I’ve heard of you, you’re the, the voice-over guy, right?” To which I would always respond, “Well I wouldn’t exactly put that as my legal name on my tax returns, but I do voice-overs, yes.” So eventually, I get hit with this bombshell from one of my acting professors–
“Would you mind making a one-day presentation to the class on voice-overs?”
Don’t get me wrong, it was nice of my professor to ask me that, but I was very reluctant to do that. I said to her…
“Well, I mean…y’know, I’ll be happy to do that, but I don’t know that I’m the best guy for the job. I’m not a newbie by any means, but I’m not exactly a veteran, either. My experience just isn’t up to the level that I would consider ‘professor-like.’ We’ve got some acting professors here who have been doing acting for decades and hell, we’re OSU–we’re THE biggest college in the U.S.! Isn’t there somebody here who’s more knowledgeable than I am?”
Their immediate reply was, “Nope.” So I, a kid who, at the time, had only been doing VO for three years, gave as best a lecture I could about VO. I tried to cover all that I could–the importance of acting ability, having a brand, knowing how to run a small business, utilizing various marketing methods, where to go to get one’s demo done…I answered any questions I could.
As glad as I was to help out, though…the academic world deserves better than me.
The now-common nature of home studios, combined with the fact that I’m one of the closest things that a major university had to someone knowledgeable in VO, is all the evidence we need that VO has to have an academic presence. Why are there not more professors teaching VO? Why aren’t colleges setting up a cheap booth with a USB mic just to give students a feel for how their voice sounds on a microphone? Why aren’t field trips being arranged to VO recording studios? Why are colleges giving prospective students blank stares when they ask to learn about a rapidly-growing medium of acting? I can’t think of good answers to these questions, so the excuses are up as far as I’m concerned!
So congrats to that one professor I saw who’s teaching VO at Yale. He’s teaching something that, as a kid, I wanted to learn so, so, so badly!
Some great discussion took place on this topic at…
First off, if you haven’t watched the video above, do so. It’s of a young dude by the name of Jake Foushee (my apologies to Jake if he listens to this and I mispronounced his last name…or his first name, but I’m pretty sure I got “Jake” right). Anyway, this young guy aspires to become an actual voice actor. As most of my readers and listeners know, it takes much, much more than a great voice to succeed…but hey, he’s got a great voice. To quote one of the people who posted on his YouTube video, “Dude, puberty hit you like a ******* freight train!” That same train has now carried his video to the status of “viral,” which most marketing experts, with college degrees in marketing, can’t figure out how to do. So that got me thinking…just what is it that makes a video go viral?
Hell if I know.
What, were you people expecting a more complex answer? It doesn’t sound like a lot of other people know, either. According to YouTube’s official Trends Manager, a guy whose job is to “professionally” watch YouTube videos (side note: HOW DOES SOMEBODY GET A JOB THAT AWESOME!??), forty-eight hours worth of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, but less than 1% of those will go on to get over a million views. There simply aren’t many ways to predict whether a video will go viral or not. For all the demos and official VO projects that I’ve put up for viewing on my YouTube channel, the video of mine that continues to get the most views is a God-awful parody of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that I was forced to write and perform for a college class. (It’s here if you want to watch it, but be forewarned, my singing should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention as a method of torture):
Now…having said all that…there do indeed appear to be some common trends among videos that go viral. It would only be fair at this point for me to say that some–okay, all–of my info was gleaned from several sources, so I felt it would be proper of me to list the sources at the bottom of the article. However, in the interest of giving it my own unique spin, I’ve tried to pull out the most interesting bits and apply them to VO where possible.
Trend Number 1: THEY’VE BEEN SHARED BY OTHER PEOPLE
A study conducted by Indiana University created a program that simulated Twitter, and it found that, despite the fact that all simulated Tweets were inherently equal, some Tweets became immensely more popular. When a Tweet was re-Tweeted, it was more likely to be seen by the simulated users, which led to the re-Tweeted Tweets getting even more re-Tweeting and, by extension, more exposure. Simply put, social media entries that are shared end up getting much greater web exposure than those that sort of languish in cyberspace.
This, to me, highlights the need to be social with other voice actors online. Share other people’s stuff, and they’ll be more inclined to share your stuff. There is a sort of invisible code that if someone likes and/or shares your stuff, it’s polite to return the favor when possible. Granted, not everybody follows this code, of course, and some would call that a wise business practice. The way I see it, though, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with contributing to a community and, in doing so, reinforcing the value of our profession through discussion.
