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November 27, 2013 / Randy Coppinger

Khris Brown

Fear Is A LiarFew Tweeters inspire me like Khris Brown. If you like game audio, voice acting, and joy — follow her. So when she came to Southern California recently, I invited Khris to meet in person.

If I haven’t previously met someone, I like to offer a beverage because it’s pretty simple and open… maybe we meet at a bar, maybe we meet at a coffee shop. Khris replied, “Let’s have hot chocolate.” It was the first of many unexpected answers.

I asked Khris what she looked for in a recording engineer for her game dialog sessions. A top qualification tends to be speed, since the voice director and actor usually put a premium on being able to keep a quick pace. But Khris put more worth in empathy. She gave an example of an actor being late for a recording session because there was bad traffic. If the engineer is focused on time, s/he might hurry that person in to the booth and get the actor on mic as quickly as possible. But a recording engineer who values the human element might instead offer her/him a cup of tea, or find other ways to help the actor transition out of traffic and into a mindset for interpreting a script on mic. I like Khris’ perspective on this because I know the first set of takes could be a waste of time if the actor isn’t mentally and emotionally ready to perform. Either you retake that first set, or you keep some potentially mediocre, even bad performances.

Khris also used the term Invisible Engineer, which really resonated with me. When the engineer’s role is given center stage it can take focus away from capturing a great performance. But when the engineer seamlessly blends technology into the activities of performers and producers, the engineer seems invisible. I have long believed that technology should serve the creative pursuits of the people who come to the studio, and that the engineer guides the guests to the best results technology provides. When it’s done well, the good engineer goes unnoticed.

Later, Khris told me one of the best metaphors I’ve heard in a long time. She referred to the voice director as the lead dog of a dog sled team. Every dog’s effort is important for pulling that sled, and they must work together to reach the destination, but the front dog bears an important responsibility. Apparently good sled dogs can smell thin ice. Yes, smell it. The lead dog needs to detect trouble before it arrives to keep itself and everyone else on solid footing. The director, like the front sled dog, must be able and willing to guide the journey through the dialog script — instinctively — for the safe travel of the whole team.

My thanks to Khris for the insights and I look forward to the next episode of hot chocolate.


See also: Q&A: Veteran director Khris Brown on the secrets of great voice acting

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