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Voice-Over

The Art of Sound Design: Collaborating with Audio Engineers in Voice Acting

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman

11 June 2024

The Art of Sound Design: Collaborating with Audio Engineers in Voice Acting - Voquent

Being a voice actor is all about being part of a collaborative creative process.

Voice actors are one contributor to a production that incorporates diverse professionals, creating immersive and rich audio experiences with top-tier sound design. Some of the most important collaborators in these situations will be sound engineers and designers.

The extent of these collaborations will often depend on the project. If you’re a voice for hire, you may find your most common collaboration will simply be with directors. However, many voice actors today are able to spearhead their own projects, such as podcasts or even animations. You might even be working on something specifically for your demo reel. In these instances, it’s vital to understand how you can collaborate with engineers and sound designers to get the best results.

 

Sound designers holding giant cogs

Pre-Production Planning in Sound Design

As a voice actor, getting meaningfully involved with pre-production planning allows you to start building a good working relationship with sound engineers and designers. Often, the best approach is to arrange a meeting with your collaborators to discuss the project and the script.

This meeting allows each of you to better understand the intentions, possibilities, and challenges of the project. From here you can work together to make informed decisions about the resources needed and the techniques to use. If necessary, make certain that non-disclosure agreements are signed and shared before this meeting to protect your concepts.

Particularly when you’re new to voice acting and being part of this type of collaboration, the planning process can be quite challenging. Adopting solid project management skills can be a good foundation, though. Some of the essential abilities that can help you have a positive experience include:

Communication

Effective communication is at the core of project management and is essential for making certain you can achieve the goals of your voice acting project. This includes using various different channels. Clear and calm in-person communication will be vital for creative discussions. Being able to get your point across in written formats such as emails, concept outlines, and scripts is also vital.

Negotiation

Negotiation skills aren’t just good for setting prices either for your services or if you’re hiring engineers and designers for your personal projects. You may also need to negotiate with your audio collaborators on what priorities you feel are important and what approaches are best to achieve these. The ability to be diplomatic but firm in your discussions is key here.

One thing to remember during the pre-production planning process is it’s best to cultivate an environment in which everyone’s individual expertise is recognised and respected. Work together to plan a production that enhances everyone’s potential to contribute.

 

Microphone in front of sound waves

Setting Up Solid Infrastructure

Another important aspect in collaborating on sound design as a voice actor is getting the right infrastructure in place. This includes everything from the types of equipment that is needed for the specific effects you want to achieve to the resources that keep everyone connected and collaborating.

The elements to consider usually include the following.

Studio setup

Creating the right studio setup for your project is something that can support creative opportunities for you as a voice actor, as well as the engineer and sound designer. For instance, the layout of acoustic panelling and the positioning of microphones can create a recording environment that is appropriate for capturing your voice in different soundscapes.

Enabling more echo may produce a more natural sounding replication of caves or large buildings, while dampening the sound may make conversations seem more intimate and controlled. While a lot of effects can be achieved in post-production, these infrastructural set up elements can create more natural ambient soundscapes that engineers and sound designers can build on.

Remote resources

More projects involving sound design are being recorded remotely. This can be great, as it opens you up to collaborators from across the globe. Yet, it’s vital to ensure you have the correct infrastructure in place to thrive. Work with engineers, sound designers, and directors to establish which video conferencing platform is most appropriate not just for everyone to communicate but also to support audio playback for review.

You’ll also need a good internet provider. Maintaining connectivity while streaming and sharing audio data will require both high download and upload speeds. Using a provider that offers minimal latency broadband will help prevent lag when communicating with sound designers and engineers or responding to other actors.

 

Two people in suits shaking hands

Keeping Post-Production Collaborative

The collaboration between voice actors, sound engineers, and audio designers is not necessarily finished once recording is complete. Getting the best final product relies on a good post-production process.

Once the sound designer has created their soundscapes, it’s worth all parties coming together to review initial cuts of the combined vocals and effects. While it’s usual to record at least a few different takes of each line, sometimes the combination of voice and the background doesn’t quite achieve the right effect. For instance, the volume and pitch of your voice may not quite be convincing above the raging storm in the background the sound designer has produced. Be open to discussing the potential for retakes, as this tends to involve less work than requesting the sound designer make changes to the landscape noise.

Another important element of the post-production process is ensuring everyone has access to the files they need to participate easily. Particularly if you’re leading the project as well as acting in it, you can use cloud platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox. Make certain these are compatible with the software that each collaborator is using, as this will make the workflow smoother and interactions less stressful.

 

Conclusion

Collaborating with sound engineers and designers as a voice actor can help you achieve great audio design for your projects. This involves using project management skills throughout pre-production and establishing supportive infrastructure during recording, among other elements.

Above all else, aim to be open to trying new things. There are many innovations and underexplored techniques to try out, and your collaborators can be wonderful sources of information.

 

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Sam Bowman

By Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman is a writer from the pacific northwest, who enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community connections across the country. His writing reflects the many passions he has for the world around him. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and frequenting the local bookstore.

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