by Veron U. Calaguas
Veron U. Calaguas is one of the pioneers in Telenovela dubbing and script translations aired over RPN 9. Most notable is her voice acting work in “Marimar” and “Maria La Del Barrio” as the lead and in “La Traidora” as Dayana Montoya, the lead antagonist. She is likewise one of the pioneers for GMA 7 in the same genre, including voice acting for cartoons. Her projects included “Agujetas de Color de Rosa,” “Cara Sucia,” “Yo Soy Betty La Fea,” and the cartoon series “Starla & the Jewel Riders, " Skydancers,” “Mojacko,” “Doraemon,” “Powerpuff Girls,” and many others. Prior to dubbing, Veron worked both on stage as an actor, narrator, and singer, and off stage as a director, musician, stage manager, assistant stage manager, and crew in various theater productions like PETA’s “Exodo," Repertory Philippines’ “Little Shop of Horrors” and Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Sa Kuko ng Liwanag,” the first stage adaptation of the late Lino Brocka’s film “Maynila, Sa Kuko ng Liwanag” to name a few.
Throughout this whole quarantine or lockdown in our country and the world over, it is evident that social media has played a pivotal role. Primarily, it has kept people stay connected when circumstances have forced us to distance ourselves from one another and stay in our own places.
The Film Dream has seized this rare opportunity to serve the public by creating an avenue whereby relevant stories can still be told to an audience hungry for a different menu other than news about the Coronavirus. These notes on Voice Acting serve as a sketch or background for those who may wish to sample this art form.
Let’s begin with understanding the concept of Voice Acting. Wikipedia defines it as “the art of performing voice-overs or providing voices to represent a character or provide information to an audience or user.” The Encarta Dictionary defines it as “providing the voice over for a character in a cartoon or a radio or television advertisement.” The term comprises two components – Voice and Acting.
In this perspective, Voice can be understood as one of the main tools or instruments for acting or performing that an actor has or uses. Acting, on the other hand, is giving life to a character or to a story or simulating reality.
Eric Morris, in his book “No Acting Please”, defines acting as “the art of creating genuine realities on stage.”
But we know that includes film, television, radio, and at present, social media.
Our Voice, as a tool or instrument, needs to be “exercised or tuned up”. Why? So as to prepare it for the task at hand. How do we do this? There are 3 important ways to prepare our voice:
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
2. Vocal exercises
3. Physical care
Diaphragmatic Breathing, which is literally breathing using our diaphragm, gives us lung power to be able to say a long line, for example, without losing our breath midway. It is also the proper or correct way of breathing.
Vocal Exercises aim to build our vocal stamina and train us on the clarity of pronunciation and enunciation.
Physical Care teaches us how to preserve our vocal quality and attributes and to avoid doing anything that would harm our voice. Having ample sleep and drinking lukewarm water are good examples of caring for our voice.
It would be good to know that we have vocal resonators in our body that help us produce and give tonal quality to our voice. These are, from top to bottom, the head, nose, throat, chest, and diaphragm.
Equally important to note as well are the elements of voice namely:
1. Tone – how the character comes through in your words; the attitude, style, emotional quality of the voice
2. Pitch – highness or lowness in recorded frequency
3. Pace – speed , pausing
4. Projection – loudness or softness
5. Intonation – inflection
In order to give life to a character and ultimately, the story, we have to study the script thoroughly. The script gives us clues as to the type of character we are assigned to do. What is not obvious from the script, we try to create from our own ideas and imagination. What for? So that our character becomes more three dimensional. To do this we have to fill in the physical, emotional, psychological, and social backgrounds of the character we are playing.
Likewise, in creating a genuine reality, we strive for truth in acting. We ask ourselves, “How can I make it real to me? How can I make the character’s reality, as given in the script, real for me?” This challenges the actor in making his or her performance more interesting, captivating the audience. The tools of an actor are the following:
1. Body & Voice
2. Thoughts & Imagination
5. Impulses & Instincts
We lend our own thoughts, emotions, and impulses to the character by finding parallels in our own life experiences. This gives our performance authenticity and differentiates it from other actors’ portrayal of the same character. Truth in acting can also be attained if we allow ourselves to believe in the story of the character, to believe that the character we are playing is a real person.
In the above-mentioned definitions of Voice Acting, the term voice-over was mentioned. Voice-Over is more commonly used for off-stage, off-screen, or non-visible characters in various works. We then readily think of animated features from Walt Disney or Pixar Studios and the like. But based on what for or how it is used, it also includes stage plays, feature films, television programs, radio and audio dramas, commercials, documentaries, dubbed foreign language films, puppet shows, video games, amusement rides, audiobooks, audio games, etc.
In fact, there are different types of voice acting in relation to how or what it is used for:
1. Character Voices – as in animation, live-action, and radio dramas;
2. Narration – conveys a story to the audience;
4. Translation – where we hear the original language in the background in a softer or lower volume;
5. Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR) or “Looping” – the changing of an original line of dialogue or a part of it to improve audio quality or to follow censorship rules;
6. Automated Announcements – usually heard in malls, elevators, commuter trains, telephones, etc.;
7. AI-Generated & AI-Modified Voice – the use of software to generate and modify the human voice as in cyber-games.
In the Philippine setting, it would be interesting to note certain differences between the terms voice acting or voice over and dubbing. To differentiate, dubbing is putting your voice in place of another person’s. The other main difference lies in the range of creativity a voice actor/actress, or voice talent as they are usually referred to, can exercise in the given material. While a radio drama, audiobook, or storytelling would allow the actor to create his or her character accordingly, the dubbing of foreign language television series or films limits the voice talent to what has already been done or given by the original actor/actress in the video. There is not much room for creativity other than varying one’s voice to distinguish characters assigned to the voice talent. The main similarity lies in the “play” of voice to tell apart characters if the voice talent is given not just one role.
As in our discussion about Voice and Acting, Voice Acting has its set of tools or instruments that are necessary to carry out the task. These are:
3. Voice or the Voice Talent
5. Thoughts / Imagination
Important Things to Consider & Remember in Voice Acting
1. Vocal Tone – attitude, style, emotional quality, the way a voice actor speaks
2. Clarity – of words & emotions
3. Unitizing – understanding the events, episodes, facts the character gets into from the script or story to help identify or clarify the emotions called for
4. Phrasing - the grouping of words marked by pauses, breaths, emphasis, speed changes, or tone that convey some coherent thought and emotion