Behind the Scenes Panels

Two "Behind the Scenes" panels were presented at NDK this year; one featured Clarine Harp and Patrick Seitz discussing DVD production, while the second featured Chris Cason discussing voice acting and recording.

Clarine and Patrick spent most of the panel discussing the typical steps that Funimation goes through to produce a DVD.  First, Funimation acquires a license to produce a particular product (either animated or live action).  Typically, Funimation will announce that they have acquired a license shortly after the contract is signed.  This is often before any material (scripts, audio, video, etc.) have been received from Japan.  In order to proceed, Funimation needs access to music and speech as seperate audio tracks.  Once these materials arrive, production goes into full swing.  A low quality version of the audio and video, as well as Japanese scripts are sent to the translation department.  Clarine stressed the importance of choosing an appropriate translator depending on the subject of the property.  For example, some translators are better at working with comedies, while others have a better knowledge of historical events.  After the translation is complete, the script adapter or writer begins to prepare the script.  This step primarily consists of taking the raw translation and adjusting it to fit mouth flaps or to improve dialogue for the actors.  Patrick noted that this can sometimes mean substituting different jokes at times when the original script used an obscure cultural reference, pun, or word play that cannot be directly translated.  Finally, the completed script is sent to ADR to begin the recording.

During the question and answer period that followed the main portion of the panel, Clarine and Patrick discussed some of the particulars of DVD production and some of the challenges that Funimation faces in adapting anime for the U.S. Audience.  They noted that the translation of puns and word play is often difficult.  Typically, a different joke has to be substituted.  Historically references can also be difficult for a translator to catch and note for the script adapter.  Clarine noted that Funimation employs only five subtitlers, who are often busy working on Simulcast shows.  Other shows get lower priority to the Simulcast due to the time sensitivity of the Simulcast.  On the subject of licenses, Clarine said that typically the Licensor holds the rights to the adaptation that Funimation produces.

The Chris Cason panel focused on the nuts and bolts of recording.  The first step in recording is to pick voice actors to play the various parts.  As in many other segments of the acting profession, roles are decided on the basis of auditions.  When an actor comes in to audition for a show, they are typically asked to read for three characters.  After all of the actors have auditioned, the director goes through his notes and recordings, then chooses the cast.  Chris said that most directors for anime will pick the voice actors on the basis of an ensemble cast.  That is, the director will not necessarily pick the single actor best for each role; rather, he or she will pick a group of actors that sound good together as the various characters.  During recording, there are typically only three people present: the actor, the director, and the recording engineer.  These three people work together to craft the final recording that is seen in the finished show.  However, the director is ultimately responsible for the finished product, because he or she is the one selecting which of the various takes recorded should be used.  For a typical 13 episode series, it takes one week full-time to record each major character's dialogue.

During the question and answer period, Chris talked about some of the challenges that voice actors face that are different from other types of acting.  Typically, scripts are not available prior to recording due to non-disclosure agreements.  This means that the actors do not reherse prior to recording their dialogue.  In fact, the first time they read the script is in the recording booth.  

Overall, I found both of these panels to be worthwild and full of useful information about the practical side of anime prodution.