Integrating Original and Loc Voice Creation

How combining processes saves time and improves outcomes

The current surge of reboots and the release of catalog titles into new markets means more games are going into localization with the original version content nearly complete. The overall trend, however, is different.

As more games move to subscription models and downloadable content (DLC) extends the lifecycle of titles, we see a near continuous stream of game content releases with more frequent and compressed production cycles.

For games voice audio, it is now the norm for the localized version to begin recording before the original version is complete and fully defined. For creative localization (loc) teams, this can feel like aiming at a moving target, while producers and managers have a complex waterfall production chain to manage. 

With the acquisition of the U.S. studio Rocket Sound, renowned for its creative original voice work, Lionbridge Games has an opportunity to streamline our process even further. An integrated service offering that includes both original versions and localized audio recordings simplifies the production chain for our customers, builds a deeper understanding of the product and provides efficiencies and flexibility.  

Two Paths, Equal Outcomes

Original version and loc recordings share a core set of tools of production methods, but the recording processes, skill sets and above all the studio experience have less in common than non-audiophiles might imagine. 

Original version voice audio is rightly considered an integral part of the overall game design. An important part of the “feel engineering” happens here. The recording team works in close collaboration with the development studio to deliver on the creative vision. Studio design leads and writers are typically present for many recording sessions, where actors and directors can go through many different recording ‘reads’ to achieve the desired take. The original script might change considerably during that process.  And if a game level or cinematic can still be improved after a voice performance is heard in context, the teams can return to the studio to try something new.

Localization recordings take an essential shortcut to achieve the same outcome: The original source audio encapsulates the results of all those months or years of work. In the loc recording studio, directors, and typically talents as well, can listen to the original audio to infer valuable information about the intention, intensity, projection, etc. needed for the line. So, localized recordings advance at a much faster pace, even with the additional constraints of matching the duration or lip syncing to the original audio.

So, it is perhaps not surprising that the team composition for original voice creation and localization are very different.  In fact, it is not at all uncommon that not a single person, from the studio, the publisher or the localization provider will be involved in both. However, this can be wasteful in terms of retaining product knowledge and inefficient at transferring processes between teams.  Can we do better?

Sharing Deep Product Knowledge 

Traditionally, the knowledge transfer between original and localized audio production is through the original voice audio itself and documentation such as design bibles, character bios and special effects (FX) processing chains. Collectively, however, these can contain only a fraction of the total product knowledge accumulated by the original version team. Moreover, in the fast-changing production environment information is quickly out of date.

Integrating the original and loc recording teams ensures that information flows directly between them. This reduces the burden on development studios and publishers and provides them with a single point of contact. 

The original recording team is uniquely placed to prepare loc kits for loc teams and, in the Lionbridge Games Cloud Audio solution, original and loc script and audio sit side by side. Loc teams can have access to source assets in a standardized format in real-time. 

The platform also gives loc teams access to all the studio and script notes appended by the original recording. They can even communicate directly through the shared comments. Loc teams become much less dependent upon the game development team for information.

Real-time sharing and early access to the original audio also has other benefits.  For example, a voice might have heavy FX processing – information that is not always available to loc teams when casting. But casting a voice with certain FX is sometimes more about with the talent’s acting repertoire than their voice characteristics. Getting this kind of information on time means better, more optimized casting. 

There are similar benefits if a role requires very high speaking rates, long sessions of high intensity delivery, (“GrenAAADE!”), or, say, a regional accent relevant to the backstory. Reliable, timely and detailed knowledge about game content can be the difference between localized audio that is as good as the original and a version that falls flat.

Streamlining Production 

Reducing the dependency on intermediaries between the original and loc voice audio teams is one way to streamline processes. As mentioned, Lionbridge’s real-time cloud solution completely removes the need to transfer and update assets. 

In the compressed production cycles of today, this means removing not just one asset transfer, but typically numerous updates too. When changes to the original recording script are immediately shared with loc teams, no one needs to send a script update. No one needs to consolidate multiple versions of the script. No one creates bugs because an error was made.

When the source audio for a particular role on a recent project was delayed because the talent was temporarily unavailable, our teams received that information directly from the recording studio. Loc recordings for the role were cancelled, the studio time was reassigned and we were kept up-to-date on a day-by-day basis to ensure we could turn around the localized roles in minimal time as soon as the source reference audio was available. Getting accurate information that early, enables better planning, better scheduling and better optimization of complex workflows. That’s key when any change affects not only loc audio teams, but translation, LQA and a host of folks downstream.

We would estimate that about 50 percent of localization projects come with about 50 percent of the FX processing presets used by the original version team. The missing FX are re-created by the localization teams. Integrating the original and localized audio removes this kind of task duplication that increases with the complexity of a project. 


Collapsing the Waterfall

We see significant benefits for Lionbridge Games and our partners in taking an integrated approach to original and localized voice creation: deeper product knowledge, optimized and integrated schedules, reduced project management and task duplication and streamlined processes that remove intermediary steps. By reducing the waterfall dependencies of the production chain, we will achieve a more fluid transition from the original version to loc.

When customers choose alternative partners for original voice recording, our teams can support the transition to loc through an early engagement with the project and by working with producers, development teams and original voice teams as appropriate.

Our customers depend on us to help them maneuver within shorter release cycles while driving down bugs and optimizing costs. As always, we bring our commitment to delivering localized audio that is every bit as compelling for players as the original. 

With our integrated original and localized voice production, Lionbridge Games delivers on all of these, while reducing your workloads to manage assets and transfer knowledge. Ensure you have a partner really knows the game from the get-go. Reach out to discuss how Lionbridge can help your games come to life in voices of every language!

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Richard Saadat and Tom Hays