Services Spotlight: Side

UK firm Side, which has just been acquired by QA and localisation outfit Pole To Win, provides services for character performance in games, including casting, directing, voice production, performance capture and localisation.

Speaking to Develop, Side’s business development manager Benjamin Ryalls says its casting department is focused on finding both fresh talent and also bringing in experienced actors into the games industry. It also has writing agency Sidelines providing professional creative writers.

And as well as an array of performance directors and project managers, the company’s in-house recording facilities include four automatic dialogue replacement (ADR) suites run by its own engineers, and on-location audio teams for crowd sessions and full performance capture shoots.

“We’re a complete resource for character performance in games,” says Ryalls. “Our size and structure allows us to give our clients a complete service whilst delivering the high quality results we are known for.”

The firm has worked on a number of high profile projects. For Sumo Digital’s LittleBigPlanet 3, its casting team reunited famous actors Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie for voice acting duties, and directed and recorded all the game’s performances.

Its work on Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation, meanwhile, saw it cast the actors, while the company’s Kate Saxon was performance director throughout rehearsals, shoots and voice sessions.

Perhaps one of its biggest projects, however, was CD Projekt Red’s hit RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Ryalls describes it as a “vast undertaking” with over 450,000 words to record in a script that featured more than 950 characters. The project was recorded over a period of two and a half years, and was again led by voice director Saxon.

“We provided CD Projekt RED with a full voice production service and developed bespoke tools that allowed us to manage and record such a high volume of assets whilst maintaining quality performances throughout,” says Ryalls.

He states for today’s discerning gaming audience, many consumers expect from games the kind of performances they may see in a good film or television show.

“On a narrative-driven title, engagement with the performances can be easily broken if you have poor acting, bad accents, or voices that don’t suit the characters,” he states. “To get the best performances you need excellent casting, direction and talent.”

These big projects have come to Side in part due to the firm gradually increasing its services related to performance capture.

At the time of writing, the company currently has an audio team on-location on a shoot that has now entered its 37th day, for which it cast over 25 actors to provide all elements of performance.

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