Valkyria Chronicles 4 is headed Westward this September and Sega put in a lot of localization work that includes full English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish subs as well as full English voicing. Sega of America associate PR manager Jonathon Stebel and associate localization producer and lead for Valkyria Chronicles 4, Andrew Davis, took to the PlayStation Blog to dive inside the direction of the game’s English voice-over sessions.
First, here’s the new Prologue Trailer:
Here are some highlights from the interview:
On the English voice-over recording process:
Jonathon Stebel, Associate PR Manager, Sega of America: About how long was the English VO recording process for the game?
Andrew Davis, Associate Localization Producer: We spent about 10 weeks total in the studio, starting with the untimed lines – VO with no timing restrictions – and then moving on to the Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR), the scenes where we match voices to characters’ lip-flap. We also had some re-recordings to fine-tune parts of the localization we wanted to improve. We kept the exact same team members present throughout the recording process to ensure consistency in the VO’s direction.
Jonathon Stebel: This prologue cutscene starts with a black screen while Claude, the game’s lead character, talks over it. Since you record to match lip flaps, is it kind of a nice break for the team when you have a scene like this without any animation?
Andrew Davis: In most cases yes, it’s nice to not worry about matching animations. However, Claude’s Japanese VO for this opening scene had so many extended pauses that it took a lot of work to match the English script and VO to the Japanese even without animation to worry about. We also had to consider the length of the subtitles for each spoken phrase; each line needed to be short enough in subtitles to look presentable, but the audio needed to be as long and drawn out as possible to match the heavy, deflated tone in the scene.
On turning a Japanese script into an English voice-over:
Jonathon Stebel: So, from what I can tell, this is a pretty extensive process. How does a Japanese script turn into an English VO?
Andrew Davis: In general, we’ll provide translations for the English voice director, then the director has to slightly alter the lines in order to match them to character lip flaps. If we just used a direct translation or our first pass at a localized script, we’d likely end up with a script that’s very difficult to match to character animations. We want this to look as natural as possible, so we’d rather avoid the old English-dubbing trope of character animations being completely mismatched to their English VO.
On criteria used to cast English voice talent and matching Japanese counterparts:
Jonathon Stebel: What criteria does the team use in casting English voice talent? Do the actors’ voices have to sound like their Japanese counterparts?
Andrew Davis: We’ll do our best in matching English voice talent with their character. Sometimes that means the English and Japanese voices will sound very similar – Claude is a great example of that – but other times the English analogue to a Japanese voice or personality won’t sound exactly the same. For example, Raz’s Japanese voice actor has a kind of deep growl to his voice – he’s a delinquent with some swagger. Trying to match this effect exactly in English might have come across as a bit too affected or ‘tryhard’, so instead we kept close to the actor’s natural range while making him sound like an American delinquent; he uses more ‘naughty’ words and a more aggressive tone to support his attitude. For reference, the original Japanese doesn’t explicitly have the phrase ‘Sack up, Commander,’ but it fit both his English characterization and (just as important) the lip-flaps.
Jonathon Stebel: Claude seems to have an interesting split in his personality; throughout this prologue cutscene he’s brimming with confidence and ability, but towards the end he whispers “We can do this” under his breath, almost like he needs to reassure himself. What was the direction here?
Andrew Davis: That’s actually a huge part of Claude’s personality! This is Squad E’s first *real* engagement – they’ve been training for a while, but they haven’t been a part of an actual battle until now. You’ll learn throughout the story that Claude has had to train himself to speak with confidence to rally his squad. Potentially a minor spoiler: you learn very early on that, just a few years prior, he was a massive coward. We really wanted his tone and lines reflect his growth mixed with his uncertainty in this scene.
Jonathon Stebel: This is something I’m morbidly curious about – how much method acting is done in the studio? Did you actually throw a pen at Raz’s voice actor to spur his surprised groan in this cutscene?
Andrew Davis: No. (laugh) We don’t abuse our actors. Sometimes, though, they spontaneously do movement or poses to get into character. Voice actors have to be careful, though, because professional mics are super-sensitive and can even pick up clothing movement. Or stomach gurgles!
Check out the full interview over at PlayStation Blog.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on September 25, 2018. The PC version releases on September 24 via Steam.