Trend Number 2: THEY’VE BEEN SHARED BY OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE COOLER THAN YOU
Often times, things won’t go viral until it’s shared by someone else who’s (really, really) popular. There’s even an official term for them–“tastemakers.” Author Justin Halpern was able to get his best-selling book, “S*** My Dad Says,” published largely because tastemaker and comedian Rob Cordry (of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” fame) found Halpern’s Twitter account and alerted all of his followers to how funny it was. (On a slightly unrelated note, if you don’t like to read, listen to the audiobook, whose narrator, Sean Schemmel, was nominated for an Audie Award for his work there). Ted Williams, the “Man With the Golden Voice” became well known largely because the Columbus Dispatch newspaper released a YouTube video featuring him to all their viewers, and the infamous “KONY 2012” video had a huge surge in views when Justin Bieber Tweeted it.
I’ll admit, listing this is kind of cheating because it’s very similar to Trend Number 1, but if you have any hopes of your social media entries going viral, the key seems to be that they must be shared by other people in the hopes of being seen by other famous people.
Trend Number 3: THEY HAVE AN EMOTIONAL ANGLE
According to one study (cited at the bottom of this entry), the social media entries that are the most popular tend to be the ones that appeal to emotions first and foremost. Whether that emotion be happiness, sadness, positive, or negative, giving your entries an emotional edge does seem to help. This is a risky thing to do since pouring your heart out online doesn’t generally look good to employers, but…honestly, I can attest to this working. If the WordPress dashboard is anything to go by, the audioblog entry of mine that continues to get the most views is #13, in which I (half) jokingly referred to all actors–myself included–as “morons” for actually wanting to pursue an acting career. I considered it one of my weaker efforts, but it continues to be my most viewed and shared entry.
Trend Number 4: THEY QUICKLY GET TO THE POINT
It’s tempting to “set the scene” and have a long build-up to whatever it is you’re trying to say, but resist that temptation, because, according to creative marketing agency Seedwell, unless you can tell somebody in 10-15 seconds why they should care, they won’t. Some of my more frequent readers and listeners know that I loathe Twitter because of how it forces me to condense my thoughts, but the fact that there’s demand for such a social network is proof enough that people like things short and sweet nowadays.
This can certainly be applied to VO. I’m hearing more and more about how fast-paced our clients are. A few quick examples I can think of right off the bat?
-Sure, most of our demos are sixty seconds, but how many clients actually listen past three seconds? Almost none.
-I asked a few trusted ears for some feedback on a video reel I’ve been putting together, and the first thing they said? “That black screen at the beginning with your contact info is way too long–shorten it.”
-On a similar note–in my opinion, of course–don’t slate your demos, ’cause 99% of the time, people know whose demos they’re listening to.
-Way back in the first incarnation of my website (not this, this is my audioblog), I was told to put my demos on the first page. “Let’s be honest Dave, that’s probably all they’re going to listen to,” is what I was told.
Trend Number 5: THE THREE GOLDEN CATEGORIES
One study noted that there seem to be three golden categories for social media content that goes viral: parodies, unbelievably cute stuff, and funny accidents. This is going to be, hands-down, the hardest part for VO talent. Unless you do a parody of a famous voice, have a puppy in the background while you’re recording a spot, or someone randomly charges into your booth and bashes you on the head with your own microphone, it will be difficult for people in VO to do anything that remotely resembles something for the three golden categories. Since none of these three things naturally fit into the context of VO, our social media entries will never be the most viewed things in the world. And I would never be so immature as to include pictures of puppies to boost my SEO rating and entice people to keep reading.
That was a lie, I totally would.
Like everything else in this business, going viral involves a lot of luck. In the end, though, there do appear to be these five common trends that increase your luck. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and superimpose images of puppies over all of my demos.
You only have so much time to read or listen to my audioblog. Especially if you have other emails to answer, other auditions to do, live in a busy market, have other projects to edit…you gut stuff to do. I get it. However, over the weekend, I was reminded of just how busy our world is, and I was grateful for the reminder.
Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of corresponding with a family friend, an actor who lives in Los Angeles and has lived there for quite some time. I’m moving there (late this year or early next year, there are a few x factors involved), and he was extremely kind and generous with all of the info that he provided. It started out with an in-person meeting, progressed to some back-and-forth emails, and culminated in a phone call. In my opinion, though, the most interesting part of the whole conversation I had with him on the phone was towards the end. He said…
“Also, Dave, just one last quick thing…the emails that you sent me…they were long. Really, REALLY long. I totally get it, ’cause I’m the same way, I love to include as many details as I can to give people a complete understanding of the situation, so I don’t mind it personally, but…send those emails to the average person in LA, and you will overwhelm them. The acting business in LA operates on a lightning-fast business model, so you need to get to the point and quick. I’m not saying you should change who you are, or anything like that, I’m just telling you that, in LA…you got to get to the point, and quick, because on their best days, the main bullet points are all the people in LA have time for. Often they don’t even have time for those. Less is more.”
Okay, sorry for puttin’ that cheesy reverb effect on the “less is more” bit, but I did that for the sake of emphasis. “Less is more,” in case you didn’t notice, has become the defacto principle of communication. I noticed it myself even before he pointed it out, but the fact that I went ahead with super-lengthy emails despite knowing how overwhelming they can be demonstrated that this principle can be easy to forget. I’ve mentioned before that, while I’m a humble person, if you ever see me boast about one thing, it’ll be my kung-fu typing speed. That, combined with the fact that I like to talk, usually results in really lengthy emails, audioblog entries, and forum posts.
Well, the forum posts aren’t going to be shortened. Or the audioblog entries (except for this one, for the sake of thematic consistency). Emails, though? Less is more. The very fact that a social network like Twitter exists proves that people are less and less interested in long details, they just want to get to the point. Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me if eventually they’re just gonna create a social network where all of your posts are limited to one letter, with every letter meant to be shorthand for something. Like…
Which will eventually be short-hand for, “Of course, good sir, I will gladly attend your party this evening after making the proper transportation arrangements.”
All of that to say…be polite, tell people what they want to know…but get to the point. In fact, I apologize if you listened to this, considering how busy our schedules are. As an act of repentance, if you’re listening to the audio narration of this entry, I will now speed up the speed of the audioblog entry so that you can get it in a more time-appropriate format.
I avoid being too expressive over the internets because it often leads to…well, this.
DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:
Several years ago, I signed up for an email list that posts jobs for actors. I’m not gonna say which one specifically because…well, you’ll see why. In any event, I observed that a discussion had started over the email list about proper audition protocol, and I was a tad–okay, VERY–surprised to see one particular email. The email–sent by someone that we’ll just call “Person X”–was directed at someone who had written earlier, and it was very rude…again, in the interest of not sensationalizing other people’s problems, I’m not going to drop too many specifics, but let’s just say that the email concluded with the following sentence: “So mind your own ******* business, *****.” I wouldn’t have known this were it not for the fact that Person X thought they hit the “reply” button when in fact they hit the “reply to all” button.
Say it with me now: tchhh……oooooooohhh……..
Despite being (UNBELIEVABLY) rude, I understand that sometimes passion takes over, so I gave this person the benefit of the doubt. Except that two days later, I–and everybody else on the email list–received an email from the list’s administrator. The email said that, in reaction to learning that their remarks were public, Person X sent several emails to other people on the list that were, at best, bullying, and at worst, life-threatening. The sympathy from me ends after that. If Person X didn’t understand that everything they said after their first less-than-polite email would be heavily scrutinized then they needed–and hopefully got–a harsh reality check.
On the other hand, it got me thinking about a growing trend that I’ve been noticing for the last several years, and I’m sure many others have too: thanks to the internet, private lives are becoming increasingly public, to the point where we have become afraid of expressing ourselves.
Especially with social media. I’m of the younger generation that was supposed to catch on to social media the moment it began, but I never signed up for MySpace when I was in middle school and it was all the rage, and I didn’t first set up a Facebook profile until my freshman year of college. The reason for that was because social media was this relatively new thing, and back when I was in school, “MySpace” was synonymous with “pictures of parties and drinking that were made public for all to see.” I’ve never been a huge party-goer (you can thank the autism for that), so perhaps this was a moot point. Nevertheless, I still didn’t want to be a part of “this MySpace thing” or “that Facebook stuff” because of the connotations associated with it.
I felt vindicated, though, when I started to hear a certain story popping up again and again from my peers: “Yeah, I applied for a job, but they saw pictures of me on MySpace and didn’t wanna hire me after that.” So I felt good after that. I was out, and now I had an excuse to be out–if I joined, everything I said and did would be so public that I would be vilified out of employment! I no longer had to be the “uncool” kid who didn’t sign up for MySpace or Facebook!
