For 2014’s San Diego Comic-Con, Nickelodeon has created a unique interactive experience that allows fans to try out their hand at voicing for animation. Located at the very heart of Nickelodeon’s booth is a mini recording studio where fans can enter, put on a set of headphones, and voice dialogue ‘live’ to clips of their favorite Nickelodeon animated show. Video footage of fans voicing their dialogue is also recorded and matched to the animated clip, which will then be e-mailed to each fan where they can see and hear themselves voice the clip side-by-side the actual animated clip itself.
I was invited to try Nickelodeon’s voice over experience setup on preview night along with several other members of the press. In the booth with me was legendary Emmy-award winning voice actor Rob Paulsen of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Animaniacs, and Pinky and the Brain fame. Being in Nickelodeon’s booth with such a legend was such an honor and a little nerve-wracking. I’ve been following voice over actors since the early 80s, so I’ve heard Rob voice hundreds of my favorite animated shows for over 30 years. I was awestruck to say the least, but Rob did his best to put me at ease.
After a few nervous greetings from me, Rob and I put on our headphones and waited for the team to queue up a clip from an episode of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles featuring Donatello and Michelangelo. Naturally, Rob would be voicing Donatello while I tried to voice Michelangelo. After hearing the 4 mandatory blips, it was a go! Nickelodeon’s team touted the setup as a karaoke voice over machine. Our dialogue lit across the bottom of the screen just like a karaoke machine. I noticed the animation would actually match in speed with our spoken speed to some extent, so we wouldn’t have to worry that our ‘dub’ was matching the lip-flaps of the animated characters. That’s quite ingenious, especially since dubbing dialogue to already filmed animation is considered an art form. This setup won’t ever replace the need for skilled dub voice actors, but at least it can make terrible voice over actors like myself look somewhat competent if at least for only a few seconds. I know I bombed the speed I needed for the last line at the end for sure, and nothing can fix that.
The experience was months in the making, and the results are simply amazing! It definitely lives up to its description as being a karaoke voice over machine. This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a voice over fan like me who has dreamed of at least watching a voice over session live. To have Rob with me there doing this side-by-side was just icing on the cake.