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  1. Much like TV and film, video games offer their audience an effective means to get close to challenging and current issues or subject matter, usually through the leading characters.  It is for this reason that BAFTA has long recognised the profound social impact of video games and championed the power this creative industry holds.

    Video games use storytelling to transport the audience to new realms, new feelings, and new adventures within a digital medium.  The stories themselves come to life through characters that are portrayed by carefully selected Voiceover Artists who add authenticity and depth to the experience.

    As I prepare to attend the BAFTA 2018 awards as part of the BAFTA Crew Games programme, I wanted to look at some of my favourite female voice actors in videos games to see how they’ve used their skills to bring new characters to life.

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    Cortana, Halo (Jen Taylor)

    First seen in Halo: Combat Evolved, Cortana is a smart, female Artificial Intelligence voiced by Jen Taylor. As a predominant theatre actor Jen prepares for her roles by recognising the emotion portrayed by the characters.

    At video game event E3, Jen said “A lot of video games require us to think and act in the moment…it was fun to [get to play Cortana], it felt more like a Greek drama to get to those highs and those lows. I was excited to get to explore the emotional side of this non-human character.”

    As such an iconic video game personality, Cortana became the inspiration behind Microsoft's intelligent personal assistant of the same name, also voiced by Jen.

    Lara Croft, Tomb Raider (2013, Camilla Luddington)

    Lara Croft has long been a household name in both the Film and Gaming industries since the early 2000’s but the exploration of the Lara Croft character wasn’t truly captured until 2013 when the video game series was re-booted in style.  A big part of this was down to the mesmerising performance of Camilla Luddington who was motion-captured for the game and gave her voice to this fierce adventurer. A tense script, energetic action sequences and a pitch-perfect voiceover helped flesh Lara into a strong leading lady with real substance.

    Joyce Price, Life is Strange (Cissy Jones)

    The iconic Joyce Price is a strong, independent supporting character in the adventure video game series Life is Strange and is voiced by the memorable BAFTA winner Cissy Jones.

    With a whole range of video game credits under her belt, it’s likely that you would have heard Cissy in a number of other games, too, whether you realised it or not. As well as bringing Joyce Price to life, Cissy is also the lead actress in Firewatch, the voice of Katjaa in Telltale’s Walking Dead: Season 1, and Shel, the Guard, and Howe’s Intercom in Season 2, as well as having voiced many other supporting roles.

    Watching her scoop the BAFTA Games award for Best Performer last year was an incredible moment, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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    Elena Fisher, Uncharted (Emily Rose)

    Emily Rose supplies both the voice and motion capture for Elena Fisher in the best-selling video game franchise Uncharted.

    Not only is Emily a fantastic on-screen actor but she is also an accomplished voice-over having performed in all four Uncharted games of the series. Explaining how she works with the producers to make her character sound more realistic Emily said in an interview, “we found there was a lot of value in putting all the actors in the recording booth together, rather than recording our voice-overs individually, so we were able to improvise with each other and collaborate on the dialogue as we went along.” 

    Faith Connors, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst (Faye Kingslee)

    Faith Connors is the daredevil main protagonist of Mirrors Edge: Catalyst, voiced by Faye Kingslee.

    Video games have this great way of engendering empathy by allowing the gamer to experience the life of other people first hand. Developers placed Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst in a first-person perspective in part to connect the player with the character.

    In this video game series, Faye really captures the grit and determination of the powerful Faith Connors, and manages to transport the audience to a whole new world. In an interview Faye said, “Voiceover acting is very artistic. What I love about this industry is that there are so many avenues for creative expression.” In Mirrors Edge: Catalyst you can truly tell how much fun she had voicing this character.

    Ellie, The Last of Us (Ashley Johnson)

    Ashley Johnson claimed a BAFTA win for Best Performance after providing motion capture and voicing Ellie in video game The Last of Us.  She was instantly cast for the role due to her “strong and independent nature”, and was subsequently used in auditions to find actors suitable for the position of Joel, who is a main character alongside Ellie.

    “I've been doing voice overs since I was very young but The Last of Us was my first videogame and the first time I had done motion capture.  I would definitely do it again.” Ashley explained in an interview with The Independent.  Her BAFTA win is credit to her versatility as an actor and artist.

     

    BAFTA Games Awards 2018 Voice over talent

  2. Over the past year I have listened to over 2000 different voices, cast around 300 of them and recorded and edited them for clients in my role as both sound engineer and audio director. Being a voiceover talent is endlessly helpful in these sessions. 

    Voiceover audio engineer

    Being able to wear multiple hats is a great advantage because in this way I can fully appreciate the aims for each element that goes into producing great audio content for an audio production from a corporate video, an advert or an IVR message. 

    I am lucky to spend the day talking for a living but a key part of my work is spent listening as well. All the voices I spend the day listening to I also cast them for various projects. Then I often get to record them and direct the sessions. This past year I have gathered all the tips and tricks to ensure you are cast as a voice and deliver a good session;

    1. Reel - Have your voice at the start of the reel as soon as possible. When casting from a long list of voices, the longer the musical intro, the more likely I am to skip that reel and go to the next. I want to here your set of pipes not the composers. If you have real work on your reel, cut down and out any overly long audio that is not you. 
    2. Bespoke demo - When asked for bespoke demo, record and name the file exactly as the demo instructions have stated. A file that doesn’t conform to the naming instructions will often be deleted because if that isn’t saved correctly, will the same go for the session? Send it in quickly! First come first serve in many cases. 

    3. Read the copy - you’ve been cast, the job is booked and now you are in the booth. After spending my formative years, writing copy for L’Oreal I have written and seen my fair share of good and interesting copy. The copy is often being tweaked until the last moment. However once you get the copy read it out loud at least twice just to get your mouth and vocal cords used to the shape of them. In session, I can always tell if the voiceover artist has read it out loud or not or worse still not read the script at all! The clients I work with also can so ensure you arrive to the session with a read through already locked into your chops. If you get the script there and then read it out loud, there and then. Worry not about feeling awkward or embarrassed in front of clients, you need to articulate the copy so you sound great when I hit record.

    4. Breathe - breathe and breathe some more! If you are serious about being a voice, you need to learn about and love your breathing mechanism. Ensure that you develop your breathing, develop a deep understanding of your diaphragm. Take classes, work the exercises as if it is a gym class. When you get long copy, you should be able to either deliver effortlessly or break it down with breathing spots which not only work for the copy but also in places that the audio engineer can easily edit. Sloppy breathing, half breathes mean you will tire easily, the copy will not be read with the correct flow and the session will take longer making it inefficient. A loss of flow means a loss of intention and structure. If you are nervous breathing correctly will ensure cleaner calmer reads. 

    5. Listen - Many inexperienced voices are so eager to read the copy they forget to read the copy vocally and authentically. It is as if it is an inconvenience and if they read it quickly the session will end sooner. Listen to the client, the director and sound engineer. Yes your role as a voiceover is to talk. But a huge part of the job is actually to listen. What did they say about the pace? The tone? The cadence? What words must I hit? What should I not hit? Should it be a tickle or full upward inflection. 

     Be ready, be steady, be vocal.

    Lorraine Ansell FVO at work