Archive for the ‘Video games’ category

1954: Alcatraz

August 20, 2012

Check out this nifty promotional article about 1954: Alcatraz, the upcoming release from Daedalic Entertainment.

1954: Alcatraz Screenshot

Your favorite Mic Guy voices a couple of characters in 1954: Alcatraz, one of which is the priest seen in the screen shot above. He’s one cool cat — I think you’ll dig him the most.

Thanks to the talented Jim Edgar, whose voice acting skills are also on display in this game, for passing along the links.

1954: Alcatraz will be available later this year, for play on your PC. Enjoy it!

New character demo uploaded

May 29, 2012

Exactly what the headline promises…

My new character demo has been produced and uploaded! Check it out at the link below:

CHARACTER DEMO (:90)

It’s an entertaining sampling of my character stylings for animation and video games. Not an exhaustive catalog, by any means — just a few of the voices inside my head.

My sincere thanks to the team at Voicetrax San Francisco: the incomparable Samantha Paris, who directed and co-produced; and the inimitable Chuck Kourouklis, who co-produced and engineered.

Enjoy!

Law & Order: Legacies, Episode 5 — “Ear Witness”

March 27, 2012

A while back, I played a key role in Episode 5 of Law & Order: Legacies, produced by the fun-loving folks at Telltale Games. My character, an auto mechanic named Scott Leonard, makes his first appearance at about 10:50 into this video sample. (Bonus points to any reader who knows which real-life vocal group is led by a singer named Scott Leonard.)

As a longtime Law & Order fanatic, this was a dream project for me. If you’re intrigued by what you see here, you can purchase the complete seven-episode game for your iPhone or iPad at the App Store, or for your PC or Mac at the Telltale Games website.

Enjoy the preview!

Fat, depressed, and 35… these are my people

August 18, 2009

I got a major chuckle out of this article on MSNBC today:

A new study says the average age of video-game players in the United States is 35, and oh, by the way: They’re overweight and tend to be depressed.

Investigators from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University and Andrews University analyzed survey data from more than 500 adults in the Seattle-Tacoma area. The subjects ranged in age from 19 to 90, according to the study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The hypothesis was that video-game players have a higher body mass index — the measure of a person’s weight in relation to their height — and “a greater number of poor mental health days” versus nonplayers, said Dr. James B. Weaver III of the CDC’s National Center for Health Marketing. The hypothesis was correct, he said.

As a voice actor who’s eager to work in the interactive industry, it’s good to know how I can relate to the core audience.

I’m at least one-third of the way there.

In the game

August 9, 2009

Confession time…

I kissed a video game, and I liked it.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Pat Fraley‘s Game World event in San Francisco. Three reasons: (1) I had a blast working with Pat during a previous event; (2) Pat’s guest coach was Darragh O’Farrell of LucasArts, about whose directing I’ve heard excellent reports; and (3) I’ve taken a few classes on interactive game voice acting in recent months, and I’ve yearned for the opportunity to test-drive my new chops.

Yesterday, the big moment rolled around, so off I trekked — jumbo coffee in hand — to the downtown studio where Pat hosts his San Francisco events.

In a word: Cowabunga. (This assumes that you accept “Cowabunga” as a word. Which, since I attended college in Malibu and have played Snoopy onstage, I most certainly do.)

As strange as it sounds from someone who thought he was getting into voiceover to do industrial narration — not to mention to a guy whose video gaming experience dates back to (and more or less ends with) Asteroids and Frogger — I really, really want to voice interactive characters. That burning yen gained fuel under the tutelage of Messrs. Fraley and O’Farrell. (I know. It sounds like an Irish joke waiting for a punch line. You’ll just have to keep waiting.)

Prior to the event, Pat sent out a thick e-file crammed with character sides, from which each student was supposed to select four options. We ended up doing two scripts each, plus participating as examples in a series of excellent technique exercises.

My first audition script was a character from a fantasy game — an avaricious thief. (Yes, a redundancy. Hang with me.) I’ve observed in previous character workshops that I have a knack for evil — or at the very least, duplicitous — roles. This one proved no exception. I felt strong about the acting approach I took, and the specific choices I made with my lines. Best of all, I knew precisely how I wanted to play each scene before I stepped behind the microphone, and when I exited the booth, I was confident that I’d executed my plan. Darragh offered a touch of crisp direction that helped pull it all together. If this were an audition, I’d like my chances.

Round two, as I’d feared, took a slightly harder turn. I’d chosen a character from the same game as my first round selection, but one diametrically opposed to the other in type. I sometimes struggle playing good guys, and I did again here. My first take at my hero was a bit too soft — Pat told me that he sounded “like he eats too much quiche.” In attempting to make the character more vigorously masculine, I cranked in too much force and volume. I knew that was the wrong choice — how often do I have to hear “less is more” before I finally get it? — and Pat promptly reeled me back to a more monochromatic delivery. I should have played the Eastwood card straight out of the box. Oh, well… next time, I’ll remember.

