Importance of VO/MoCap Directing - Jeremy Blaustein
Here is the rundown of the conversation I had with Jeremy Blaustein who was awesome enough to give me his attention during his busy week at TGS. We covered the importance of VO/MoCap Directing as well as touched on Jeremy’s insight on the HD Collection Controversy (As it has come to be known) Enjoy!
Since Konami announced Silent Hill HD Collection was going to be released with all new voice actors there has been a big buzz and controversy on the issue. Many fans are heartbroken because they wont be able to hear their beloved voice actors that they remember from way back when. Well, what most people fail to realize with the voice performances in both SH2 and SH3 is that the VO/MoCap Director had a big impact on setting the tone and emotion of the game. I got to talk to Jeremy Blaustein, who was a key figure in Team Silent as the VO/MoCap Director for SH2-SH4, while also writing dialogue for the characters, "When I wrote the lines, I was always imagining in my mind, precisely how I wanted them to be read so when I directed the ADR sessions, it was easy to get the performances I wanted even from some of the inexperienced actors like Guy Cihi."
A VO/MoCap Director like Jeremy deserves more credit for a VA’s performance. I like to look at VO Director as a sound operator for a touring band- they can either make a good band sound bad or make a horrible band sound great. The VO director functions in a similar way, they really mold the VA’s the way they envision. They can really make something great from something that might not have been so natural to begin with.
For the production of SH2 Jeremy contributed a little more than just directing VOs and MoCaps, he also contributed to suggestions on early story development, “I was involved in throwing around game ideas with Mr. Owaku when they called me in to have a big conference and meeting about what I thought would be acceptable themes in America, even before there was a script.” Jeremy even went so far as to fill in for Guy Cihi on his MoCap during my favorite scene where James is on the burning hotel stairs.
When talking to Jeremy about the differences in the Silent Hill game’s dramatic scenes, I asked Jeremy what might have made things so different as a VO/MoCap Director between SH2, 3 and 4. “Scenes in sh3 were generally longer (than SH2 or SH4), so it was easier to approach in terms of doing a cohesive scene like a movie.” Jeremy went on to say that in terms of story, he felt that "SH4 and even SH3 lacked the incredible depth and subtlety that were so abundant in SH2." He attributed this depth to the incredible work of Mr. Owaku who he says wrote “the greatest script/screenplay in ANY video game before and since”. I should also note that Jeremy also contributed MoCap again that most people didnt know about in SH4, “I was also the FAT enemy [motion capture for the Andrew DeSalvo enemy in Silent Hill 4: The Room] and almost broke the back of my skull being overzealous in going down to a shotgun blast.” -Alchemilla Hospital
"In my opinion the best actors in silent hill were Monica horgan in SH2 and heather Morris in SH3, they were both great." Jeremy and I have a similar taste here in VA quality. While VO Directors are important he also knows that Acting is a talent that few have and I, personally, think few have in the franchise; but as we all know voice acting has a higher standard today, “These days the standards, the budgets are all higher and yes, mocap has advanced a lot too.” and apparently so has VO/MoCap Directing as well. When asking Jeremy if he felt his job has a higher standard today he said, "Well yes, I think it does because in general games themselves are more respected as an entertainment firm than they were years ago."
Jeremy told me that He keeps in touch with Mr. Yamaoka and Owaku and even saw them both at the recent Tokyo Game Show. and that he does “still work with Konami.” He also said we "will hear some news soon…" This has me interested on what news he might be referring to. Jeremy is a great VO/MoCap Director and it would be something special to see his work again in the Silent Hill universe, his work speaks for itself in both Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 specifically, both being my personal favorites of Jeremy’s.
So bottom line: What most don’t realized is VO/MoCap directors like Jeremy are a crucial part of a video game’s pacing, tone and emotion and can make or break a game. Jeremy’s work on SH2-SH4 was remarkable and because of him through the VA’s it is forever memorable. While we will still be able to enjoy Jeremy’s MoCap direction on the HD Collection, his VO Directing will be replaced by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. So just remember, the lines, tones and inflections you come to love and know through Jame’s, or Mary/Maria, or Heather, or Eddie it is help from the direction of one man, Jeremy Blaustein.
[UPDATE:] After viewing a video of some criticisms of the voice work in SH2 by Mary Elizabeth MCGlynn, Jeremy wanted to point out that "the pacing problems in the game dialog were NOT simply the result of the way they were recorded in the booth but were also affected by the hardware at the time and the way the dialog was called up by the program. It resulted in some awkward pauses between speaking characters." Jeremy also defended the voice work of Donna who voiced Angela saying "What Many failed to understand is that the voice actors were also constrained in their timing because they had to match the pace and tempo of their movements from the mocap session. Essentially the actors were doing the voice-overs to picture and it could not be altered so the pacing of the delivery was circumscribed by that. Donna also did one of the best performances in SH3 as the leader of the cult, Claudia. She also happens to be a fantastic singer."
With regards to the controversy in general, Jeremy says it is very regretful to him that "some of the better performances like the characters of Mary/Maria, Eddie, Heather and the other characters from SH3 could not be saved because of the lawsuit threats by one of the actors on SH2." He feels that those threats were ultimately a disservice to the hard work put in by everyone involved at the time. "It’s kind of like cutting off your nose to spite your face, if you ask me," Jeremy said. "It is my recollection that all of the actors in SH2~4 were paid well and releases were signed (as they always are) when actors agree to give up their rights to their work. It’s the way it is done and I have never worked with any actor who demanded residuals and in fact no one else from any of the other games made any such demands.”