A game dev's guide to working with voice actors
I had to work with a lot of voice actors for Zodiac Axis—over 40, to be precise—and started out with no idea of what I was doing. Even after working with dozens, I didn’t have a very good idea of how to communicate with them or organize my tasks accordingly.
It wasn’t until I dabbled in a little voice acting on CastingCall.club that I learned first-hand what really helps voice actors—in terms of communication, direction, and organization.
Therefore, I’m writing up this post so that you, as a fellow intrepid game developer, don’t have to make the same painful or embarrassing mistakes that I made!
And it all starts with an info document.
The Info Document
This was something I never used to do, and now can’t go without.
For every voice actor you bring on, you should have an info document for them. This makes things clear and easy to organize. I just use a good ol’ Google doc for this.
Section 1: Game Information
For your opening page, jot down the basic info of your game. Include a synopsis and contact email. You can also include social media or a website, since sometimes voice actors like to stay up-to-date with the progress of the game.
Section 2: Voice Acting Information
The next page should contain the following information for the voice actor. This makes everything crystal clear so that there are no misunderstandings.
Scope of the Role
Is the voice actor’s role part of the major cast, secondary cast, or additional cast?
Is the game partially voice acted or fully voice acted?
How many lines or words is required of this voice actor?
Is the project noncommercial or commercial?
Will there be monetary compensation, and if so, how much? (See a general pricing guide by the Voice Acting Club for indie rates at this Google doc.)
When will the payment be sent? At the beginning of the session, or after? (I recommend always sending the payment before. It eases the voice actors’ minds a significant amount.)
How will the payment be sent? Paypal, Square, mailed check?
Will you direct the actor in a live direction session, or send over recorded direction?
If choosing live direction, how long do you estimate the session to take?
How many takes do you want of each line?
Should the voice actor splice their lines and send them separately, or send the whole session as one file? (Generally, actors will not splice their lines for free and will send the whole session.)
Should the voice actor treat their lines with noise removal, EQ, compression, or other post-production, or should they send the lines raw?
How should the voice actor send lines to you?
What file format should the lines be in?
How should the voice actor name the files?
When are the lines due?
Section 3: Character Information
Now, the fun part! Include some key art of the character, along with a description and/or quotes.
I recommend focusing on the atmosphere or aura you want the character to emit, rather than talking technical details about voice or delivery. Ideally, you want the voice actor to understand the character, not just emulate a voice type.
Section 4: Line List
We’re finally here! This is where you list the lines you want, or paste links to the script that you want the voice actors to follow.
Don’t be afraid to ask for redos
It may feel bad to ask for redos of a line, but voice actors largely prefer to be told that they didn’t quite deliver as you intended, rather than let you be quietly disappointed.
Keep communication prompt
Nothing brings any freelancer more anxiety than a client who goes MIA. Even if you’re in crunch time or are out of town, if the voice actor has questions, be sure to shoot back an email saying, “I’ll get back to you as soon as possible, I’m not going to be available for X amount of time.”
Voice acting is a bit of work to manage, but it’s extremely rewarding. The voice acting community is largely supportive, creative, and bring a spark of life and fun to the table, so have fun working with them!
Best of luck on your game dev journeys!