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Surviving Audio Localization
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Surviving Audio Localization

February 14, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 6 Next

2. Two Audio scripts

Because many people (script writer, sound design, recording studios, translators, post production etc.) are going to work on the recording script and use it for different purposes, you need a layout that allows data sorting and painless formatting.

Excel works well if all fields are consistent and if you can play with columns without chaos-inducing consequences. A well-organized script gives you instant grasp on the big picture (storyline) without neglecting details. It’s a good idea to keep a master version of the script at all times (and to notify and document each important change) so that no one is kept out of the loop.

Recording Script

Category tabs are a good arrangement. It’s important that columns are the same (and ordered in the same way) in each tab because studios won’t use sequential order to record but rather proceed by characters, one after the other. They will create recording sheets for each actor using information gathered in several tabs and you want to make their lives easier. In each tab, there are a number of fields important for translation and recording and you don’t want to lose information while copy/pasting.

Characters (column B) if your character’s name is Jo, make sure there is no entry where it’s spelled Joe or Joseph or so much for data sorting and character breakdown. Same logic for Guard1 and Soldier1. Make choices and stick to them.

Location (column C) helps getting the general context; it also spots where the line should play for testing purposes. There can be sublevels for extra accuracy (stating for example in which conditions the line plays).

The context info (column D) provides details on premises, action, protagonists etc. It’s important for translation and crucial to acting. Let’s take a very plain line: “Man, I can’t see a thing.” The delivery will be very different whether the character is in stealth mode in the dark or about to skydive. You don’t want this information in the text column (F) because it can be quite lengthy and will disrupt actors’ reading plus you need an accurate word count for translation and for recording.

File naming (column E) a.k.a. Pandora’s Box. The naming convention must be identical for all languages and you should be able to increment it if lines are added while recording (alternative takes or new lines) without offsetting the whole thing. Keep it logical: type, character, generic location (abbreviation should also be logical) and number (starting with 000 is essential for sorting).

Bear in mind that people around the world and across the universe work on different platforms (MAC, PC, Linux), so try avoiding file names that are too long (including extension); they shouldn't exceed 31 characters - use letters (you can stick to the 26 letters English alphabet) or numbers + extension (three characters).

One last thing: often, generic characters have identical lines (for the sake of variety) and to wrap a recording session faster they’re sometimes named the same. Each line must have its own file name (even if they are located in different folders/repertories). Eventually you’ll need to name them (for post production and debugging purposes) and renaming several thousand audio files (each will need one "in" and one "out" name) is highly time consuming, expensive and risky with foreign languages.

Using the column H, I, J, K filters you can sort out lines by time constraint, isolate those that are not to be recorded (organics or native), lines that have subtitles (this will help the person in charge of linking text and audio) etc. Filters will save your life when it’s time to budget.

You can add as many columns as you see fit as long as the column order remains identical, i.e. a column for integration that would read: integrated / work in progress / post production in progress, a column for special effect and video etc...

Note: script writers usually hate writing in Excel (who doesn’t?). They are much more comfortable with screenplay formats like Final Draft for instance. Name someone to take care of copy/pasting your writer’s script into a format that works for recording and translation. Then have your lead animator, lead sound design person enter their own specs, info etc.

As Recorded Script

The ARS is a commented script as recorded. It documents all lines which content was modified and / or alternate takes were recorded.

In our U.S. mini script, two lines were added: one onomatopoeia line was recorded with different projection and tone so we have two types of volume and distance effects we can later choose from (animation isn’t locked and we still don’t know how far Bob and Cal are going to swim from each other). One line was duplicated using a different word (seaweed instead of weed). Of course, changes are highlighted in a different colour and file names have been incremented.

Adding comments is really helpful. You can’t figure the difference unless you actually listen to the files (which of course you need to do) and read a quick description. If you have hundreds of files to listen to, it’s best to know what you’re looking for. Because you need to clear the as rec script of stricken-through words and other comments, run a last spell and typo check; that way you already correct minor (but annoying) issues. Last, you have subtitles that are a perfect match with audio (Sony Computer Entertainment really cares for that): your testers will have more time to focus on important bugs.

Localized agencies need to send you an as recorded script as well for the same reasons. Plus, it’s of great help during post production. Even if your team doesn’t understand a word of Dutch, they can follow the script (of course forget about this with other alphabets – Cyrillic for instance – or writing system such as Kanji, Katakana etc. The world is an imperfect place).

Here’s an example:

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 6 Next

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