Arts & Culture / Mosaic / January 16, 2013

Knox student voices Japanese cartoons

Senior Sam Butler describes the difficulty and learning curves of voice acting for Funimation, an American production company that focuses on anime cartoons. Butler also talks about how her experience with writing workshops at Knox prepared her to accept constructive criticism while recording in the studios. (Casey Mendoza/TKS)

Hearing one’s own voice played back on a video or an audio file is often a strange one: Can this really be accurate? Senior Sam Butler lived that experience several times this past year, only she went home with a paycheck and her voice gave life to several small roles in anime series and a movie, all due to be released later this year.

The only self-professed anime fan in her household, Butler had some explaining to do when she brought home stories from work.

“[My family was] like, ‘Oh, cartoons. You’re voicing cartoons? Aren’t those for kids?’” Butler said. “They kind of don’t know what to make of it, but I’ve always been the weird one.”

Butler got her start as a voice actor after she made contact with FUNimation, an entertainment company based in Dallas, Tex., at an anime convention at which she was a panel member. A few emails and one two-hour audition later, Butler and her voice had a job to do.

“It’s really funny,” Butler said. “When they record what you say … it takes [them] like four seconds of maybe 40 button [clicks], really fast, and suddenly your voice is playing in sync with the [character’s] mouth.”

While in the recording booth, Butler had what could be a sensory overload to some. In addition to having one screen in front of her displaying her dialogue and another showing the animation, a series of beeps played through her headphones to cue each new line. When one scene had three lines from her character, she was instructed to say them one after the other with only a cue in between.

“The first time they had me do that, I managed to do it,” Butler said.

But upon the second take, she realized that mastering the quick response of voice-acting would take time.
“I could never do it all three in a row again. I just got too freaked out.”

Unable to rely on her facial expressions or body language, Butler had to put all of her emotion into her voice. After doing some theater work in high school, the new tactic took some getting used to.

“You’re acting with another person who doesn’t know you exist, so they don’t wait for you if you’re feeling a dramatic pause,” Butler said. “They don’t exactly slow down to let you have your moment.”

But overall, Butler says the experience has been a positive one, and that her time in creative writing workshops at Knox has helped her develop a thicker skin in the recording booth.

“Instead of being like, ‘Ah, they didn’t like me!’ it’s like, ‘All right. Let’s do it [again],’” Butler said. “And you keep going.”

As far as any plans for after graduation, Butler is leaving herself open to opportunities for more voice-over work.
“If you get to be one of those top-notch [voice] actors … you kind of have [security],” Butler said. “Maybe someday I’ll get there.”

Blair Peters

Tags:  anime cartoons FUNimation japanese sam butler texas voice acting

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