February 3, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #4

Welcome back, everyone. This week is going to be another divergence from the usual updates. Instead of talking about specifics this week at Human Head, I'm going to talk about something that happened a few months ago - namely, the voice recording sessions.

After spending a few months listening to audition tapes for the various characters in the game, we nailed down the final list of actors in Prey.

Of course, many of the characters interact with each other in-game, so we wanted to record them at the same time. Luckily, their schedules coincided so we were able to fly all the actors out to the recording studio during the same week.

That studio we chose was one that 2K Games had used in the past - Rick Fox Studios in Cincinnati. So, last year Ed Lima (Human Head's Sound Director) and I flew out to Cincinnati to meet with the actors and go through the process of the initial sound recording session. There are several pictures in this article, and you can click on any of them for a larger image.

Rick Fox Sound Studios

Recording went very smoothly - all the actors were total professionals and usually nailed their lines after only a few takes. In fact, we were ahead of schedule the entire trip.

The process went like this: The actors were given the script to read through the day before. Then, at the actual session, they were given shooting scripts (which is variation of the full script, which contains each line, numbered and broken down by scene). Before recording each scene, Ed and I explained the situation and the character's motivation as well as the general reaction we'd like out of them (anger, fear, sorrow, etc). We'd then have the actors run through their lines three times. If we were happy with them, we would move on. Otherwise, we'd explain the changes we want and the process starts over again until we were happy.

Of course, the real test for the voice acting is actually getting it in game - if the recordings don't work out, then that calls for a pick-up session where we fly the actors out again (typically for a day or two) to re-record the lines and any new lines we may need.

The first evening there we met with Michael Greyeyes, who plays our hero Tommy. Over dinner we discussed the game with him (since due to secrecy, we only gave the actors small amounts of character information during their auditions) and explained how the week would play out. Since he's the main character, we'll need him to be there the whole week to interact with all the other characters.

Michael Greyeyes mentally preparing for his next line
Wav File: [ Something bad is about to go down in front of Tommy ]

The next actor to arrive was Crystle Lightning - who plays Jen in the game. We wanted her and Tommy in right away so we had plenty of time to record their lines both apart and together. When she first showed up, we had her record some of her lines in which no other actors were needed - general comments, pain sounds, screams, etc.

In hindsight, we should have recorded her screams last, as we became worried she might blow out her voice right away. But, she has a damn good voice and was careful not to overdo it with the screams.

Crystle Lightning acting out the part of Jen
Wav File: [ Jen talking to the player in the bar ]

Next, John William Galt showed up to record the voice of Grandfather. You may remember John as the voice of Lo Wang in Shadow Warrior, plus he was the original voice of Grandfather in the E3 Prey video from 1998. We searched around for other voices for Grandfather, but honestly, none were as expressive and unique as John's rendition of Grandfather.

John William Galt posing with me (with Rick the sound engineer in the background). My shirt, of course, refers to convertible cars.
Wav File: [ Grandfather admonishing the player. ]

Over the next couple of days, things went pretty fast, as we quickly recorded the other characters in the game (which tie in heavily into the narrative, so I'm not going to reveal them just yet). But those characters were played by Tyne Turner, Eleni Valasis, and Lee Ernst (who you may remember as the voice of both Odin and Loki in Rune). They all did an amazing job as they nailed their lines.

Ed instructing Michael on the next scene

At the end of the week, the recording session was over. We had all the lines we needed to do a first-pass implementation in the game (up until that point we had speech synthesized robot voices and various voices of people around the office in the game!). But, before going home had to explore the fine city of Cincinnati. We wandered into a nearby bar and relaxed with a few drinks and played some pool.

Crystle Lightning posing while we played pool

Until next time - stay out of trouble.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Software

Click the screenshot to watch Prey in action on the videos page!

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Posted by Joe Siegler on February 3, 2006 at 11:56 AM | Permalink
News Categories: Prey | Weekly Updates