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Jason Kempnich

It was around mid 2000. I was an occasional visitor to the Sev Wide Web. I'd even bought the Sev Trek book. So there I was, perusing the latest Sev offerings, ready for another normal night of Internet surfing, when I saw John was looking for voice actors. This piqued my interest considerably. Why?

To cut a long explanation short, I've worked from time to time in television, for both paid and unpaid projects, doing everything from camera to sound. But alas, I figured out that work was never guaranteed, even when you were employed full time. So I did what most people do, and moved into the IT industry! But I still kept the dream alive. With another friend who works in the industry, we made our own independent productions from time to time. I did occasional freelance work and also co-owned and operated a small business designing and performing pyrotechnic effects for film and television.

My ongoing interest in production gave rise to my home recording studio, which I've been adding bits and pieces to over the years. Sound recording and mixing is a bit of a passion of mine, so much so that the very earliest in-house video productions we produced were lip-synced comedies, with all audio recorded in the home studio. Today my set-up has been built piece-by-piece over 15 years. Ironically with the digital revolution, it now only consists of 2 small sound mixers, a handful of pro microphones, lots of leads, and a PC. Where has all the cool gear gone?

So when I saw John looking for voice actors to submit their recorded lines over the Internet, I jumped at the opportunity. It had been a while since I 'd done some voice work. I never needed an excuse to do recording and the challenge of working with actors I was never going to meet via the Internet appealed to me. I applied for my second best impression out of the Next Gen team - Gaudy Regurge.

John doesn't know this, but I always felt my best voice was Captain Picard, but some guy by the name of Wally Fields was already doing Pinchard and a lot of other characters. Well, I've certainly come to admire Wally for his great impersonations, delivery and the sheer bulk of work he has recorded. Doing lines for Gaudy and one other character kept me busy on and off for over one and a half years.Gaudy doesn't have too many lines and at times it took me weeks to get the work out to John, so my hat goes off to Wally Fields. Truly amazing work.

Not long after the worldwide internet-based production of the Sev Trek movie started, I found out something quite unexpected. John only lived 1 kilometre away from me at the time! He had cast his net worldwide looking for people, and here I was living right on his doorstep. I'll resist the usual "small world" clichés.

So here I was, a Caucasian Australian doing the voice of an Afro American, acting with people who I've never met and could not hear, in a room by myself, being directed by someone who wouldn't hear my performance until a day later. That person of course was John - my only link to the rest of the team. He managed to co-ordinate me through 170 email messages, several phone calls and the occasional personal meeting.

At the business end of things, my experience was similar to the other voice actors. I'd get an email from John, with enough material around my lines that I could understand the motivation and emphasis needed for the lines. I would normally record ten to fifteen variations of the line at once, then remove the ones I didn't like, finally sending John anything from three to five of the best takes. Mostly this worked fine, but occasionally John would ask for a retake, providing a written explanation of the emphasis and delivery he was looking for.

Not long after I finished Gaudyi, John asked if I was able to try out for the voice of Count Macula. It turned out that some people in a test audience found the original Macula voice difficult to understand. Because the Macula actor had too much other work at the time, John decided to see if anyone else could do it to help ease the burden. But there was a hitch - the scenes had already been lip-synced to the original voice, and if John could avoid getting those scenes redone, that was a bonus.

Fortunately, years of wasted youth in producing nil-budget lip-synced comedies came to the fore here, and I was able to do what is called "looping". Looping is where the actor visually matches their voice to the lips of the character on the video, just by learning the lines and watching the video playback as the lines are delivered. Most people think looping looks difficult, but after a bit of practice it's not that hard. Most of Count Macula's lines looped very easily, however a couple were almost impossible due to major differences between the original performance style and my performance style. Some 'creative' pauses and stretching-out the words got us through in the end though. I hope you don't notice them!

Without a doubt, this has been the most 'different' production I have worked on, and I've loved every second of it! In the final week before "Pus in Boot's" release, I was kind of sad it was all over, but even more excited to see how it was received. Everyone has worked hard. If I ever get to meet my co-contributors, I'm sure we'd all have many stories to share.

And speaking of stories to share, for a little fun I have included a 321K MP3 file, which is almost two and a half minutes of pure pain. Technobabble is definitely not my forte and this MP3 will back that up! It presents some of the outtakes for just one of Gaudy's lines, recorded over a year ago. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get my brain, teeth and tongue working together for this one. Click here to download Jason's blooper MP3.

If you'd like to ask Jason a question, post your question in the online form on the Interviews Page.

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