Big day last Friday. We recorded the dialogue tracks for the trailer and episode one of the sci-fi animated web comedy New Eden.
Our recording set up was a little unusual as far as animation goes. Usually animation voice records are done one actor at a time with each actor recording a range of options for each line. For New Eden I decided early on that we needed to have all the actors together if we wanted to capture the comedy of the piece and the odd-couple relationship between Murray and Hamilton at the heart of it. So to accommodate this, my sound engineer Billy can up with the great plan to set up dividers that allowed the actors to still see and interact with each other while at the same time minimising the bleed of their voices into each others’ microphones.
Recording this way meant that I had to get four actors, Billy and myself into a facility that not only could fit us all and be willing to work with our tight budget. Billy ended up scoring us a four-hour recording slot at Keir Vine’s studio in Dalston but May turned out to be a stupidly busy time for us all. Some days trying to schedule the record felt like herding cats but as I’ve learnt at every stage of this process, the wait was worth it.
After the record I was pretty certain that we had got everything but later I couldn’t help but worry that I might have missed something or failed to be clear in my direction somehow. Listening back to the material though I discovered that my fears were unfounded. The actors had nailed it. Sparking off each other and delivering some fantastic improv bits, they really brought the characters to life and proved that tackling the record this way was all worth it.
So without further ado let me introduce the cast …
Playing former shift supervisor and the pedantic pessimistic Brit Hamilton is Jonathan Rhodes. Some of you might recognise him as a regular on M.I. High as Chief Agent Stark. Most recently he starred in and co-produced a great short film called Big Society. Jonathan has a great voice and great timing and I’ve had the pleasure of working with him several times at my writers group ScriptTank and also on my radio sketch samples.
Playing the sarcastic but easy going former ships pilot Murray is Kevin Shen. Sharing the same Chinese American heritage as his character, Kevin is always busy working in London or abroad on more shoots than I can keep track of. I was convinced Kevin was right for the role when during his audition he delivered one simple line that not only captured the character but also managed to surprise me.
Playing mad Scotsman and former ships engineer Keith is Scott Christie. London based and heralding from the rolling hills up north, Scott can be often found treading the boards in numerous London productions and most recently received critical acclaim for his performance in the season of Short & Sweet at the Union Theatre. Also a ScriptTank actor, Scott is nothing like his gregariously volatile counterpart but perfectly captures Keith’s sense of mad danger.
And finally playing the Ukrainian loner and black marketeer Ivana is Jo Bowis. Actor, singer, blogger and accordion player; Jo is an all round entertainer always busy with her cabaret theatre troupe Tiny Wallop or cycling around London from one gig to the next. Like Jonathan, Jo helped out with my radio sketch samples and has a great talent for bringing different characters to life. She also does a mean Aussie accent.
Reflecting back on the process, when we get the chance to record more episodes there are definitely some things I will be doing differently:
Cans Cans Cans. Instead of hiding in the control room I was on the floor coaching the actors but didn’t have headphones on the entire time. The difference between hearing something live or through cans can be slight but it can make all the difference when you’re trying hear if an actor is hitting a certain tone or phrase just right.
Freek on the floor. Because of the logistic of our lead animator Freek being in the Netherlands and the record happening in London it was always decided that I would direct the dialogue record. If I had to do it again I would definitely have Freek there by my side or in the booth to co-direct. We have developed a great working relationship and I can’t imagine doing this project without him.
Rehearsals. Because of scheduling issues I decided not to do a rehearsal. Instead we recorded the rehearsal takes in the studio as I helped the actors find their characters, tweak dialogue and get the overall flow of the scripts. In future I’ll definitely be fighting for a read-through in a far less pressured environment where we can discuss the scripts and characters and ease into it all a bit more gently.
Next post: new eden – meet the crew.