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I typed this up in response to a gearslutz thread, but I figured it could find a home here as well. The question was: "what tips do you have for recording dialogue for animation?"

here are my answers:

run a dual mic setup if possible. one close and one a bit back to handle yelling and wider perspectives.

I'd also try to make sure that the individual scripted lines are numbered in advance so that you can pull takes and feed actors the lines of other actors for context quickly.

pull selects as you go along if possible. Directors or actors will often run takes in sets of three, so if you hear an approving grunt come from behind you then mark the script and grab the take before moving on. This will make the edits faster and performances better later on if you're in control of those things.

also, be proactive about ref audio in advance of the session. Often, actors will have established or auditioned a particular character voice that they'll want to hear so that they can match. producers are notorious for not bringing those things and you don't want to hunt during the session anyway, so seek those things out and line them up in advance (if they exist).

route the talkback mic and actor's mics as a mono feed to a seperate recorder that just spins the whole session. Inevitably the actor will say something hilarious or otherwise amazing in between takes and you'll want to be able to say "that's cool, i got it with that rig over there" If there's no uncaught gold it'll be obv during the session, so you can wipe the media after a day or two.

when I did ADR for the ant bully we were actually running a timecode DAT with the timecode display up where the script super could see it for this exact purpose.

be sure to read the direction between the scripted lines. There will often be cues for exertions that the dialogue editor and animators will want. On a bowling animated show we did I was constantly having to make sure that we were covered for exertions the characters would need when lifting the ball, bowling, pushing each other around, etc. None of those exertions were scripted, but all of that direction was there in black and white between the lines - I just had to stay on top of it. A good script super will have this kind of thing covered, but good script supers are not a given and you'll regret not getting them if you're the one doing the editing later on. If an animator is the one doing the script supervising you really have to take responsibility and watch things like this.

get some laughter and other short exertions wild if time permits.

have a system for adlibs. comedy relies on adlibs in the moment and you'll want to be able to facilitate and accommodate that kind of thing.

any other tips?

3

Some of these are more relevant if you're regularly involved with a show and not so much if you're a contracted remote studio, but here goes:

Consider the nature of the show and decide whether a round-table approach is better than one actor at a time. It presents greater technical problems but can lead to more natural dialogue and some great moments of inspiration, and it can take less time if you have good actors.

Even if you're recording one actor at a time, some heartfelt conversations or fast-paced comedic exchanges will be much better with two actors recording together. If you have the facilities and the power to influence this decision it's worth considering. Then, set the actors up several feet apart, angled at least slightly toward each other if possible, so they have a clear line of sight to one another. (Conveniently, this also places each actor further off-axis of the other actor's mic.)

Many times an actor will read something that will need to be mimicked or matched by another actor—have a system for marking these references to make them easy to find later.

Record in a very dead room and keep actors close to the mic. Shows like Seth MacFarlane's, and The Simpsons, have dialogue that can be faster, punchier, and more energetic because it's so clean and dry.

I love our Neumann TLM-193s not just because they are crisp and clear without being grating, and not just because they sound great on almost everyone, but because of the extremely high SPL rating. People can scream into them without backing off the mic. Just ride the gain or fader as appropriate and have your script super prepare you for really loud lines. (Or mark them in advance.)

If have to do a dual-mic setup to catch loud lines or for other reasons, make sure they're the same kind of mic so the dialogue from both sources will match.

In general record everything as dry and dead as possible, and if your noise floor is low enough, with little or compression. This allows for flexibility later but also helps prevent overmodulation on those sudden loud lines that lurk throughout an animated script.

In general animation has less visual expression than live action (no subtle visual cues that help us understand the story and the characters' emotions and personalities). So pick a mic, pre, compressor, etc. that preserve the full energy of a person's voice without accentuating anything to an annoying degree. Again... I love the TLM-193.

Learn to take your own notes while you record, especially if you'll be the one cutting it. But of course if you have trouble keeping up at any point, never sacrifice the quality of the sound for something like note-taking.

If you can have a talkback speaker in the tracking room, this will allow for inexperienced voice actors to not have to wear headphones. Stage and screen actors with minimal V.O. experience can get really weird with the cans on, and you may get a more natural and energetic delivery if they're not getting the sound of their own voice pumped into their ears.

  • Great answer! Good to see you on SSD too, Jeremy. I love Family Guy! :) – Andy Lewis May 17 '12 at 20:29
  • Thanks, Andy. I can't believe I didn't know about this. I'm not a big user of forums and such, but this is a place I think I'll visit often. Feels like home... =) – jeremyscottolsen May 17 '12 at 21:45

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