“Can you ‘AB’ that?”
“Give us an ‘ABC’ on line 7.”
Would you know what to do if you were asked this in a recording session?
When they request you “ABC” a line, what they want is for you to say the same line two or three different ways. The voice director or recording engineer will often ask for an “AB” in the following situations:
1. The voice actor has read the line already and they’re not quite nailing the delivery. Varying the inflection or emotion a bit on each take can help an actor get unstuck from a certain read that’s not working.
2. A script may be full of dialog (two or more people in conversation with each other), but each actor is being recorded separately. In this situation, both the director and the actor have to imagine how the other performer(s) might deliver their lines. When they compile all the voice tracks together, it needs to sound like all the characters are in the same scene, listening and responding to each other appropriately. This can be very difficult when the actors aren’t recording together. Yet the majority of projects nowadays are recorded this way! By giving a variety of reads on a line, you give the director and editors a few options to pick from as they splice all the takes together to create a fluid scene.
3. Sometimes a question arises about the intent of a particular line. Is it supposed to be a comedic moment? Dramatic? Should it be delivered with a lot of weight or underplayed and thrown away? If the clients, producers, and writers aren’t at the session to answer these questions, the person directing might want to grab a few different takes to cover all of their bases. This ensures there are multiple options to choose from if the performer’s initial interpretation is wrong.
“ABC-ing” is very common in voice records. You should only do it when asked, though. Definitely don’t go into a session giving three versions of each line unless asked to do so by the production team!
It is also an excellent tool to use on your own, whether you’re recording a spot from your home studio or simply rehearsing scripts before a session. It’s quite common for voice actors to get stuck in a certain kind of line read.
So consider the different ways a script could be interpreted and don’t always go with your first instinct on every line. By challenging yourself to find a variety of ways to deliver each line, you train yourself to become a more creative and versatile performer—one who thinks outside the box!
*This post was originally published on May 22, 2018. It has since been updated.
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