…Then college rolled around. I missed my high school friends. I wanted to talk to ’em. I got a Facebook account. Quite simple, really.
I would have been left behind in the dust if I hadn’t. The evolution of a global cyber-society more or less forced my hand. Social media is no longer this thing for people to post party pics on (though many still do, regrettably). Rather, it is the avatar through which we interact with the world at large. Now people are expected to have profiles on many different social media platforms, and marketers are regularly setting up Facebook pages so people can “like” them, and Twitter pages so people can “follow” them. Not having an online presence is simply crippling nowadays–on a business and a personal level.
Which is why I have two of each: a “business” profile and a “personal” profile.
On the one hand, we’re expected to have social media profiles, but on the other hand, we’re expected not to express our opinions too blatantly for fear of alienating the wrong…people (okay, let’s be honest, here’s where I should put “read: employers”). The best available compromise I could think of was to simply create two profiles for each platform. I have a “personal” profile for interacting with my friends and family, and a “business” profile for interacting with employers and colleagues, and since I don’t use a headshot, nobody has any way of knowing which of the Dave Wallaces out there is me. While I don’t have a radically different personality on my personal profiles, I’m a tad more open on those, and I take a little more risk with my humor.
Still, there’s only so much risk I can take before somebody will Google a joke I made that they will take out of context and find wildly inappropriate or offensive. There’s only so much risk I can take before employers screen my social media pages–and yes, they DO do that, click here to be amazed at the extent to which they do it. I’m not sure it’s right that my sense of expression has to be limited, though. Who in this world has ever lived a perfect life in which they never did anything they regretted?
Bottom line: I feel like hanging out in our global cyber-society is like hanging out at a party with the most conservative and humorless people in the world sometimes. Say one thing that’s even slightly undiplomatic, and even if it was in the interest of creative expression, you are branded as a moron. I’d rather not be branded as an unreliable VO talent for making a joke that some people didn’t like…but I can’t help but feel that social media’s atmosphere is such that creativity is often squashed in the interest of diplomacy.
Ever get the feeling that you’re losing power in your industry? I thought about this in light of an incident revolving around one of my favorite video games growing up…”Silent Hill 2,” released in 2001. Sure, it’s a game, but I remember it–and highly recommend it–mostly because of its compelling story. James Sunderland receives a mysterious letter from his wife, Mary, who supposedly died three years prior, telling him that she is waiting for him at their “special place” in the quiet Maine town of Silent Hill. When he arrives, he encounters a woman that he has never met named Maria…who, very unnervingly, resembles his dead wife in appearance and seems to be aware of some of their most private memories. While a tad depressing, it has one of the most complex stories and some of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen. I’m not alone either, as many fans believe that game to be a masterpiece. So much so that, when video game company Konami announced that they would be re-doing all of the voice acting for the HD re-release in 2012, a long and bitter war of words erupted on the internet.
Since I’m a voice actor myself, I don’t want to intensify this war by taking sides or mis-quoting the specifics of a situation that, by the public admission of all parties involved, got to be very messy. However, to be absurdly short and basic, Konami claimed that they could not re-use the audio of the old voice cast due to legal issues. This resulted in a massive four-way battle of words between the original cast, Konami, the fans, and the new cast. It got worse when Konami released a “preview clip” of the new voice acting on YouTube, which only served to make fans of the old cast even more angry. Personally, I think it was more overzealous anger over the behind-the-scenes situation than it was disapproval of the new cast, but that’s besides the point. Angry fingers of blame were being pointed everywhere, to the point where somebody (we’re not sure who) gave in. The old cast ended up signing waivers giving Konami permission to re-use their audio for the 2012 HD re-release. However, the new voice acting had already been recorded, which prompted Konami to include both of the casts. When you begin the game, you are now prompted to choose between “Original Voices” and “New Voices.”
Like I said, I’m not about to take sides, especially since I’ve now heard the performances of both casts, and…quite frankly, think they’re both good! To me, one of cool things about going to see a play with different casts is that you get to see the different artistic choices that the different casts make, so it was interesting to see that concept applied to a video game. Sure, you’ll probably like some choices more than others, but in the case of Silent Hill 2, I can confidently say that both casts made artistic decisions in their acting that–while different–were all valid and completely enjoyable. People like me experienced the ultimate win-win situation being able to select either cast, and we are VERY grateful to Konami for their efforts. I can either hear the good ol’ performances I grew up with, or hear a refreshing new spin on an old classic!
