4 Outsourcing Lessons From a Games Audio Pro

January 2020


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Recently, our SIDE LA Head of Studio, Jacquie Shriver Sladeck, gave talks at both XDS and GameSoundCon on the dialogue pipeline and where to invest your finite resources. We have been fortunate to call Jacquie a part of our team since 2016. She has over 15 years of experience in voice dialogue production and audio outsourcing. Now, she combines her experience with SIDE’s unique perspective on trends and best practices across interactive industry.

Creating audio and dialogue for any game can be a challenging process, and things only get more complex when external vendors become involved. As Jacquie puts it, “the dialogue pipeline is less like a linear path and more of a complex subway system with a series of stops, starts, and junctions”. But involving these vendors also opens up new skills and expertise that can take a game to the next level. Here are four ways to squeeze the most out of your audio production vendor relationships.

1. Accuracy and transparency will cut costs

While every audio project has its own requirements, the goal should always be to use your limited outsourcing dollars as effectively as possible. So, when you involve outsourcing partners (like *ahem* SIDE and PTW), it’s important to understand that every decision and priority impacts your game’s cost, timeline, and quality.

That’s why it’s critical to be transparent with your vendors not only about budget, priorities, technical requirements but also wish-lists, tools, milestones, deadlines, and marketing requirements. When you share all aspects with vendors early on, they can deliver excellence within those parameters. Additionally, creating an accurate, thoroughly scoped budget early on avoids project detours later on. Referencing a client who consistently involves her team early, Jacquie explains how it helps her team understand the entire scope of the project and start planning before production even begins. “With this kind of deep and thoughtful scoping, we rarely deviate from the initial quote or schedule. It means there are no big surprises when recording starts.”

2. Pre-production alignment is paramount

Alignment on project goals is crucial during pre-production. Without guidance, vendors are left to guess what a project’s goals are and what the client’s version of “good” looks like. But with a little additional information about a project, vendors can create a plan of action that aligns with the project’s vision. More than goals, establishing effective information sharing tools in the pre-production phase can really pay off. For example, receiving a work-in-progress script export from a complicated development script tool a week before the session, rather than at the last minute, gives vendors the opportunity to identify, and find solutions for, potential bottlenecks that might slow the process otherwise

3. A stress test is the best test for big project success

More than anything, Jacquie emphasises the need for stress tests, especially on larger projects. A stress test is an in-depth snapshot of every discipline and dependency involved in the project This isn’t the best-case scenario discussed during the early scoping phase, but a boots-on-the-ground, real-world walkthrough, with real people and real deadlines. This provides a chance to adjust to the reality of actors, director, and engineer working with your assets live in the studio.

Jacquie recommends a stress test includes everything that can be reasonably expected in production, such as recording, video assets, storyboards, motion capture footage, and using multiple microphones and actors in the booth at the same time. Or if you’re testing something such as how to best display your branching scripts to the talent and director, give them a shot in the studio to really get a feel for things.

4. Communication is key to any successful project

Any healthy relationship between vendors and developers needs ongoing communication at every single stage of production:

  • At the scoping stage, vendors should know exactly what you’ll be doing together.
  • At the pre-production stage, they want to understand your goals.
  • In production, they want to know how you work, and how you’ll work best together.
  • And in post-production, they need to understand what you’ll need back from them to be able to insert assets seamlessly into your build.

No matter the size or shape of your game or pipeline, effective and practical communication about scope, goals, and tools, alongside realistic testing methods, can turn finite resources into infinite possibilities.

A good vendor knows

There you have it, four ways to get the best out of your audio production vendor. Incorporate these tips, and you’ll be one step closer to creating the perfect dialogue for your next game. And if you have any questions, we’re always here to help.

The reason we know so much about audio production is because our teams are jam-packed with smart experts like Jacquie. So, if you’re looking for award-winning voice performances for your game, drop us your details at info@side.com.