My demonstration exercise taught me how to yell effectively without injuring my voice. I’ll be using that technique a ton, no question. AAAAARRRRRRRGH!

As inevitably happens at a VO workshop, I met some cool new colleagues, enjoyed working alongside some of my favorite fellow actors (Aileen and Brenda, you both rocked, as usual — I’m in awe, seriously), picked up a wealth of handy technical and career-enhancement tips, and benefited from some killer coaching.

By the time 6 p.m. rolled around and Pat sent us on our merry way, my shoes weighed fifty pounds each, but my synapses sizzled with fresh information and my heart soared as though pumped full of helium. I’m itching to spend the next couple of weeks digesting and practicing everything I drank from the Fraley and O’Farrell Fountain of Wisdom. (It’s 100% alcohol-free. Honest.)

Now, I need to go mining for auditions. Need a crafty villain? I’m your huckleberry.

Blimey!

July 24, 2009

In an effort to expand my vocal repertoire, I’m taking a four-week seminar on accents and dialects.

One might suppose that this aspect of voice acting would come easily to me, given that (a) I’ve lived on three continents, as well as in both Hawaii and the polyglot Bay Area, and (b) I have friends who speak with a variety of accents — Mexican Spanish, Australian, East Indian, and so on — and thus am frequently exposed to different approaches to spoken English.

Well, if that’s what one supposed, one would have another supposition coming.

The focus for the first workshop session was the British accent. In fact, as I discovered — or perhaps already knew, but had never given it much thought — there are a number of British accents: Received Pronunciation, as is familiar to anyone who’s listened to programming from the BBC; Cockney; Estuary, which combines elements of both of the preceding; Manchester; Liverpool; Yorkshire (if you’ve ever seen The Full Monty, it’s that Sheffield one); plus national derivations such as Scottish and Welsh. I’m sure there are several others as well.

Already, the task was tougher than I’d figured.

As instructed, I prepared for the class by watching a couple of films from the Harry Potter series, and attempting to mimic the accent of one of the characters. I chose Rupert Grint’s Ron Weasley as my model, both because Grint’s accent is distinctive to my American ear, and because Ron is sufficiently prominent in the films that I had ample material to listen to. And, although young Rupert’s vocal characteristics differ somewhat from my own, his timbre is similar enough that I didn’t have to manufacture a texture or tone to copy his accent.

When I arrived at class and began reviewing the copy for the first exercise, I immediately identified a shortcoming in my preparation. I’d done a fair amount of listen-and-repeat with Ron’s dialogue from two of the Potter films. I had not, however, considered as much as I should have how to apply Rupert/Ron’s speech pattern to words and phrases that didn’t occur in the film scripts. My greatest challenge, then, became trying to think of how to use that accent to pronounce words I’d never heard Ron Weasley pronounce.

My success was, at best, mediocre.

The next two exercises produced better results. Freed from the requirement to copy a specific individual’s accent, I was able to give more attention to the problem of acting effectively while maintaining a (more generic) British dialect. By the time we got to the third batch of copy — sides from a video game featuring English-accented characters — I felt that I was back in my element. The actor in me could take over, and just allow the accent to flow from the character I created and the acting choices associated with that character.

Ultimately, acting with an accent or dialect is not so different from speaking a foreign language. To become facile with the speech, you have to learn to think in that voice. Which is why my foreign language skills stink… and why I’m taking a course on accents and dialects.

Next week, the American South. We’ll see how I do with that… y’all.

If it’s free, I’ll take three (hours)

April 24, 2009

More often than not, you get what you pay for.

This is not one of those stories.

The ever-thoughtful folks at Voicetrax are doing a golden favor for their students this month — offering a selection of one-session group lessons on a variety of voiceover subjects, free of charge. When the schedule of free classes was released, there were two appealing options that fit into my schedule. So, with some counsel from Chuck, Voicetrax’s self-described factotum, I decided to choose the option I hadn’t tried before.

Good call, Chuck.

Last night, a dozen of us placed ourselves in the able hands of Brian Sommer, a Voicetrax-trained actor who today boasts a list of commercial, animation, and video game credits as long as my… well… let’s just say mighty doggoned long. Brian’s specialty is characters — notice that I didn’t say “character voices” (see, Brian — I was paying attention!) — so we launched into a pile of juicy character-rich audition scripts and sides from Brian’s magic bag of tricks. (Silly rabbit — tricks are for voice actors!)

I had the chance to experiment with a pair of fun pieces. In the first, an animation script, I played an evil (is there any other kind?) mad scientist. Brian found me guilty of gnawing a little too much scenery in my first take, so I dialed the broad portrayal back just a touch, picked up the pacing, and made sure I made better connection with my virtual listener the second time through.

Take two was vastly improved, though Brian nudged me about my usual nemesis — worrying about the words rather than simply playing the scene. On the third take, I relaxed a little more, and the character really came together. I love it when that happens.