Grateful as I am, though, the question I ask is…did Konami really have to do that?
Some fans saw the inclusion of both casts as a necessity. They saw it as, “this is what we want, so do it!”…and when Konami complied, the fans felt that Konami had done what was necessary. I see it quite differently…from my point of view, Konami was under no obligation to use both casts, and they all but bent over backwards to coordinate everything so that all groups would be satisfied. Despite that, when it was announced that both casts would be available for people to listen to, the expressions of “gratitude” among the fans were relatively minimal. That’s not to say that they were non-existent, but the most common expression heard among the fans was, “okay good, they did their job.” To be honest, I was a little put off by that.
The question that this event raised throughout the voice acting industry was this: to what extent is it a company’s job to do what they feel is right, and to what extent is it a company’s job to please their customers? The internet proved to be a powerful tool for fans influencing a company in this case, rather than the other way around. I’d have to imagine that if this situation had happened before the internet, and most certainly before social media, that Konami would have just re-recorded the dialogue and not even offered an explanation as to why, because they wouldn’t deem a public explanation necessary. However, when Konami and the original cast started to speak online about the situation, where their thoughts and opinions were immediately accessible, fans took notice, and the demanding began in large numbers. Large enough that Konami caved in and gave them what they wanted.
The implications for this are interesting. Granted, this is a unique situation in which the fans had an original cast to compare the new one to…but what if this incident has set a precedent for a business model in which the fans, not the artistic directors and game companies, are in control? What if this means that when companies put out “preview clips” of the voice acting on the internet, and the fans respond negatively, they re-cast the entire production?
I’m not sure I like that prospect. On the one hand, it’s a pretty basic fact that production companies want to please their customers, but on the other hand, I don’t like the idea of their creativity and their business decisions being under the mercy of people who are not doing what the companies do day-in and day-out. Many–not all–but many of the angry fans who complained were people who have never directed voice actors, never cast anything, never made business decisions on a grand scale like Konami has…and yet these are the people who more or less decided the outcome of this ordeal.
To me, this has sent a very powerful message about who’s really in charge nowadays: the consumers. The customers. The fans. I have devoted myself to my business, I do devote myself to my business, and I always will devote myself to my business. However, if there is anything that “Silent Hill 2gate” has taught me–well, okay, not taught, but reminded me–it’s that we only have so much control over our business. That’s not an excuse not to try, but it’s important (in my opinion of course) to be mindful of the fact that there will always be factors beyond our control, and that those factors are growing in power.
P.S.: I didn’t realize until today that this would be published on April 1st, so, for clarification’s sake, NO, this is NOT an April Fool’s joke–this did legitimately happen.
P.S.S.: For fun’s sake, here’s a video showing the intro of the game as it was heard with the original cast, and a video of how it was heard with the new cast. Please note, only the beginning and end of each video feature voices.
ORIGINAL CAST (2001, clip features actors Monica Hogan and Guy Cihi):
NEW CAST (2012, clip features actors Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Troy Baker):
I LOVE Papa John’s pizza, which is partially why I’m eating it while I record this audioblog entry. It’s been my favorite pizza chain ever since I was in the seventh grade. Back when I was a kid and talked about maybe doing voice acting one day, the first suggestion from my family was that I do a Pappa John’s commercial (which I totally would do if the opportunity presented itself). Having said that, one could say I love Papa John’s a bit too much. It got to the point where I was eating it about five times a week. For some reason, my metabolism is such that I never gain an ounce of weight no matter what I eat, but that’s besides the point. It’s still not the healthiest thing in the world, so I made a New Year’s Resolution to only eat three a week at most…already failed. Much like most of our New Year’s Resolutions.
Some of you may be thinking, “Dave, it’s late in March, shouldn’t New Year’s Resolutions be saved for December?” Well, lest my ears deceive me, the term “year” usually encompasses 365 days. Of those 365 days, December constitutes 31 of them. This mind-boggling phenomenon ultimately leads me to conclude that when someone makes a “New Year’s Resolution,” they intend to keep it for–ahem–an entire year. To that end, I’d like to ask all my readers and listeners…c’mon now…how many of your New Year’s Resolutions have you actually kept? Or did your New Year’s Resolutions turn into a, “Minimal Effort That Lasts For A Week Or Two Before Gradually Returning To The Normal Routine” Resolution?
