The Spoken Word
Since the dawn of time, communication has been ingrained in the very soul of humankind. We as a species thrive on communication as it is important for us to understand what we are experiencing. Whether we are giving directions on a road to telling someone how our day is, speaking is incredibly important at conveying what the heart wants. When it comes to art, it is often said that art speaks to us. English poet, Robert Browning, once said “Art remains the one way possible to speak truth”. This is exemplified in the media we ingest. While movies, TV, and music get most of the credit for mediums of communication, there is one that is often overlooked: Voice-Over.
From Me to You
The field of voice-over is incredibly important to me as it pulled me out of a dark point in my life. I chose to do something that would complement my ambitions outside of college. Although I want to be a voice actor, I know that my work will lie in audio engineering. With that, I set out to dub two scenes from one of my favorite Japanese animations. Oftentimes, many productions in Japan won’t receive an English dub of a production. Because of that, many English speakers seek to find or hope for an official English version to be released. While there is a hot debate in the anime community about whether to watch a show in Japanese or English, it merely comes down to convenience and accessibility. I chose to dub this production because it’s dear to me, but also because it deserves to have an English dub. The story centers around a young girl who is often mistaken for a horror icon in Japan. Because of this, people avoid her or bully her for her appearance. One day, she sees and develops feelings for the most popular guy in her class. She soon comes to realize that the feelings are reciprocated and as she engages with this boy, she slowly opens up and everyone is able to see who she really is. The objective was simple: follow all of the steps to the ADR process as possible and create a professional English voiceover dub of this production.
The project was a massive undertaking. Because there are so many steps involved with creating an English dub, I tried my best to make it as authentic and professional as possible. I had to recruit people for many different aspects of this project. I’ve worked with a friend who knew Japanese and who could translate the script. I worked with two wonderful writers that helped me create authentic and natural English dialogue. I was able to get a casting director to help me find the right people and give them direction in the booth. Lastly, I was able to find someone to help me mix the project. All in all, the process may have been a tad rough, but we held on and still managed to create a professional dub!
Challenges and Troubles
There were many bumps along the way. My writers would get fatigued, my actors would require more days to rehearse and record, I would often go back and forth between the studio to edit small things that only I would notice. I’d say the biggest issue though would be with my main actors. I love them and their performance, but there will never be a perfect actor. I spent so long with these two to ensure their performances were authentic. I remember us spending an hour and a half on one line that had two words because the actor couldn’t get the delivery right. When she finally got it, everybody was relieved but exhausted. At the moment, it was rough. However, we got a performance that felt right.
The ADR Process
ADR stands for Automatic Dialogue Replacement in the entertainment industry. For the sake of this project, we will just call it dubbing. To put short, it involves taking a pre-existing piece of entertainment and removing all of the original dialogue while replacing it with a different source. An easy way to think about this would be how languages are dubbed over for various movies, like the Spanish or French dub of an Avengers movie. This process involves 6 steps: Getting all of the files, choosing what language it will be dubbed in, translating the script, holding auditions with casting and rehearsals, recording in the booth, and finally mixing. The process is very extensive that requires a lot of dedication and work. Thankfully, in a real-world environment, all of these steps are covered by a specific team of individuals. There are scriptwriters, translators, casting directors, and mixers. For my project, I had the opportunity to do everything in this six-step process. It required a lot of work and dedication, but I was able to make it work.
These past 12 weeks were something else. I had done something I had never done before. It tested my patience and challenged my limits. I got to audition some of the most wonderful people I have met. I got professional advice from my mentor, who is one of the best in the industry. Looking back on my project, I would say that the 12 weeks were used well. While there were moments that I was wishing would end, I ultimately pushed through and succeeded in delivering a professional performance. While the experiences were rough and the time and commitment became very challenging to balance, it all managed to work out. I only hope that I can continue to grow in this in the future!
If there’s something I can take away from this project, it’s this: voiceover is hard. Well, I knew this going into the project, it’s a much different feeling when you’re actually in the process and doing it. You can’t always be relying on people to get things right. Supervising and offering your insight is one of the best things you can do. Something else that I learned from this whole thing is that sometimes people can’t deliver. I recall having to replace some of my actors because they couldn’t give me the performances that I asked for. Something I always tell people is voice acting is 50% voice and 50% acting. Everybody (Or at least most people) has a voice but not everyone has the acting. I suppose in the future I’ll need to be much more cautious about who I cast. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this is that you’re never alone. While I did do a majority of the things in every step of the process, I never did it by myself. I asked people to assist me. I could not have translated the script by myself or written it. I couldn’t have done the casting or the direction nor could I have mixed it all by myself. I asked someone at every step of the way to help. To summarize this project, here is a quote from the English dubbed script of the Japanese anime One Piece: “Ain’t no one born into this world to be alone!”