3 Steps You Can Take to Avoid Voice-Over & Dubbing Pick-Ups

3 Steps You Can Take to Avoid Voice-Over & Dubbing Pick-Ups
Pick-ups are a dreaded outcome of multilingual voice-over recording projects. Professionals in video localization all have their stories of experiences with pick-ups, and all will agree that they’re virtually always problematic. In order to manage the business of recording multilingual voice-overs more efficiently, it’s important to understand what makes pick-ups a significant issue and what can be done to control their potential adverse impacts on your project. Here are the several steps recommended to help multimedia localization professionals succeed in avoiding pick-up sessions, or minimizing the number of their occurrences. What is a Voice-Over or Dubbing Pick-Up? A pick-up (PU) is an additional studio recording session that sometimes is discovered to be necessary after a video dubbing or voice-over project has already been completed. What Causes the Voice-Over Sessions to Occur? PUs usually become necessary when a part of the intended content for the recording was overlooked during the original session, or additional content was added to the scope of the project after the initial recording work was finished. The pick-up session must be done with the people who performed in the original recording session, because the content of the pick-up session is a change or an addition to the original recording. The content involved in PU sessions is typically a small amount. Specific kinds of problems that are found to necessitate pick-up sessions include:
  • Articulation Issues — Enunciation or other vocalization problems are the most common cause of pick-ups. Unclear pronunciation of brand names or other terms essential to the integrity of the recording’s meaning and quality can occur due to use of regional dialects that do not meet the standard for speech accents for recordings aired in other locales. This type of mistake is frequently not identified until after  the project is finished and someone in another area of the country hears the recording and raises the issue.
  • Script Corrections — For any number of reasons, a client may discover a need to add, remove, reword, or otherwise change some part of a script. When it is determined that the script must be changed to correct issues of clarity, accuracy, sufficiency of impact, branding consistency, unmet messaging quality benchmarks, or other corrective purposes, a pick-up becomes necessary.
  • Script Revisions — Sometimes clients find that information has not been included in the script and that they need to add one or more lines or even paragraphs to the script. If content  needs to be updated to include a new idea to improve the script’s effectiveness in its purpose, after the original recording is complete, a pick-up is required in order to replace the now effectively insufficient, or even obsolete script and deliver updated content.
Why Should You Try to Avoid Pick-Ups? Unplanned changes and additions to recording content negatively impact the budget and timeline for a project. Some of the problems that pick-ups cause for audio & video localization project producers include:
  • Forced Additional Talent Booking — Even minor PU sessions require talent booking, which can lead to serious delays of project delivery. Pick-ups must be done with the same voice talents. So, scheduling timelines are contingent on how soon people are available.
  • Impeded Post-Production Process Flows — Pick-ups can also create problems for post-production staff, requiring additional sync work, more rounds of QA, and even potential delays of workflows for unrelated projects in post-production queues, among other issues.
  • Complication of Budget Management — Control of voice-over and dubbing project budgets can be difficult when pick-ups occur. Costs can unexpectedly spiral, especially in recording projects for internationalization, involving multiple language translations.
  • Unpredicted Timeline Issues — One of the most serious consequences of pick-ups is that they can throw timelines off course, resulting in delays of roll-outs of new products, services or programs, or cause a commercial spot to miss its scheduled broadcast date.
  • Audio Engineering Challenges — Ensuring that voice-over or dubbing pick-ups blend ideally with the tone and production quality of the original audio presents a critical challenge for studio recording professionals executing pick-up recordings.
1. Use Only Complete Pronunciation Guidelines. Pronunciation problems are the most common cause of pick-ups. Ironically, it’s arguably the most preventable. Ensure that the Pronunciation Guidelines you’re using include all special terms found in scripts that will be translated. Carefully examine every section, to confirm that the standard rules for pronunciation apply to the content and to dialects at all locales targeted for release of the audio recording. Confirm the applicability of your Pronunciation Guidelines with each in-country contact. Emphasize attention to brand names and any special terminology contained in the script. 2. Adjust All Script Elements that Vary By Locale. In addition to dialect changes affecting pronunciations, information content may also vary from one audio distribution area to another. Some broadcast areas may even be regulated by local or regional laws impacting the permissibility of your content. Confirm that product designs, legal restrictions, website content and other potential local, regional and national market variables will not present obstacles to the successful distribution of your client’s audio content. 3. Ensure that the English-Language Script is Locked Prior to Recording. Pick-ups often result from script changes that are due to information or ideas that crop up after the recording is completed. Frequently, such changes can be integrated into the process prior to beginning production of a video localization or voice-over recording session. But, to ensure that that happens at the appropriate time requires making sure that all stakeholders and in-country contacts, do complete reviews and sign-off on all elements of content prior to undertaking translation and studio recording. What Can You Do When A Pick-Up Is Unavoidable? Despite the best efforts of any voice-over recording professionals, from time to time, they’re likely to be confronted with the need for pick-up sessions. When clients change scripts, or another stakeholder asks for recordings to be tweaked, pick-ups can become unavoidable. In those instances, at least there are some actions you can take to manage costs and the final outcome of a project. Add the Pick-ups to the Next Regular Session. — It’s typically more financially practical to add a bit of content to an upcoming regular recording session than to schedule a separate pick-up session. If you have an upcoming session scheduled with the same talent needed for recording the pick-up, then you can expect to save a significant amount of the pick-up cost by combining the two sessions. Of course, this solution is only applicable, if you can move up the next scheduled recording session or manage the timeline for release of the recording that requires the change(s). Reassign Talents, to Consolidate Pick-ups. — In projects involving a large number of talents, in which each has multiple characters assigned, bringing back people playing minor characters can be a seriously costly problem. Consider consolidating pick-ups of characters with very minor roles to talents whose re-recording is more extensive in scope, if they are able to persuasively perform the additional voices and preserve the quality of the performances. This solution does involve casting services, which is a cost too, and the idea is only feasible minor parts. Use Post-Production Audio Editing Tools. — Typically, this is the go-to approach to avoiding paying the cost of pick-ups is to correct the audio recording. A post-production audio editing expert, proficient with audio editing software, can sometimes, though not always, fix the bits of erroneous dialogue for you. If intonations can be matched and the content needed for use to cut in is contained in the original or another recording on-hand, this option can be a great cost-saver. Adhere to Industry Best Practices for Your Recording Content Type Avoiding the costs generated by pick-ups is essential for managing timelines and preventing project release delays for your localization recording project. Following localization recording best practices will take your team far in avoiding, or at least, minimizing the number of pick-ups that occur.
  • Ensure that every script has thoroughly reviewed and signed-off by every stakeholder before your team embarks on audio translation of the content. Further, if at all possible, ensure that the newly localized scripts are approved, internally as well as in-country.
  • Create a reference track, to record just the names and other key terms in the content. Consider finding out what options for call-ins may be possible, if you’re producing commercial recordings.
  • Use professional studio recording resources, if possible, with protocols that include  Pronunciation Guidelines, professional directors, QA controls and reliable collaboration with adequately-equipped and skilled post-production teams.
Beyond working with well-equipped and experienced localization audio production professionals, ensuring quality recording outcomes depends upon properly performing the front-end work. The preparatory phase of the project involves considerable effort, but it’s the point in the project at which you are in the best position to ensure that what can be done is done to ultimately deliver the project on budget and on schedule.  

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