Hey, I’m not judging. I can tell you without hesitation that I kept some and didn’t keep some. Because I want to end on a positive note, let’s talk about the ones I didn’t keep first.
New Year’s Resolution #1: Limit yourself to three Papa John’s pizzas a week. Failed. Right out the gate.
New Year’s Resolution #2: One new blog entry a week. Already failed. I certainly don’t believe I’m indispensable to the internet’s existence, and I’m sure the world continued to operate just fine when I didn’t post one last week, but I began writing (and voicing) my audioblog late last year with a mere three posts and, while I created it and continue to maintain it with the sole intention of public reflection and discussion, the response was nice enough to encourage me to write more. That, and I’ve always had something of a passion for writing. So I thought, ya know what–GOD, this is good pizza–I thought, ya know what, I’m gonna write one a week. Last Sunday ended up being too busy, sure, but I knew it was gonna be busy, and should have planned ahead of time, like we all should when we know a particular day will be busy. And I didn’t.
New Year’s Resolution #3: Revamp my website. Eh. Half-failed. I’m entering talks with a web-designer to organize my stuff a bit more by combining my audioblog with my main site, I’m workin’ on a long-overdue video reel, and re-designing my logo. So…half-failed in that I haven’t done it yet, but I’m in the process. Still, I’m weary of phrases like “in the process,” and “workin’ on it,”…because you know as well as I do, those usually get changed to “no longer in the process,” and “not workin’ on it,” soon enough.
Okay, that’s the failed stuff. I did manage to get some stuff done, though! Well, actually, first, let me grab a drink of water. Hold on.
(after getting a drink)
Okay. What, did you think I was gonna edit that out?
New Year’s Resolution #4: Find more efficient ways to keep in contact with my clients. Since I’m a VO talent, I think about my VO business 24/7. When we think like that, though, we have a tendency to forget that we’re but a cog in the machine that is someone else’s business. When we get hired to do a commercial or an internet video, the client is primarily concerned with selling the content on that commercial or video. They’re not launching a manhunt for A GLOWING, DEFINITIVE VOICE…rather, they’re just listening through auditions and going, “Um….yeah, that one guy sounds good.” We’re just one step in a bigger process, so it’s easy for us to not be “top of mind” when our clients launch a new project. So there has to be a good way of keeping in touch with them and politely reminding them that we exist, right?
I gotta say, I love this service. You load a contact list into it which you can update at will, and twice a month, it generates three different possible emails that you can send to your clients, usually containing fun little factoids. I’ve never cared for stock messages, though (as evidenced in “Dave’s Audioblog Entry #8” ), which is why I usually change the wording of the messages and add some more stuff to put my own spin on it–and yes, you can do that with Happy Grasshopper. So, mission accomplished there!
…And, um….that’s it.
That’s not to say that I don’t have other goals, but I didn’t have other goals in the context of New Year’s Resolutions. Let’s face it guys, almost nobody follows through on these things, because it–
–because it’s hard to keep stuff up for a year. For that reason, I normally don’t prefer to make New Year’s Resolutions. However, I do find it helpful in accomplishing goals if there is some sort of looming pressure to accomplish them. So, take a moment to think about the goals you set out to do, whether or not you actually did them, and what you would need to change in order to correct that.
In fact, I know what I can do! I’ll do two audioblog entries in one day, that way I can make up for the one I missed! Here’s a link to it!
I’m the son of two lawyers. My dad was the son of yet another lawyer, and my mother’s grandfather was a judge. I come from a long line of lawyers, judges, and smart people. Smart, in this case, because they chose stable careers with solid paychecks. I, on the other hand, am a moron. I’m a moron because, out of nowhere in a family of people who chose stable careers, I chose one of the most unreliable, unpredictable, and financially risky occupations in the world: an actor. And yes, all voice-over jobs are acting jobs as far as I’m concerned. It’s show biz, and it’s a business that doesn’t know much in the way of job security. Rather than making this story about me, though, I offer up two other people as perfect examples of the unpredictability of show biz. If you’ll permit me, let’s start by talking about a man by the name of David Prowse.
