Interview #2 of 2.
I know what you’re thinking; Connor I hope you’re not about to do the same intro again. I won’t. I promise. Let’s go into interview number two with our celebrity guest and Eternal Return voice actor Sean Chiplock AKA Sonicmega.
Check it out.
First off, thank you for taking the time out of your busy days to chat. While I’m sure you need no introduction, could you introduce yourself anyway and where our readers might most recognize you from?
Outside of the internet I go by Sean Chiplock, but online most know me as “sonicmega” – a username I’ve had since I was 12, in fact! I’ve been acting in the professional voiceover field for just over a decade at this point with 15 total years under my belt, and am so grateful to have worked on a number of worldwide-success franchises; Breath of the Wild (as Revali, Teba, and the Great Deku Tree), Persona 5 (as Mishima Yuuki), and Genshin Impact (as Diluc Ragnvindr) are probably my most well-known examples.
How did you enter the industry of voice acting, and what in particular inspired you to go down this line of work? For those who perform music/stream as well, which came first?
Throughout high school, I was doing well enough in my classes to keep up an Advanced Placement curriculum, but there wasn’t anything that spoke out to me enough to convince me to spend an entire college degree on it. Voiceover was honestly a “sheer dumb luck” discovery that happened during a late night of gaming on Christmas Break, and the whimsy and mystery of it all just caught my eye and heart in a way I hadn’t felt before; I knew that whatever this was, I wanted to be closer to it and see how I’d fit in.
Streaming didn’t come until WAY later for me, and I don’t think it actually would have ever become a thing had it not been for the pandemic. The combination of boredom (from work coming to a screeching halt for a month) and opportunity allowed me to give it an actual attempt, and between my existing audience and my enthusiasm towards gaming the organic growth was pretty much inevitable.
How do you decide on roles to apply for, and do you like to specialize your roles or have a wider range when searching?
I try to keep to the mentality of “if they sent you auditions for these roles, it means that in some regard they believe you’re capable of giving a performance that would fit this character”, so I do my best to have faith in both them and myself through giving at least an honest effort to each opportunity that comes my way. Obviously there are role archetypes that my wheelhouse specializes in, but part of staying relevant in this industry involves constantly challenging your own limits and figuring out ways to expand the scope of the strengths you already have. So for me, every role is a chance to either learn, improve, or show off!
Do you have any special warm-up techniques when getting ready for a recording session?
Most of the important warm-up you can do happens well before the session – staying consistently hydrated, and knowing your vocal limits (as well as avoiding hitting them in the days/hours before said session). A lot of the same techniques that singers use to warm up their throats/voices also work for voice actors as well, and just like any other muscle in your body your lungs and throat can be trained over time to improve breath control, reduce wear and tear, and minimize strain.
Is there a difference in the process for recording roles for anime compared to video games or is it relatively similar?
Anime is much more restrictive most of the time; although you often have the visuals right in front of you to help set the emotional tone, intensity, and duration, you are still forced to match the moving (or not moving) lips of your character as they speak. This drastically reduces the number of ways a particular performance can be given, and so there’s this constant balancing act between the passion of the performance and its technical accuracy, both of which have to be on point in order for the recording to be acceptable for use.
Video games, on the other hand, are at much higher risk of being “all-inclusive”, in the sense that there are so many different ways a character might interact with their environment or with other characters. It’s extremely common to have anywhere from 5 to 15 different types of lines as simplistic as “…” because each of those nuances has a different situation where it best applies. The ability to provide variety and uniqueness on each of those takes is a very important skill for this medium.
As voice actors, have you ever been recognized while out and about with one of your character voices?
Outside of a convention setting or my own streams, it’s actually incredibly rare for me to interact with anyone who actually recognizes my work…or even still plays videogames or watches anime regularly. It feels like a lot of the modern world has people scrambling just to care for themselves at a basic level, so I imagine it doesn’t leave the average person a lot of time for luxuries. If anything, it constantly reminds me to be humble and grateful for the often unacknowledged level of freedom my career affords me.
How has work-life changed in the last few years, what with various lockdowns, cancellations, delays, and people generally doing more work from home and some events going online only?
The biggest change had to be the initial transition over to remote-record that was basically forced on studios and talent whether we were ready for it or not, but I have seen that as restrictions continue to lift and safety measures are more widely practiced, clients have been really urging talent to come in-studio – often to the extent of giving preference to auditions that are willing to do so if cast. This isn’t always the case obviously, but it’s clear that there’s a desire to go back to “the norm” except in cases where doing remote-record allows a studio to expand on how many projects it tackles at once, whether for efficiency or profit reasons.
Regarding Eternal Return, was there anything specific about this game that drew you to it as a role? Was the process similar to your roles with other developers?
Perhaps the most uninteresting aspect of this industry is that most of the time, the casting and recording process for these games is nearly exactly the same – audition sides are sent out, talent send in their recordings, a cast is put together, and then everyone takes turns producing final recordings with the guidance of their director, the engineer, and any relevant staff who sit in on the session. The names, faces, and equipment may change, but the process is so consistent that it becomes muscle memory after long enough. I think that familiarity actually helps a lot, because not needing to immerse myself in a brand new work scenario each time allows me to focus instead on the new character challenge in front of me and prepare myself to play pretend accordingly.
Do you play many of the games that you voice roles in? Same question for show/movie roles.
I try to! Becoming a streamer has helped immensely with getting to see the finished result for myself, with the added bonus of sharing that reaction live with my audience (and anyone else who is also experiencing the game for the first time with me). I won’t explicitly play or avoid a game because I am a part of it, but if it’s a genre I normally enjoy playing then I definitely have confidence that I’ll have fun playing through it. Shows are an entirely different matter, however; I need actual free time to watch those for myself, and that’s a luxury even I can’t seem to afford between my average workload and my ongoing life obligations.
What is the secret handshake for finding one’s way in the door to start voice acting?
Realizing that there is no secret handshake, or at least not one that can permanently solve all of your industry problems/questions. While referrals can prove to be a great resource for growing actors, none of this matters if your acting ability isn’t up to scratch – eventually, there will be someone who can provide a more competitive read of the same type than you do, and unless you can continuously improve and adapt yourself then the rest of the industry will move forward without you. Passion, commitment, and personal drive are the holy trifecta that will keep an industry like this from feeling like nothing beyond rejection after rejection, and I would even venture as far as to say that those qualities are what give other people confidence that you’ll bring the best potential to their project.
How do you like voice acting compared to streaming? It seems like it would be much more streamlined without the live audience, chat moderation, etc.
If I had to choose only one of the two to continue pursuing, I would toss streaming aside immediately. While it can be a great source of impromptu moments and community bonding, it is essentially a brand new “live theater” performance every single time, and that can quickly get exhausting and/or pressuring when you throw things like Follow/Subscription numbers and other metrics into it. While I enjoy my streaming community a great deal, it ultimately is another source of work for me at the end of the day, and often takes a back seat as soon as my voiceover career picks up, however temporarily. I’m grateful that my own community is so understanding about this, and I think being honest about my priorities helps set reasonable expectations.
What is your preferred platform of choice for gaming?
Nintendo Switch, easily. I’ve long since lost the ability to specifically locate myself in one spot to play a game for hours on end, and having the ability to adjust where I am or bring the progress with me when I head out for a session (and need to kill time in-between them without the ability to go home) is extremely valuable. The Switch single-handedly ended plane flight boredom forever, and that alone is enough to make it my current favorite console of all time.
MMO Fallout would like to thank Sean again for taking the time to answer our questions.