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September 13, 2012 / Randy Coppinger

Taking Damage

A common task for voice actors in game dialog recording sessions is taking damage. The key challenge is providing a wide variety of reactions to getting hit. Here are some different approaches to creating a large number of unique sounds.

Imagine being hit in specific places: face, chest, arm, stomach, leg, etc. You tend to make different kinds of sounds when you are hit in different places; getting kicked in the gut will sound very different than a face slap.

Form your reactions based on different vowel sounds. Go ahead and vary the pitch while you’re at it.

Go short, medium, and long with the length. Or any kind of time based variation that’s easy to remember.

It seems like the first instinct is a relaxed, open mouth. Try clenched teeth, wide open mouth, sideways jaw, extended lips and any other mouth manipulations you can dream up.

Typically impact reactions are recorded in sets of regular fighting, less intense (such as a poke or bump), and huge impacts. Try to find different shades within those groupings so that some reactions are more intense than others.

Certainly a person can perform combinations of two, three, or more single damage reactions strung together. But an actor can also start with one kind of reaction and transform it to another. For example: take the pitch high to low. Or low to high. Or morph the vowel, mouth shape, intensity, etc. And you can change more than one thing at a time for lots of variety. Voice sessions with morphing impacts are next level fun.

If you know some other techniques, please share. Like my actor friends did: More Damage

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  1. chriswinter92 / Sep 13 2012 1:40 pm

    I read the whole article making all sorts of “hurt” noises. I guess that means its a great article, as always of course.

    • Randy Coppinger / Sep 13 2012 1:44 pm

      Excellent. Thanks for reading and willingly subjecting yourself to the damage. šŸ™‚

  2. Brad Dyck (@Brad_Dyck) / Sep 13 2012 11:08 pm

    This information will come in useful, thanks!

  3. James Bell / Sep 15 2012 7:18 am

    Exclamations of pain I’ve heard in various libraries tend to sound terrible. Aside from a lack of decent acting, another big problem is because a real cry of agony will empty the lungs completely and the ones I’ve heard always finish while the actor still has a lot of breath left. Something I’ve been experimenting with to get around this is to exhale as much air as possible first – it gives a far more strained/stressed sound.

  4. Jason Cushing / Sep 16 2012 11:39 am

    I find that generally voice actors “over act” their reactions and it turns out not being believable for the listener. Granted, it depends on what genre of game it is of course! I try to encourage actors to experiment a bit until we have something that is more believable as being real. breathes, spit, exhales, coughs, whinces, gurggles all thrown in lightly sometimes add to making it sound more real and engaging. I also find the more variety you have for one set of “hurt” sounds can help sell it….so like you said different reactions for different body parts….as long as game supports it in code! šŸ™‚

    • Randy Coppinger / Sep 16 2012 8:40 pm

      As you suggest, there are many factors beside the acting. If the director wants over the top, the actor will probably oblige. And if the development team selects the more dramatic performances, the situation is amplified. Everyone has to work together to build something great.


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