What can be said about this guy? Well, he was an Olympic champion in weightlifting, and the guy who trained Christopher Reeve to get into “Superman” shape. He also played one of the most famous characters in the history of cinema. Under most circumstances, I’d find some way to drop subtle hints as to which character it is, but to hell with it, the picture at the top of this blog entry kinda gives it away. Yeah, he played Darth Vader. “BUT NO–“….I can…hypothetically hear some of my hypothetical readers and listeners saying. “–JAMES EARL JONES PLAYED HIM!” Jones provided the voice, certainly, but he wasn’t the guy in the suit. Prowse, who was cast largely because most people had to break their necks in order to look up and make eye contact with him, actually said all of Darth Vader’s lines on set, but every single word he uttered ended up on the cutting room floor. George Lucas never intended to use Prowse’s on-set performance, but there were many people that he did not inform about that. “Many people,” in this case, included Prowse himself. You wanna know where he was when he found out that he was overdubbed?
In a movie theater, premiere night.
…Not quite what Prowse was hoping for. But hey, maybe he was treated better in the sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back”? Not really. He was forbidden from doing any of the lightsaber fight scenes because, when they filmed the lightsaber fight in the first movie, Prowse kept accidentally breaking the wooden lightsaber props that they were using to fight. So for all the fight scenes in the sequel, he was replaced by professional swordsman, Bob Anderson. It doesn’t end there, though. You wanna know where he was when he found out about the legendary “I am your father,” line?
In a movie theater, premiere night.
Lucas hardly told anyone about that line because he was determined to make sure that secret didn’t leak before the movie was released. Instead, Prowse was handed a fake script in which that iconic line was replaced with the line, “Obi-Wan killed your father.” A rather ingenious change considering that the rest of the script still works even with that change, but Prowse wasn’t as amused. So much so that, come “Return of the Jedi,” having been reduced to nothing but a guy who dressed up in a heavy suit and stood in front of a camera for hours on end, his heart (understandably) just wasn’t in it anymore. Rumor has it that he didn’t even say Darth Vader’s actual lines, and just kept making lewd jokes during his scenes, knowing that he would be overdubbed. That would be enough pain for one actor, but…you wanna know where he was when he found out that there was a scene where Darth Vader was unmasked?
In a movie theater, premiere night.
That’s not him when Darth Vader is unmasked at the end of the movie. That was actor Sebastian Shaw. Prowse has said that he regards “Return of the Jedi” as the worst filming experience he has ever had.
Jones, for his part, was not credited as the voice of Darth Vader until the third movie, when George Lucas insisted. Jones didn’t want to be credited, because he didn’t think he had done anything worth being credited for. Ya know, aside from the whole “providing the voice of one of the most memorable villains in cinematic history” thing, his efforts really were pretty negligible. At least that’s how he viewed it. He felt he was “special effects,” not a performance, because that’s the stance he took in a separate incident years prior. On that note, let’s talk about Mercedes McCambridge.
SAG quickly came to her rescue and demanded that she be credited, and she was…but not as the voice of the demon. Not even to this day. Her name just appears on the credits.
This tremendously unreliable business is the business that anybody who wants to become a voice actor is voluntarily entering. It’s a tough one. One that doesn’t care if you invest tons of money. One that doesn’t care if you spend hours trying to find a way to improve your career. One that, to a degree, doesn’t really care if you’re talented or not. Even if you are immensely talented, you will probably find yourself struggling financially. If you are voluntarily deciding to go down this path, then…yeah, you’re a moron.
A moron like me.
I can’t not be an actor. I don’t find passion in anything else. I do my best to make a career out of acting, but it ain’t easy, and it never will be. I act because I love it, and don’t mind the (MANY) obstacles in the way of making money out of it.
For that matter, I don’t mean to sound depressing, or be a downer in writing this. VO, and acting, is a very fun thing! It’s just that the fun parts of this career are well-documented and well-known. The less exciting parts are kept on the down-low. Just know that this is what you’re getting into if you decide to pursue it. Only pursue it if you can stand the many challenges and don’t care. My response to all my challenges has been, and always will be, “Hmm…well, I guess I’ll have to step up my game a bit, now won’t I?” Hopefully, that’s you too. I’m proud to be a moron in that regard–this career may not be the smartest career to pursue, but it’s one that I have an unmitigated passion for. So, it is with a very sincere smile on my face that I say, from one moron to all the other morons out there, know that I’m rooting for your success, and congratulate you for following your passion! 😀
PS: For those interested, here are two short videos, both of which act as “before and after” videos of sorts to show how Darth Vader and the demon sounded before and after the dubbing process. For the sake of coherence, the first one is about Vader, and the second is about the demon.