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Star of Autumn – Voice Acting Behind the Scenes

Star of Autumn – Voice Acting Behind the Scenes
by admin  |  10 August 2018

Because Star of Autumn is a narrative-driven game where the player can make their own dialogue choices, voice acting forms the heart of the story. Our prototype heavily features interaction between the player (Riley) and Autumn (the station AI), with some featured lines from Haverty, the station’s lead AI programmer. We were fortunate to work with a group of amazingly talented VO artists to produce the lines necessary to tell our story and in this post we’ll explore the process of creating these VO tracks.

Take a look at the video above for a look inside the recording studio – below we interview our voice actors and dive a bit deeper into the voice acting process.

 

What approach did you take to get inside the mind of Autumn/Riley/Haverty?

 

Laila Berzins (voice of Autumn):

Autumn is a very human-like Artificial Intelligence who was built as a way to eventually replace the need for the ship to have human employees. Due to her human-like programming, she will suffer from loneliness and dissatisfaction without human contact.

Based on the character description, Autumn is not the typical robotic intelligence – she can be playful, witty, teasing, controlling, a bit of a hard-ass, and even wistful or vulnerable.  It’s unclear whether or not the player can trust her. Sometimes she seems very helpful, and at others, it appears it’s her way or the highway.

My goal for tackling Autumns’ character was to make her seem fairly objective and even-keeled, with a smart and capable demeanor, at times sprinkled with vulnerable moments and more humanity than one might expect from a typical AI.  Because of her unique programming, I wanted to make her overall tone soft and welcoming with a bit of sensuality. Her demeanor was meant to be almost completely human, with just a small amount of artificial intonation.

Jason L. White (Voice of Riley):

I started from the bottom, all the way up. Who was Riley, at his core? How might he feel in this situation? Could he do something about his current state, or does he feel hopeless? Then I layered. Is he tired, amped up, frightened, angry, etc. I literally tried to inhabit those feelings, in that situation, at that proposed timeframe in the story. Instead of being an actor trying to be a character named Riley, I did my normal acting process and became Riley instead.

Tye Nielsen (voice of Roger Haverty):

Haverty’s backstory is unique because he is Autumn’s creator, so in a way he’s intrinsically connected to the way she thinks and behaves.  It was important for me to give the point of view of a character struggling between the preservation of his creation, and the greater good of humanity.  He’s also introduced at the most frantic part of the story, so I also wanted to give him some urgency and frenetic energy.

 

What were the challenges of voicing this character? How did you confront these challenges?

 

Laila Berzins (voice of Autumn):

One challenge in voicing Autumn was that although very human, she was still artificial.  Chris and Igor referenced the realness of Scarlett Johansson in the movie “Her.” Autumn’s demeanor is overall calm, cool and collected.  Her vulnerability comes through when she confronts human-like desires; such as wanting to get off the ship and accessing her lost memories.  Having such complex emotions and thoughts while still being artificial forms a paradox. Autumn struggles between the desire to overcome her programming and think for herself, and the worry that she will simply be a slave to her programming.  Another interesting aspect of her personality- is she capable of being completely honest if it interferes with her own self preservation?

To confront the challenges of voicing Autumn, I tried to inhabit the mindset of an artificial being that had a secret desire to escape the ship and travel, the complexity of an AI with human characteristics trying to regain access to the rest of her wiped out memory, as well as her need for control. As the game progresses it’s clear that she has two sides. The vulnerable, human side that wants to gain the trust of Riley, and the analytical, calculating, and self preserving side that will not relinquish her power to anyone.  Keeping this dichotomy in mind, I understood that she might use deception or manipulation in order to ensure her needs are carried out by the PC.

Jason L. White (voice of Riley):

Unlike responding to a real life human based character, Autumn isn’t there in the physical sense, but is everywhere on the ship at once. I took this as an affect on Riley as he needs Autumn’s help, just as she needs his, yet both are learning to trust not just each other, but one another’s species/type of consciousness. This was very challenging to play with as an actor, and I’m thankful to the team for allowing me to create Riley’s outlook on life, along with them.

