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Character Voices For Audio Books

In this article Magic Studios explores what it takes to deliver an enthralling audio book. We explain how we partner with clients to prepare the material before the actual studio recording process starts and what they can expect every step of the way. 

So, let’s put pen to paper and start taking notes. We have tons of interesting information that will really help set your audio book apart from the rest.

Let’s go!

 

Bringing Characters to Life

To start with, it is essential for the production studio and voice artist/s to have a clear understanding of the characters in your story so we can deliver the best version of your character and how you imagined their dialogue to sound.

 

Non-Fiction vs Fictional Audio Books

There is a huge difference between these two types of audio book genres.

Fiction Audio Book Non Fiction Audio Book

Firstly, a fictional audiobook will tend to have a lot more characters. It requires a voice “actor” which is distinct from a standard corporate “voice over”. As the name suggests, a “voice actor” will usually have a performance background. Non-fiction audio books typically have a single or limited number of narrators. The factual nature of the content lends itself to a more “direct and informative” read style, whereas a lot more character study is required to interpret and bring a character “to life”.

 

How Many Voice Overs Does My Audio Book Need?

A primary consideration is the narrator’s voice. The vast majority of audio books are narrated by a single voiceover, although some audiobooks use multiple actors for different characters. It’s important to remember that when choosing between these two options, there are a lot of variables to explore:

 

Single Voice Over

Having a single voice actor is usually more cost effective but they need to be the right fit in order to deliver diversity in all your character reads. Otherwise, the end result may miss the mark! A single voice artist must be able to quickly pick up which character is speaking and deliver multiple character tones and accents in a way that can be easily differentiated by the listener. Normally a single voice over will audition first to provide samples of the primary characters and, if selected, work with the author to develop a “personality” for each.

 

Multiple Voice Overs

You can select several voice overs to perform the major character roles, and whilst it’s not common practice due to the added cost to the audio book, this gives an engaging “theatre play” feel.  Multiple voice actors in the recording booth together can bring the book to life but if they aren’t in synergy with each other and the story, they won’t engage with the listener. Magic studios will manage the recording session to maximise performance and continuity. 

 

 

Step 1 – How Many Characters in my Audio Book?

Note how many characters are within your script and highlight each character with a different colour (try and keep it to one colour per character). The helps us work out how many primary characters need a unique tone or accent.

 

How Many Characters Need a Custom Voice?

Unless they have a dozen Oscars hiding in cupboard, there is usually a limit to the number of different voices your talent can actually deliver convincingly.  A voice artist will need to shift between different vocal attributes and possible accents, remember and maintain them for the entire story. We normally recommend no more than 5 primary characters per audio book. All other characters are voiced using a mix of General American or UK accent (or a different pre-determined primary), with minor intonations depending on the story context.

 

Step 2 – Create a Character Profile Document.

Identify and create a detailed written profile for each character. Start with the major ones and work your way down.

Who Are Your Characters?

What is the character’s personality and background? How old or young is the character? Are they tough or gentle? Loud or softly spoken? What country are they from? Do they talk slow or fast?

All of these factors help the Magic Studios voice artists determine how they need to adapt their voice to best portray your characters.

Here is an example:

John Rachet- John is 63 and ex-military. He is tall, muscular and strong and has “seen it all”. He has a slow-paced and has a deep and assertive tone. John does not panic and also does not smile. He pauses to think between sentences as he is very calculating at all times in life.

 

Step 3 – Audition and Select Voice Over Actors

Audition

Using your character profile document, we reach out to suitable voice over actors and select from our large talent pool.

 

Start the Audition and Selection Process

On having selected the best candidates for your audiobook, brief samples are recorded of each main character from each candidate, and sent through for your feedback and call back selection.

 

Final Selection

The call back candidates will apply your feedback and provide further samples. You will then make a final voice artist selection for the audiobook.

 

Character Voice Library

We now start to record characters. This step can involve some back and forth to ensure we get them just right. Once approved, these samples are saved and used as master references for future recording sessions. We will often play the samples back to the voice over to keep them in character.

 

 

Step 4 – Record Each Character Separately

A book with a limited number of characters will be read by a single artist in the same sequence as the book.

As mentioned earlier, when there are many primary characters, often we will record just a single character at a time from your highlighted script in order to maintain character consistency.  We do this as it is extremely difficult for a voice over to change accents and tones whilst reading the book in “real time”.

 

Step 5 – Edit and Compile

Our skilled sound engineers will pull all the recording sessions together using Pro Tools. They will focus on the timing to ensure optimal punctuation. Whist not common, occasionally they will mix music and sound effects as an added layer to an audiobook.

For example: We recently recorded a sci-fi audio book that had a ship’s computer as a character, and chose to apply a chorus and flanger effect to the voice actor to create a robotic tone.

 

Step 6 – Proofing 1st Draft

The raw audio (not processed) is sent to the audio book author to listen to and provide feedback and corrections.  The changes are usually minimal but the entire audiobook should always be proofed. Whilst the sound engineers are able to complete this step, this task involves reading whilst listening to the book in full and due to the added cost, most authors will do this themselves. The author will provide written time stamps and notations for any corrections.

 

Step 7 – Record Pick Ups

The voiceover actor will come back into the recording studio to record any corrections as timestamped by the author.

 

Step 8 – Post Processing, Final Mastering and Delivery 

Audio Engineer

Once the audiobook author has approved the draft, our sound engineers will complete post processing of the audio using software tools like iZotope RX. This will “tidy up” the audio and soften sounds like mouth clicks and plosives alongside audio compression as needed. This guarantees the audio book exceed the strict minimum delivery standards for such platforms as Audible, Spotify, etc.  Unfortunately, many clients have come to us after having already spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars elsewhere only to discover that their low-quality audio can’t be uploaded to their chosen platforms.

Here at Magic Studios, we understand how important your book is to you, and how having a good character read can make the entire audio book production!  Once complete, we deliver the final audio to either the author or publishers via Dropbox and break out the bubbly.

In summary, all of these steps and tips are essential to us generating a proficient and adequate quote for recording and editing your masterpiece ready for distribution. We know that some of this information can be difficult to digest, that’s why Magic Studios is here to hold your hand every step of the way.

We always recommend a studio tour or a zoom chat to get to know you and you can meet the Magic Studios team. Simply contact us on 1300 100 333 or email at enquiries@magicstudios.com.au for further information.