A few weeks ago I posted this lovely missive after a rough week in the studio. I was in a mood, to say the least. Anyway, after 4 months that project had it's final session this week and I figured it's time for some reflection. Sure the actors have been great (mostly...), and the director killed it, but I wanted to jot down a few notes on the way things could've gone better.
-Refine your process, but don't change too much. I don't like changing things mid project. I don't update software. I don't change scripts. I don't mess with new plugins. But in this case, I made little changes to our workflow to make things faster, smoother, or just more convenient. For example, I rewrote my Python script that turns the client's xlsx into a readable Word doc for the studio. It's now more reliable, better at reporting errors, and cuts down on my post processing of the pages. Even better, when the client changed their format, new script could handle it no problem. If this was a one of session, eh, but since we were running 2 or 3 days a week... Might save 5 minutes, but that's 5 minutes you can spend doing something else.
-No complaining! Things go wrong. There are delays. Smile. Solve it. Everyone gets a few moments to vent, but that's it. It's tough to keep that professional distance when you're working with the same people for weeks or months at a time, but they're still the client. No complaining in front of the client. That's why we have bartenders.
-Being early helps, both to sessions and with deliveries. Doubly true for engineers. I got a bit complacent as we'd been running for days at a time and found the writers milling about by the coffee maker when I came in one morning. Sessions weren't delayed, but no reason to have people standing around. In the same vein, I was also able to turn around some sessions faster than expected, giving the animators and QA team a head start, which let us catch a continuity problem before an actress came in for her final session. That saves time and money and makes everybody look good.
-When necessary, lie your ding dang teeth off. Days and projects can be long, tiring, and stressful. Know when it's time to maybe polish the truth just a tiny bit to make somebody's life easier. "Do we have time for another scene?" "Uh..." <death stare from actor> "Nooooooo? There's a uh... cat food commercial coming in." "What do you think?" <death stare from director> "I defer to the director, it all sounds great so far!" "Is this decaf?" <death stare from coffee maker> "Yes. Decaf is a thing that exists."
Producing good VO is hard work, but keeping your eyes and ears open for opportunities to make things easier, whether for yourself as the engineer or anybody else on the team, can improve everybody's day and help the final product. In the end, isn't that what teamwork is all about? And also maybe I'm sorry for lying about the decaf thing.