Interview: New Generation Pictures and Street Fighter IV

by Zac Bertschy,

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We sat down with New Generation Pictures and a handful of their staff for the English language voice adaptation of the Street Fighter IV videogame and its accompanying animated OVA, which is available only in the special edition version of the game. We had a total of 4 people involved in this roundtable discussion; we'll let them introduce themselves…

TW: Travis Willingham, I'm the voice of Guile in Street Fighter IV.

LB: Laura Bailey, I play Chun-Li.

TJ: Taliesin Jaffe, the voice of Blanka, and also the voice director for Street Fighter IV.

JK: Jonathan Klein, from New Generation Pictures, one of the producers of the English language version, along with Reiko Matsuo. We produced the English version for Capcom Entertainment.

ANN: So right up front, let's just go with the super obvious question; you all are long time veterans in the world of anime dubbing, and now you're working on a lot of video games. Let's talk about the differences between those two – you've all done plenty of games at this point. For you, professionally, what's the biggest difference?

LB: It depends on the type of game, obviously. With Street Fighter, it wasn't as different as some of the other games we've done, because we were recording to some of the videos that already existed, and Taliesin can speak to that…

TJ: There are some really interesting differences to recording for video games. The most obvious one is lip flap; we had only a little bit of animation finished when we recorded this, so there were only a few times when we had any picture to play off of. In many instances there was no picture at all and we had no idea what the character even looked like; we went off of what we knew from Street Fighter II, and we had no idea if there would be any massive changes to the character design. We were really sort of flying blind, but we were flying blind in really familiar territory, so that was kind of nice.

One of the other – really bizarre, but possibly not obvious – differences in recording a video game like this is that with anime there's really a set pace to what you're doing, so you have your script, you know where it's going, you know where your character is going and the inevitable end, but with a video game the pacing is really decided by the players, so you're recording with the hope that it'll all work out. Mostly it's understanding that a lot of this dialogue is going to be free floating and a lot of it will be repetitive, and you have to be really careful that you're not creating something that's going to grate too quickly, and also lines that can stand by themselves, conversations whose pacing isn't set. So you're kind of at the mercy of new elements.

JK: I would say, just as both a producer and a director, one of the biggest differences between anime and video games is that anime is very linear, storywise, and you're directing the actor through the course of that story, and you can see the development as it goes along. With games – more with RPGs, but even with this game – it's going in all different directions. First you have the fighting sequences, then you have the pre-fighting sequences, and the post-fighting sequences, and then the anime bits that go in between the fighting sequences, and so it goes in so many different directions. There's no sense of linearity like you have with anime, so it's like ‘where are we, what part of the story are we in’. Fighting games can be a little easier, but with RPGs, it can be really complicated.

TJ: I had two sliding glass closet doors that had all these crazy photographs and lines and lines crossed out and notes written and graphs just to figure it all out…

LB: Yeah, it can be confusing in video games, since you don't really know how it's all going to work out, or what part in the game you're coming in at when you're recording it.

So given that process – where you're recording pieces of dialogue for the story portion of the game, and the rest is fighting – is it like, you record a little bit of story and then you grunt for a week? How hard is it on your throat to do the “NNGH!” bits?

TJ: …Every relationship I've ever had, a little bit of story and then you grunt for a week… [laughter]

LB:  Actually, it doesn't take nearly as long as you might think…

JK: Well, you don't want to blow their voices out until they're out the door… [laughter]

So it really does screw with your voice…

TW: Yeah, it can.

LB: I was just recording on a game this morning and it was all shouting shouting shouting, and my throat is still feels like hamburger.

Now you guys have all done a lot of roleplaying games, is recording for a fighting game similar to shouting attack names in an RPG?

TW: Depends on the length of the attack; if it's one or two words, like, you know – SONIC BOOM!, you have to kinda ramp it up and it's like doing any other attack for a specific character.

LB: But there aren't as many crazy attack names as there in RPGs. You're doing this big grand spell attack and there's like huge spell effects and all that…

TJ: Well, there was a lot of kineticsm in this, which I found kind of exhausting, because you didn't have a moment to rest, and there wasn't a lot of large, grandiose moments – it was all “NNNRGGGHH!” or “GRRRAAAHHH!”

LB: Yeah, it's actually hard to do the short ‘n sweet, really fast stuff since it's such high energy all the time.

JK: This is essentially a port of an arcade game, and arcade games are really fast and have to have that energy. I don't think an arcade gamer would want to sit through a 30-second spellcasting… at least, the arcade owners wouldn't want it, because they'd be, you know, losing quarters. But in terms of the console version it's a straight port with the English voices, of course, and there's a story mode, and that's where you'll get more of the dialogue. Otherwise it's pretty short and sharp, except for the special attacks, which have a build to them.

Now, you also recorded an OVA for this?

TJ: Well, the funny thing is that they hadn't finished it when we recorded it – we haven't seen it. That Chun-Li animation that was released, the preview, that was the first time we saw that.

LB: We recorded to storyboards and sketches a lot of the time.

JK: And audio tracks.

LB: Yeah, as a reference, and say ‘well, I guess that's about how much time it would take to say that…”

So you had to guess the lip flaps?

LB: Yeah.

JK: We tried to be as close as possible to the Japanese but obviously the way Japanese and English are delivered – the Japanese love to do that dramatic mid-sentence pause, which doesn't really work in English, unless you're William Shatner, of course. I hope it came out good – I'm very happy with all the performances.