|VO project manager Marc Van Morsel, discusses the process and challenges behind a recent assignment for Deeper Blue, one of the UK’s leading communications and experiential agencies. The project was translated, voiced and managed, all under one roof, at VSI’s London headquarters.|
Working in VSI’s London voice-over team, is as exciting as it is unpredictable. From voicing broadcast promos and dubbing foreign TV series to corporate product launches and e-learning assignments, our department covers a diverse range of material.
Project durations also vary greatly, we deal with everything from single advertising campaigns, to weekly magazine shows and TV promos, to clients who require our services for a myriad of different assignments. In my role, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.
Our clients range from major broadcasters and VOD platforms through to global brands, who we work for both directly and via high profile advertising and communications agencies.
One such client is Deeper Blue, a renowned live event and digital experience agency, known for their expertise in working for major car brands including Toyota, Vauxhall / Opel and Rolls-Royce. Over the years, VSI have provided voice-over, translation and subtitling services in a range of different languages for Deeper Blue, and most recently we worked on a campaign for Opel’s new innovative Onstar personal assistant. A perfect example of sci-fi technology coming alive in the real world.
Onstar is Opel’s automotive answer to the new world of connectivity in which we all reside. In short, it’s your personal on board assistant, connecting your vehicle to the World Wide Web and the rest of the planet. Amongst its wide ranging capabilities, the Onstar assistant will be able to help you locate your stolen vehicle, access your car remotely, operate an automatic crash response, help you with directions, vehicle diagnostics or simply have your car linked up to the 4G/Wifi networks.
To promote OnStar’s functionality, Opel produced a series of online clips in conjunction with Deeper Blue, to promote the software’s various features.
The original clips were recorded in English and Deeper Blue approached VSI, as Opel required the promos to be professionally re-voiced, into new languages so the campaign could be utilised beyond English speaking territories.
In total there would be nine clips of approximately one minute in duration each to be voiced, with two male voices, and one female voice required for each.
The initial requirement was for four languages to be localised, after which VSI were informed there would be more to follow.
When localising the OnStar campaigns, it was important to convey the playfulness but also the supportive aspect of the product. The one-minute clips are chock-a-block with information, and it was VSI’s role to ensure that the correct tone of voice was employed, while ensuring all the statistics and information are conveyed in a clear, and engaging manner.
The translation was, as it is for all foreign voice-over jobs an integral part of this process.
As well as the creative aspect of translating marketing copy in this assignment, there was a significant technical element present to the translation, as a result of its verbal delivery.
Translations can vary in length quite considerably across different languages, as structurally they require more words to deliver the same message, and some languages, such as German for example, generally utilise longer words in day-to-day vocabulary. With VO recordings however, often the clip length is fixed, so each line must accurately mirror the action on screen. The translator must therefore, ensure the phrases delivered in the translation, are close to the spoken length of the original versions. To help with this process it is essential a timed script is provided to the translator, who can then match each translated phrase line to line with its source. The script is then proofed by a separate linguist to ensure accurate translations, adherence to the brief, and correct timing.
Choosing the right voice also makes a huge difference. The voice-over department has built up a wide selection of voices based in London, which enables us to meet even the most challenging of briefs, and it’s very rare that clients are not happy with the selection we have available. However when this does occur, we have the ability to source in-territory voices via or VSI studios abroad, and record remotely, or utilise the in-house vendor management team, to source new voices based in London.
For this project we worked closely with Deeper Blue to ensure, the voices cast met their specifications, sending over a number of voices for each language, with numerous samples to ensure that each voice’s range could be fully appreciated, and to demonstrate their consistency across a variety of previous work. When we send over voices to a client we also ensure we include their recording rate. Whilst all of the voice artists VSI work with are established professionals, their price can vary quite considerably depending on their level of experience, availability and the profile of the previous projects they have worked on.
In addition to the voice-over artist, a language director was also used for the recordings for Deeper Blue. Their role was to make sure that everything is recorded as scripted, and the voice’s performance closely matched the client brief. It is very important, particularly when dealing with technical terms that the actors are pronouncing words and sentences correctly, and that any brand related taglines or phrases are consistently delivered.
It would be a futile endeavour to creating high quality localised version for the client, if we did not commit to the agreed timeline for the project, so it was equally important that the project ran on schedule.
At VSI we run projects based on core project management principles, refined by the practical experience of delivering voice-over projects, for close to three decades, which allows us to pre-empt where delays, difficulties, or bottle necks may occur.
Each project is not embarked upon until a clear project plan with key milestones, is agreed upon, and throughout the project a gant chart is used to monitor progress and track resources. We communicated regularly throughout the project with Deeper Blue, sending regular updates, and logging feedback at every critical stage.
Making changes and adaptations, such as altering the script, or adding additional languages will not only set back projects in terms of timing but also in terms of cost, Deeper Blue did not require any changes during this project, however we always ensure the client is aware of this before embarking on the project, and signing off after the various stages, as we don’t want them to be confronted with any nasty surprises further down the line.
Once the recordings were completed, the sound files were then edited and mixed by the same engineer to ensure consistency, before a final export file was created according to Deeper Blue’s specifications. Security is absolutely paramount, so the final files were then sent over via secure transfer.
Deeper Blue and Opel were both very happy with the final result, and have continued to choose VSI for new localisation assignments.