ESO Interview with Voice Actor Raphael Corkhill
I recently had a chance to interview Raphael Corkhill, one of the voice actors for ESO. He did a number of voices for Ghost Snake and Bosmer/Dunmer NPCs.
1. What are the voices you have done for ESO?
I did a range of Bosmer and Dunmer characters – if you came across Glanir, Peras, Tebaril or Edhelorn, you heard my voice! I also played the Ghost Snake which was great fun to perform – when will I next get to be a semi-divine serpent?!
2. What is it like when doing voice acting for a game? Are you handed a script and asked to read them off? Are you given instructions on how a voice should sound like?
The directors Margaret Tang and Rene Veilleux are fantastic at working with voice actors. It’s just me, a microphone and a script so I use my imagination a lot to envisage an intense battle or stealthy mission. The script has performance suggestions but the quality of writing is really excellent, which makes bringing the scene to life an exciting experience. We’re also given a beta animation on a TV monitor that we match up other vocalizations to, such as swinging an ax, laughing or dying an agonizing death (not necessarily in that order).
3. How did you get contacted by Zenimax to do the voice acting?
I’m with a wonderful voiceover agency, Imperium 7, who have a great relationship with all the major gaming studios. Studios like Zenimax reach out to the agencies with a breakdown of the different roles, and the agents then pass the scripts onto their actor clients to audition for. Later, during the actual recording session some of the producers and writers actually sit in via Skype so they can hear the actors’ performances and offer directions. They know the story and game better than anyone so their input is super valuable.
4. How did you get into the voice acting field?
I went to Princeton for undergrad then got my MFA in acting from the University of Southern California in LA. Just before I graduated from USC I created a demo reel that showed my different voices and accents, which my agent heard and we’ve been working together every since.
5. As a voice actor, are you able to switch between different voices or do you have only one primary voice?
Different accents and dialects are my specialty. Coming from the UK, my native accent is known as “RP” (“Received Pronunciation”) but in England you hear so many accents in such a small place and I always loved practicing the way other people spoke. It’s great that I now do this for a job, and I’m able to “cold-switch” between accents. Vocally, I naturally have a deep voice but at drama school we were taught how the voice works and how to change pitch, quality and other characteristics of vocal sound. These are crucial for creating character – it’s amazing how the way someone speaks can really influence what you think about him/her.
6. Are you a gamer yourself?
When it comes to RPGs I’m more of a boardgame guy – D&D is my passion. I’m a big fan of 4e but I’m very excited to join my first D&D Next game soon. I also love fantasy books: GoT of course, but I’m waiting on tenterhooks for the final installment of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. Online, I play a lot of GTA V and the Englishman in me is also partial to a spot of FIFA soccer once in a while!
7. What voice acting have you done outside ESO?
In the gaming world I’m currently working on new title set for release in 2015. I can’t actually tell you what it is because the studios are super secretive and get us to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements! But it’ll be a major game, the latest installment of a well-known franchise… I also narrate audiobooks (available on Audible.com!), record additional dialogue for films and TV shows (such as NBC’s Crossbones), perform for TV commercials, and do a few other voiceover related things like programs for students learning English.
8. Are there special techniques voice actors use to maintain/improve their voice or does it come naturally?
The voice is a fascinating mechanical process that starts with the diaphragm (just below your ribs) and works upwards through the chest, throat and mouth. There are a number of techniques that allow people to change and strengthen their voices – we spent a lot of time on this in drama school. A good basic principle is for people to make sure that they breathe from their stomachs rather than their chests: the belly should rise and fall and the ribs expand and contract as we breathe in and out. The voice is amazingly strong, but can get damaged with misuse so it’s important to produce sounds from the right place especially when shouting or singing loud.
9. If someone is interested in getting into the voice acting field, how should they get started?
The best thing for people to do is to record a demo reel of their strongest accents and character voices – for instance, there’s a big market for adults who can do kids’ voices so that’s a sought-after skill and should definitely go on the reel!! Getting a good agent is also important because they forward on auditions, but there are also a number of websites that allow people to send in auditions online. Acting experience and technique is crucial, but having a range of interesting character voices is very valuable.