Video Game Voices and How to Find Them
You've decided that you want voice over in your game. Great! Voice over can add a whole other level of awesomeness to your project and can bring your characters to life. However, before you write a bunch of dialogue or narration, it's important to know what to expect when it comes to hiring voice talent. Where do you find the actors? How much should you spend?
This guide is my attempt at helping shine a little light on the subject. I say attempt because I want to be clear that this is solely based off of my experience as a voice actor working within the industry for the past 5 years. I've worked with a lot of indie developers and have auditioned for projects on a wide variety of sites, agencies, etc.
Scope of Work
Before we get started, it's important to know how much work you're planning on having your voice talent take on. Do you only need one or two lines recorded? Maybe it's a "silent" protaganist that has a long list of sounds like breathing, getting hurt, or jumping. Or perhaps your game is a dialogue heavy character driven experience. Do you only need one voice actor? Or 20? Either way, this will help you determine your budget.
Ultimately it is up to you to decide you much you want to spend. The main three ways you can price the work are as follows:
X amount of money per line- generally used if you have mutliple characters with varying amounts of lines
Flat rate for the whole project
Hourly rate - The standard for working professionals. Most will be negotiating around this.
Find voice talent that fits your games budget
Finding talent that fits the budget
There are a crazy amount of voice actors out there, and each one of them has their own unique talent and experience to offer. Some are brand new to the industry. Others are veterans who have been doing this since the 80's. As you might expect, the veterans are going to cost more.
The following will go over different websites and resources you can use to find varying levels of talent, and how much you can expect to spend using them.
The websites listed below are where many aspiring (and some more experienced) voice actors find their work. A majority of the voice actors here might not have a lot of training or experience and their recording equipment will be pretty basic. However, there are certainly some full time voice actors who still use these sites as well. A small portion of the projects on these sites do pay, and some pay pretty well. I have also seen very talented actors do free work because they truly are interested in the project. So overall, if you plan to post your auditions on these sites, expect the large majority of responses to have recording issues or beginning acting skills. Of course, if you advertise your project as being paid and include a rate that is enticing, you will see more of the experienced voice actors come forward.
Your local college! - Seriously, check out the theater department. You'll find talented and willing participants.
To give you a more clear idea of what to expect and to let you judge for yourself, here is a link to some demos listed on the VAA forum (Voice acting club)
These are sites that want you to pay your talent at least a little bit. Anyone with a microphone and a demo is able to sign up, so you're not guaranteed to get a lot of experienced pros auditioning for your game. However, these are also people who are somewhat past the point of happy to do anything at all just to gain experience. So expect mainly beginner to intermediate level talent.
Examples of demos:
Alright, so now we get into the sites that require the voice talent to pay a good chunk of money to be able to audition for projects. This means that the actors here are serious about their work and feel they have the talent and experience to be able to at least make back the initial investment. Expect intermediate to professional level talent.
http://voice123.com/ ($50 minimum)
https://www.bodalgo.com ($100 minimum)
Examples of demos:
Additional: https://voicebunny.com ($50 minimum)
Voicebunny does not require a paid membership for talent, so beginner to intermediate is more likely. An important note here is that Voicebunny marks up their prices by 70%. So if you pay $100 for some lines, the voice actor only receives $30. I would suggest saving your money by going elsewhere.
(You may notice I haven't included one of the major players for this section. I cannot recommend them because of their unethical business practices. So please avoid Voices dot com)
$250-$400 minimum *
If you don't mind a middle man and filling out a bit more paperwork, these are actually rates you can expect using a Talent Agency. This is for NON-UNION talent. At this point, we are talking strictly hourly rates. Most agents will try to get you to the $400/hr level, but I have seen several auditions from my agent come in around the $200/hr mark.
The advantage here is that the voice actors you book will be professionals. They are trained, experienced, and of course heavily screened before being accepted into the agency.
Here is a nifty site that lets you search for Talent Agencies near you!
$627.25-$908 minimum *
So you want Troy Baker, Tara Strong or Nolan North to be in your game? Now you're looking at UNION Talent Agencies. This rate is for 4 hours minimum. Now that doesn't mean you have to come up with 4 hours worth of work for them. They could finish your script in 30 minutes and you'll still need to pay the full amount.
Search for Union Talent Agencies near you:
There are tons of voice actors who do their own negotiating and participate in meetups, online forums and facebook groups etc. They're hitting the pavement finding clients who most likely do not know of all the sites I have provided you so far. You might have experienced this already yourself. Especially if your game is on Kickstarter or Indiedb, you most likely had a good amount of voice actors approaching you for work. If you find yourself wanting to work with a talent that you've found outside of the previous resources, then now it's down to negotiating. Sometimes the voice actor will have their rates set and will try to keep you within them. Others are a bit more flexible. And by flexible I mean they might initially try for $350/hr, but might be willing to go as low as $100/hr. It's really up to both you and the talent to come to an agreement.
If you want even more places to find voice actors, you can try the following:
https://www.youtube.com/user/OnlineVoiceActors1/Videos - search through a database
https://www.craigslist.org - Post your project
https://www.linkedin.com - can search for voice acting related groups or through networking
Thank You! Please check out Part 2 - Casting and Directing
I hope this article has been helpful and that you leave with a better understanding of how to go about finding voice actors that fit your budget. If you have any questions, or find any issues with the information I've provided, please feel free to comment or contact me! As I mentioned in the beginning, this is largely based off of my own experiences and research as a working voice actor within the industry. Thanks again!
This pricing doesn't include studio fees or any additional agency charges.
About the Author
Tamara is a full time voice actress who has voiced over a hundred different characters for games, animation and more. She has been working professionally in the field for over 5 years and has also done marketing work for several indie game studios. You can hear her demos here and review her official credits here.