My second shot in the booth presented me with sides from a Western video game. Here, my character was a charmingly roguish, slightly gonzo Mexican bandito of the sort one might have seen in old Clint Eastwood movies. Ironically, just the night before, my daughter and I were watching the NBA playoffs when a Dos Equis beer commercial came on, starring Jonathan Goldsmith as “the most interesting man in the world.” I can do a pretty fair impression of Goldsmith’s faux-Latin accent — “Stay thirsty, my friends” — which KM thought would form the basis of an effective character for me. I’d spent the rest of the evening tinkering with that voice. So, I started the character Brian assigned with a hefty dose of Mr. Interesting, ladled in A Fistful of Dollars, and built him outward from there.

Not surprisingly, then, Brian’s initial comment after my first take was, “That’s a great character for you.” We both liked the work I’d done in the second and third scenes of the three-scene script, so Brian focused his direction on the first scene, where I didn’t quite nail the balance between the character’s smarmy faux friendliness and his underlying villainy. A tweak here and there, and the whole bit gelled nicely.

In one three-hour class, I came away with two nifty additions to my character repertoire, and several useful tidbits about character acting that I’ll be able to apply dozens of ways. And all for just the price of four gallons of gas. (That’s how much petrol my aging minivan burns on the round-trip Sausalito run.)

I continue to be pleasantly surprised at how easily character work comes to me. It’s diametrically opposed to the kind of things I thought I’d find in my voiceover wheelhouse. Gotta admit, though — I dig leaping outside myself (or perhaps, discovering hidden facets within myself) and letting fly with the myriad people I can be.

The fact that a high percentage of those people are evil or crazy or both? A good subject for psychoanalysis.

Thanks to my mentors at Voicetrax — and especially to Brian — for the freebie. Given all that I learned, and the fun I had, I’d have gladly paid the usual rate. (But… don’t feel compelled to send me an invoice, Chuck.)

Game on!

March 23, 2009

Last weekend, I participated in a two-day workshop on voicing video games.

Now, you have to understand — when I was actively playing video games, they rarely included voices. I’m from the era of Asteroids, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong here. The most sophisticated item in the arcade back then was Dragon’s Lair. (You young whippersnappers can pop over to Wikipedia to see what I’m talking about. And get off my lawn.)

As the dad of a college-age daughter, over the years I’ve played my share of Super Mario World and Aladdin on the old Super Nintendo. More recently, I’ve become familiar with such phenomena as Wii Sports, Major League Baseball 2K8, and even Guitar Hero. (I can’t play the latter to save my life, mind you, but at least I’ve seen it done.)

But confront me with something like, say, World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto, and I’m mystified.

For that reason, I enjoyed getting a feel for what’s new and exciting in the realm of video game voice acting. And, from a practical standpoint for a voice actor living here in the Bay Area, where numerous video game companies are based, it’s important career-wise, too.

Fortunately, I wasn’t (as I feared I might be) the only video game tyro in the workshop. Only three or four of our baker’s dozen considered themselves hardcore gamers. Judging by the comments and questions during the weekend, several other students’ backgrounds in the gaming arena fell short of even my paltry experience.

Our director, the voiceover coordinator for Household Name Electronics Corporation™, a sprightly personality in town for the Game Developers Conference this week, remained patient with (what must have seemed to an expert) our tediously lame inquiries. She provided us with detailed background on the industry, and walked us through the steps of game development, both in general terms and with specific focus on the voiceover piece of what sounds like an enormously complicated process.

I spent the majority of my time in the booth playing the antihero of one of the more popular video game series, and loving every second of it. I’ve not yet ceased to be amazed at the myriad voices that boil out of my inner psyche on command — I’d have never supposed that character work would be a strength for me, but I always seem to come up with something interesting and appropriate when given a character to create. I was even more surprised when we watched the actual game in play, to hear how closely my interpretation matched that of the actor who actually voices the role. (He’s better at it, of course. But give me a few more months of practice, and I’ll be nipping at his gladiator-sandaled heels.)

Almost as much fun as bellowing into the microphone was listening to the other actors in the workshop exercising their craft. It’s fascinating how several people can dissect the same few lines of copy and each take the character in different directions. I always wish that I had more imagination in that regard. I tend to be frustratingly literal still. I’m coaxing myself to “play” more. I think I managed that more effectively this weekend that I have on other occasions.

One of the unique aspects of game VO is the creation of incidental sounds — the grunts, howls, squeaks, and barks that spill forth every time a character exerts effort on-screen. Because the particular game we were practicing with is a hack-and-slash actioner, we made up a diverse range of death and injury vocalizations. I now feel confident that I can lose a limb, have my teeth yanked out with pliers, or get my throat slit with the best of them — on mic, anyway. (Kids, do not try this at home. Leave the throes of death to trained professionals.)

After this workshop and the one earlier this month that also included a game-character exercise, games have leaped near the top of the list of projects I’d like to voice. I dig the excitement and challenge.

If you’re a interactive producer looking for a blood-enraged warrior, I’m your huckleberry.


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