Behind the scenes: Splinter Cell voice-over - MCV

Behind the scenes: Splinter Cell voice-over

Wave Generation founding partner David Lipes on casts and crew
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Last spring, Ubisoft approached us to help support the casting and recording for another one of their titles, Splinter Cell Conviction.

We seized the opportunity, of course. For many clients, we provide full audio solution services. But in this case, Ubi had a very complete and experienced audio team. This meant that we were there to complement the team they had in place.

Ubi's Fabien Noel, Patrick Redding, Vincent Gagnon and Olivier Girard, along with contractor Sean Stanek, were already assigned to the project when we came on board. Having worked with guys like Pat and Fabien on past projects made it easy to get into the collaborative groove again. Plus, the other team members were industry veterans with tons of experience, which was a recipe for success. Very cool.

For Splinter Cell our mandate was two-fold: We were to engineer the recordings for the game at our in-house studio and cast a specific set of foreign language speaking characters – in this case, Russian and Arabic. The casting of foreign languages for Splinter Cell Conviction brought with it the usual slate of challenges.

Casting alone can be a tricky process. Finding the right actor, with the right voice, that can deliver the lines convincingly is a process of its own. Toss foreign languages and accents into the mix and you have a completely different beast.

We have worked on dozens of games that required foreign languages and each game requires its own unique approach. Are we looking for English speaking actors that can fake an accent without sounding fake? Are we looking for actors that are native speakers of the language chosen? Do they need to speak English? Do they need to have experience? Do they have a small or large part in the game? Everybody producing voice-overs for games has dealt with these questions and more.

I’m certainly not alone and this comforts me… albeit very briefly. In the end, we all want to make sure we get amazing results and help create the most rocking gaming experience possible.

Our first casting assignment for Splinter Cell was to cast a handful of important Russian speaking roles for the Russian counterpart of the Third Echelon Voron. These guys had to speak English well, speak Russian well and possess solid acting experience.

The beauty here is that we had time required to get it right. No director would cast a lead in a Hollywood feature based on one day of auditions, would they? Especially if that day did not yield a clear cut winner. And if we aren’t sold, why should we expect our clients to be?

With Ubi on board, we set up simultaneous casting sessions in both Montreal and Toronto. We brought in dozens of options over multiple days of live casting sessions to audition potential candidates. Following this, various decisions were made but not all characters had been locked down. Our job was not complete. We continued to dig, received feedback, talked with the team and set up more auditions. This time we really nailed it.

We reeled in solid talent that delivered amazing reads, authentic Russian accents and authentic Russian dialogue. Rare to meet all that criteria, but with time and flexibility we stayed the course and focused on our process.

Overall, we made sure we were sold on these guys. In the end, we casted a roster of experienced actors. Several of these actors were also native Russian speakers, thus adding an authentic flavour to an already immersive gaming experience.

Our second casting assignment for Splinter Cell was to bring in Arabic voice actors for primarily Arabic dialogue. Also a challenge, but foreign language recording is really something we have invested a ton of time in over the years.

In fact, we had recently completed the casting and recording for another game requiring over 20 different languages earlier in the year, Arabic being one of them. This means we have a large database of talent both here in Montreal and abroad. We were able to source our database of foreign language actors in this case.

Drawing from our network, we found Arabic speaking actors here in Montreal. They fit right in, and jumped at the opportunity to work on Splinter Cell.
Casting and recording the speaking roles for video games requires planning, patience, an experienced team, and enough time to get the job done right. Sure, every new game comes with a new set of challenges, but this is what makes the job interesting!

David Lipes is a founding partner for Wave Generation

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