Posts Tagged ‘voice over’

The author as a live cartoon character

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Sometimes I get to do things I enjoy for money. While I do a certain amount of voice overs in a comfy studio, last week I was asked to do some live voice for animated characters at an international conference held in the Brussels Conference Center.

This was the deal. Conferences have speakers. Between speakers there’s not much snap, or great segue, no keep awake punches. The conference’s communications guy wanted some snap and got the idea of having satirical figures introducing speakers, delivering boring conference information, and suchlike. I had a contact, Tanya Arler , who got my name in the bag, and after a conversation, I landed the gig, as did Tanya.

During the morning, I played one of the two hecklers from The Muppet Show called Statler and Waldorf. I was Waldorf, the big-jaw one. muppets
Then in the afternoon, I played the Dalai Lama using a high-pitched Chinese accent that would never ever fly in the USA as being totally un-PC. Europe is less contaminated by such niceties. Satire has a bigger bite and stronger tradition in these various necks of the EU woods (what’s the old saying in the USA theater? “Satire is what closes on opening night”).Vincent Eaton as the Dalai Lama cartoon + Arnie cartoon This photo was taken off the monitor that showed what audience saw on the auditorium screen.

The performer who did the other voice sitting next to me was Olivier Schalbroeck a Belgian improv pro and we had a lot of fun sparking off each other and messing with the script. He played the other muppet and Arnie.

Here’s the technicalities. Software was used that, as I spoke into the microphone, the mouth of the character moved and the audience heard it simultaneously and, if all went well, they were entertained and laughed. For various facial movements, two techies, one per character, had joysticks and could make the eyebrows, cheeks, hairline and lots more move. Techies watching monitors & cartoon set-up Here you see the techies with 1) a joystick, 2) a screen for the characters, 3) bottom screen of the audience, and 4) camera shot of the stage.) It’s compact, workable and a bit flying by the seat of one’s pants.

Ideally one has a single director in such events. But we got three, which is always a generally awful idea. First the Communications Guy organizing the conference came in early and told us to add things to the script and interact with the audience and mock the speakers, and be daring, try things, shake it up. After we got going in the morning, our producer who put this all together, Dimitri Oosterlynck of Magicworlds, wore a headset and squatted next to us listening to suggestions/commands coming from the head booth telling us, bit by bit, not to interact with the audience so much, then skip the interacting with the conference speakers unless they did so first, not to be so “aggressive” and in short, by the afternoon, don’t be daring or shake it up. Dimitri tried to guide us as well, more gently, screening us from the client. But with three directors, three directions, and then us two talented meatballs, Olivier and me, trying to tiptoe gigantically between them and pleasing everyone and getting blander and more beige as the day wore on.

Here’s a photo I took off the monitor showing the excited looking audience seated in the conference center of Brussels.Audience in monitor waiting for Vincent Eaton to perform as cartoon character

Here’s the stage (photo off monitor again) where the cartoon characters would appear on the right when we were “on”. Stage screen

We were asked to write, then re-write the script according to what was being said by a speaker. This photo is a shot of the desk/table I sat at. script table of Vincent EatonThere are two microphones: one for making the mouth of the character move, the other to be heard in the hall. There’s the folder of the event. Pages of the script. A yellow marker, to mark My Words so I would say them and not my partner’s. A pen to add jokes and scratch out jokes and rewrite again and then wait for someone to direct me after I had said it and ell me not to be so daring, or quite so long, the next time.

Overall, it was a success, I was told. The Talent just had to be in permanent creative adjustment mode from morning to late afternoon. And it was a great energy suck. Five minutes of action, 30 or 60 or 90 minutes of wait around while a speech was made or panel discussion went on. Repeat for nine hours.