Tag Archives: voice-overs

On voice-overs, and testing story apps

Our chat with Michel Kripalani, Founder and President of Oceanhouse Media continues.

4.  The voice-over is an important aspect of The Cat in the Hat. Tell us about the planning and production of this aspect. Who takes care of that? Were there many audition tapes before the final version was arrived at?

Michel Kripalani: Greg Uhler starts the process by pulling the script together and determining our character voice needs.

As the director for our voice-over (VO) sessions, Karen Kripalani oversees all of our VO casting. A former actress, and VO artist for over 15 years in Los Angeles, Karen takes the script and character breakdown that Greg provides, and auditions 15-to-30 actors. She shares her top choices with Greg and other members of our team. From there, we get approval from our licensors.

Then it’s time to record in the studio. Great care is taken to get the performance we want. Clarity for the listener, and emotion and pacing intended by the author.

Finally, the files are processed and implemented into the app. It’s quite an in-depth process, but we believe that our attention to detail comes through in the final product.

5.  You just brought out the much-anticipated Fox in Socks. Your press release states “. . . . Jump in and join the fun, but take it slowly because this book is dangerous for your tongue!”  Was this project a unique departure from the previous Dr. Seuss titles you’ve done so far?

Michel Kripalani: Although the core architecture remains the same, each app inevitably gets some customization, whether it is a unique text effect, a visual special effect, or new way for us to play sound.

Because of each story’s uniqueness, we focus more on efficient processes to do the things common to each app, so that we have more cycles to devote to the new and special things each individual app requires.

The secondary answer to this question is that each app itself is unique in the presentation, the actor’s delivery and the audio treatment. Using the same tools “under the hood” simply means that we have a consistent starting point. Each app attains its own magic by the time it is released.

Green Eggs and Ham for the iPad

6. You test your apps with a variety of audiences. Have you discovered any surprise feedback that proved useful? And do you include reading specialists among your testers?

Toddlers playing with an iPad app

Michel Kripalani: Feedback we receive will often trigger the design and development of a new feature.

The first few omBooks ™ shipped with only two ways to read the book:  Read to Me (the narrated version) and Read it Myself (no narration).  We thought we had our entire audience covered, from kids to adults.

A few weeks after shipping our first omBooks, we starting getting feedback at iTunes and through emails, saying the apps weren’t well-suited for toddlers.  We thought, that’s what Read to Me is for, isn’t it?  The book will read to the kid, right? Wrong.

We discovered that toddlers were interacting with the apps in an entirely different way than we’d imagined! Toddlers would “sloppy tap” with multiple fingers — or palms (or hands!).

They loved things that looked like buttons, so they kept tapping the on-screen Return button and going to the main menu! And since we normally use swipes to turn pages, “sloppy taps” were causing the pages to turn, frustrating the little ones!

Toddler interacts with iPad

We then realized we needed a third way for users to experience the apps. Auto Play allows parents to start the book, hand their device to the toddler, and know that the entire book will be read to them from beginning to end.

Words still highlight. Artwork still pans and zooms. Pictures can still be tapped on. Music and sound still play. But page turning and returning to the main menu were disabled. Our apps were now toddler approved!

"All by Myself" by Mercer Mayer, for the iPad

"All by Myself" by Mercer Mayer, for the iPad

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Tomorrow: On digital rights

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On art media, sound, and teamwork

Our discussion about the making of the iPad story app “A Present for Milo” continues. . . .

Mike Austin, 1968

Mike Austin, 1968

7. What art media did you use? And what computer apps did you use yourself?

Mike Austin: I use a lot of scanned textures in my illustration, so before I began I gathered up a folder of all the things I wanted to use (different kinds of paper, cloth, banana leaves, etc.), I worked in Illustrator and Photoshop on the Mac.

8. What was the approval process or protocol between you, Rubin, Sequel Digital, and The Ruckus Media Group? Time frame?

Rubin Pfeffer: It was an iterative process — we approved it as we went along.  I touched base with Ruckus at key points along the way.

Ruckus had the same objective:  Great storytelling. They were actually more resolved to avoid gratuitous clickables that might suggest anything gimmicky.

The intent all along was to deliver a delightful reading experience that very young children would enjoy, and in turn, would be endorsed by parents and educators.

Mike Austin: It was a great collaboration between everyone.  It went very smoothly.  Sharon, Ken and I would communicate just about every day, with cc to Rubin.

We focused on one screen at a time. I would send the layered Photoshop files of the finished screens to Sharon for review. Ken would program the screen, and then send a prototype app that Rubin and I could upload to the iPad for proofing.

It was so funny, because I would get the app loaded, and then start jumping up and down, screaming “THIS IS SO COOL!!!!” The farther along we got the funnier our video Skypes became.

Joy Chu: Could you address the topic of voice-over? That is, did reading the text aloud have an effect upon who was selected to do the vocals? Who was responsible for that end of it?

Rubin Pfeffer: Mike’s reading was the most natural.  He recorded a preliminary track that we planned to use only for visual pacing.

We’d always intended to bring in a professional reader. When it was time to do the actual voice-over, we did a test with a professional.  It was very good, but it lacked the authenticity that we’d come to enjoy from Mike’s voice.

 

So we sent Mike back to the studio to re-read the manuscript. This time he was the voice celebrity. It just wouldn’t have been the same with someone else.

Most of the sound decisions were invented and decided between Mike and the Sequel Creative team, Sharon and Ken Streger. They had great fun “illustrating” with sound!

I got to see what a silly kid-at-heart Mike is, by listening to the many sounds that he himself is able to make up, right there on the phone.

Mike Austin today

Mike Austin today