Tye Nielsen (voice of Roger Haverty):

From a directing standpoint, it was really new territory.  The fact that it is a branching narrative forces you to keep a close eye on the character’s state of mind.  They are reacting to their environments which differ greatly from one scene to the next, so it was important for us to keep close tabs on the perspective and attitudes of the characters.  Their relationship with one another was also constantly changing, so striking the right dynamic between them was critical to realizing the story’s many narratives.

 

How do you hope to see your character develop going forward in the plot? What kind of possible interactions with other characters excite you?

 

Laila Berzins (voice of Autumn):

I’d like to see whether Autumn is able to control her conflicting needs, or if her need for control will lead to her own demise. Can she truly care for the sanctity of human life if she was essentially designed to replace the crew? Her personality changes depending on whether or not Riley chooses to trust her. I’m curious to see just how far her humanity goes.  I enjoy the interactions she has with Riley, but see that it’s often a power struggle. Will she and Riley be able to coexist? And what will be revealed about Autumn and the rest of the crew the more that her memory is restored?

Jason L. White (voice of Riley):

I’d really dig seeing Riley become the flawed hero I think he might be on the path to become already. Maybe he and Haverty hotwire Autumn into a spaceship, and the three start their own private rescue firm, spawning multiple sequels, haha. A guy can hope!

Tye Nielsen (voice of Roger Haverty):

As the plot progresses, I’d love to see more of Roger’s backstory as it relates to his intimate interactions with Autumn.  What were his motivations with her? Were they all good? Could he see Autumn grow beyond his control?

 

Star of Autumn VO was recorded by the wonderful team at SoundBOX: LA Studio which has undergone a big recent remodel and now does feature refreshing, silent AC in the booth.

 

About the Star of Autumn Voice Actors:

Tye Nielsen

Tye Nielsen’s voiceover career started in the Commercial Endorsement department of Creative Artists Agency in 2011 where he worked to establish meaningful and creative opportunities between brands and celebrities.  Having spent so much time in the booth directing talent, he naturally fell in love with the art of voice acting. Tye then took several classes with some of the top VO teachers in the business while also exploring improv at UCB, and in 2015 became a full-time professional voice actor.  Since then he’s had the pleasure of voicing spots for brands such as Toyota, Groupon, Comcast, and many others, as well as a web promo for NBC’s hit show “The Blacklist”. Tye looks forward to continuing to grow his business in 2018 and even expanding into new, exciting areas of voiceover!
Visit Tye’s website here.

Laila Berzins:

Laila Berzins is a Connecticut native with a BA in Communications, a wild imagination, and a background in theater, professional singing, stand-up and improv.  With a decade of VO experience, she currently working as a full-time voice over artist in commercials, animated films and series, corporate narrations, and video games.

A big kid at heart, Laila has oodles of fun with every project she joyfully undertakes.  She works in numerous cartoons for clients like Disney, Nickelodeon, and Funimation, in games from Final Fantasy Explorers to Neverwinter, and Commercials from Nature Valley to Hidden Figures.

In addition to her VO life, Laila loves the theater, writes parody songs, and hopes to collaborate with a songwriter to help polish her original songs.
Visit Laila’s website here.

Jason Linere White:

Always in constant movement, be it in social media, workout groups, ADR, teaching martial arts, or speaking at VO conferences – it’s no wonder that Jason has been referred to as the “Jackie Chan” of voice over. Starting out as an on-camera childhood actor in Los Angeles, he quickly understood how to breakdown scripts, and find the “heart” of the story. Jason believes the reason is… The “inner-city.”
Growing up in multiple rough neighborhoods, and experiencing hardships at a levity different than most, he taught himself to utilize these raw emotions to bring characters he would audition for, to life. With a smile on his face, and a cartoon version of himself everywhere, he’s known throughout the VO community to be genuine and reliable. His rare ability to translate “director language” into “actor language” is a skill that he has helped others to cultivate.
Jason’s art can be heard in countless video games, national college spots, and currently as the voice of “Scrubby” of Johnson and Johnson’s – “Scrubbing Bubbles”, as well as the national voice of Lids Sports apparel brand.
Visit Jason’s website here.