A Beginners Guide to Dialogue Editing for Video Games
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
I find this is one of the more niche jobs in game audio, and not so much talked about, but still incredibly important none the less. How many of your favourite games have dialogue in?!
Voice over for games is occasionally recorded in house, where big games companies may have their own studios or manage the process more intensely and only book a studio to record in, but still be in charge of casting, directing and editing internally. Creative assembly are an example of a studio that works like this. More often than not, part of the process, or the majority of the process will be outsourced to studios. This doesn’t mean the games studio wouldn’t be involved (they very likely will attend sessions and have the final say over casting or any creative decisions). It just means there are companies out there who handle the whole process, from getting scripts, to delivering audio files ready to go into the game engine (or middleware). A dialogue editor comes near the end of this process, after recordings have been made, before delivery to the client.
What does a dialogue editor do?
At first read, you might just think it’s cutting up audio files, and although editing does involve this, that’s just one small part of the job. The main tasks might go something like this:
Script checking/tracking files
Cut and name files
Batch process files (EQ, Compression, De-clicker, Noise Removal, Limiters most importantly work to a LUFS target)
Manually clean up the audio files (this is the most technical part of the job and involves working in a spectral editor to manually take out any sounds we don’t want in the audio files)
Package up for delivery (following client instructions on folder structure/filenames)
What software should a dialogue editor be using?
Pro Tools is still the most widely used recording software, so it’s likely you will get sessions through in Pro Tools, although Reaper is a very popular second. You will also need some plugins to be able to process files. I particularly favour Fab Filter for EQ and compression, and then Izotope for things like De-Clickers and Noise Removal. You will also need a plug in to measure LUFS (I use Insight 2 but any alternative is fine). For the manual clean up Adobe Audition is definitely the best tool on the market (the auto heal tool is superior in my opinion, and has good functionality for working with large numbers of files). Some people choose to work in Izotope RX in standalone mode as an alternative.
How can I get a job as a dialogue editor?
The main studios in England that you could apply to either as in house or as a freelancer are Liquid Violet, SIDE and Molinaire. Games studios such as Frontier and Creative Assembly also do hire roles that are dialogue specific. It's fairly rare to see junior roles as a dialogue editor (but it does happen), so you will definitely want to work on having a good understanding of processing and using the spectral analyser to clean up files. Once you have a grasp of those skills, some studios may ask you to take a test and then you will be setup to take on some work as a freelancer or in house at a studio or games studio. In some studios roles such as being a runner (making teas and greetings actors etc) are a good entry level job and will offer you the option of moving up the chain, either into engineering or post production.
What are the best resources out there to learn dialogue editing?
Because dialogue editing in games is less popular than other fields such as sound design and music, there's really limited resources out there, and those that exist are often from a Film/TV background, where the workflow can be very different. There are some skills that are shared but the approach can be quite varied. It's one of my main goals for the next few years, but until then you can always get in touch with any questions or queries if it's something that really interests you!