Friday, 24 February 2012

The Water in Majorca...

This week Creative Content sound editor Al gives us his view on ... accents!

I've spoken about many aspects of audio books before, and during these past few months I've been lucky to edit some fabulous audio titles. The time I've been spending listening has opened my ears to one of the key skills required by an audio narrator - the ability to read in different  accents . This is an essential tool in the narrator’s  armoury. 

Recently too, I've become aware of several British actors playing American characters in some of the big US shows that are broadcast here in the UK - of those that I've seen, some are English, some Welsh, but  all are superb at playing characters with American accents. It works in reverse too, with many US born actors playing British characters, showing great versatility and flexibility - give it a try yourselves - try to read a paragraph of text in an accent that is alien to you - it's not as easy as you might think!

With so many of the books that I work on for audio being character driven, it's no wonder that the audio narrator is required to summon up all manner of accents for those characters, but, rather than just having to be one specific character, the audio narrator might be called upon to be: English, Australian, American, Norwegian, Canadian, Welsh and many more all in the one audio book!  

A title that I am working on at the moment has a high proportion of Scottish characters as the book is set in Glasgow, but amazingly, the narrator has to produce different  Glaswegian accents for different parts of the city. I also recently edited a title that was set in Norfolk and again, the narrator had to not only affect a Norfolk "twang" but had to give it regional variety – additionally, the characters were a mix of male and female too!  This was a tall order, but one that the narrator achieved brilliantly - and most importantly consistently (keep in mind also, that some of these titles run to ten hours plus in length!)

Most of us never have to think about speaking in a different accent in our everyday lives, let alone have to perform and project in an audio book narration, so let's spare a thought for this hugely important skill that quality audio narrators have to possess - for them it's a question of preparation, application, accuracy and continuity when it comes to character accents - believe me, the listener pays great attention to detail! 

By the way, the (possibly) puzzling title of this week's Blog is taken from the classic Heineken advert from (I think) the early 1980s), in which the student  can only speak in a very precise English accent. Her tutor is trying to get her to speak in a broad cockney accent, but she can't do it...until she drinks the Heineken lager. If only it were that easy for the audio narrator! - Al Muirden

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