How much production?

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Annoying Twit
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Post by Annoying Twit » July 3rd, 2008, 4:05 am

How much production of the speech is appropriate for stories. I'm interested in using "production" tricks for some character voices. E.g., for an "alien" voice for early Sci-Fi.

Also, I'm curious to see what would happen if I changed some of my character voices. We have some software, called Melodyne, here which is one of the most common pieces of software used for pitch correction. I.e. for boy/girl bands who can't sing and need their singing "fixed" in the studio. If I'm, say, narrating a female voice, or a child, then a pitch shift up may make the voice more distinct. The software claims that it fixes the formants etc. of the voice when it's moved, reducing (or removing) the "chipmunk effect". It would be interesting to try. Clearly I can do this myself, but would it be welcome in a recording submitted to Librivox?

Obviously if the production made the speech difficult to understand, that's a big problem. But if the speech is still clear, what is considered good practice?

Cori
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Post by Cori » July 3rd, 2008, 4:40 am

It's not okay in a part of a collaborative book, unless the MC agrees to it in advance (I welcomed it in Life on a Thousand Worlds, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone else make it an option, except in projects like First 50 digits of Pi.)

It's sorta okay in a short story ... but I do have reservations still, since whether the "speech is still clear" decision can vary a lot between listeners. Especially if your accent is unfamiliar to them, or you're reading faster (or significantly slower) than they're comfortable listening to, shifts like this remove a listener's ability to "get used" to your voice. For me, it'd be on a case by case basis, and as long as a few people thought it was good to listen to (and no-one had huge problems) then it'd be fine.

In a solo, I think I'd be a bit more purest, and ask for a plain reading for our catalogue, and a tinkered-with one could go to http://podiobooks.com -- the podio project could be linked from the LibriVox catalogue page (and vice versa, I assume) but this gives people the option to listen with and without effects as their preference goes ... with little extra work for yourself.

[Disclaimer: The above is my opinion as an MC and someone who's hung around here a long time. Others will differ.]
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PaulW
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Post by PaulW » July 3rd, 2008, 7:29 am

I used a small pitch shift in Audacity for the Giant in Rinkitink in Oz because my voice is tenor and not bass, but I'm not sure if it wil be used or not. I also submitted an un-shifted version, so the option is there to use the normal voice.

Most character voicings have been done strictly with the reader's voice. An excellent example of what can be done just with the voice is Mark Nelson's (sjmarky) reading of Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that there have been savvy readers who have used pitch shift just slightly to get a slightly different sounding voice for specific characters...but the effort needed, unless the work is a short one, and the part has few lines, would be fairly intensive and time-consuming, and most readers will find it not worth the effort required.

The above being said, and this is coming from one who's reading pleasure comes only from listening to audio books nowadays, I find anything more that minimal sound effects or music to be very distracing as a listener. I once downloaded a book from Podiobooks that had music underneath the reading all the way through the book. The book itself was enjoyable, but I will not go back to listen to it again, because the music was very distracting, espeially when it changed tempo.

And, as Cori said, the "speech is still clear" thing is a very subjecting one.

[Disclaimer: The above is my opinion as a listener and brand new MC and someone who's hung around here a while. Others will differ.]
Paul
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Jc
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Post by Jc » July 3rd, 2008, 8:17 am

PaulW wrote:I don't know for sure, but I suspect that there have been savvy readers who have used pitch shift just slightly to get a slightly different sounding voice for specific characters...
Hem. Guilty. I have to confess I shifted the pitch of my voice down a bit, on an entire recording, because my voice was unusually screechy that day... But I think it's way too much work to do it sporadically on the entire recording.
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Starlite
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Post by Starlite » July 3rd, 2008, 8:37 am

Jc wrote:
PaulW wrote:I don't know for sure, but I suspect that there have been savvy readers who have used pitch shift just slightly to get a slightly different sounding voice for specific characters...
Hem. Guilty. I have to confess I shifted the pitch of my voice down a bit, on an entire recording, because my voice was unusually screechy that day... But I think it's way too much work to do it sporadically on the entire recording.
Me too when I was testing a different Mic and it didn't pick up ANY of the lower tones in my voice. It sounded horrible and my son was the proud new owner of a gaming mic. :wink:

In general, I think less is more. I try to alter my voice a bit for different characters but sometimes I forget who is who. :oops:

Esther :)
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people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress,
therefore, depends on unreasonable people." George Bernard Shaw

Annoying Twit
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Post by Annoying Twit » July 3rd, 2008, 9:00 am

I just tried some pitch-shifting. The Melodyne plugin works for singing, but it doesn't work well for speech. It does pitch-shift it down, but there are plenty of artificial (and bad) sounding bits.

As for the speed of editing, I just played around with a more regular pitch-shifter. Shifting up was instant chipmunk city, but a few semitones down was OK. I tried taking a story, and pitch-shifting everything down except for one of the main characters. I found I could do this nearly in real time. As the software I'm using (ProTools and its standard pitch-shifting plugin) allowed me to select audio and pitch shift it in real time. So I would click on the start of text, and let it run until there was a bit that didn't require pitch-shifting. I'd then shift click to select the region, hit "process" on the pitch-shifter, and it would work while playback continued. I'd then hurry to click on the start of the next block of audio, after the non-shifted audio had finiished. most of the time I could do this in time. It shouldn't be more difficult to select speech by one character in the same way. I hope.

At first pitch-sifting my voice down a bit sounded better, but the more I listen to it, the worse it sounds to me. It sounds, ahem, interesting to play the two versions together.

Planish
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Post by Planish » July 4th, 2008, 11:22 pm

I'm in the middle of listening to The Metamor City podcast - http://www.metamorcity.com/
Their blurb sez:
The Metamor City Podcast is a sci-fi/fantasy audio fiction series that is distributed for free through this website. It will feature a mixture of short stories and full-length novels, all taking place in one large world with an overarching story arc. Combining the narration of audiobooks with the music, sound effects and full vocal cast of a serial radio drama, The Metamor City Podcast provides an immersive audio experience of a world like no other.
When you listen to it though, it's obvious that much of it was written like a novel or short story, and not as an audio drama. You'd hear a female voice say "It's not like that" followed by the narrator (male) saying "she said". At times it's a bit jarring.

On the other hand, the stories from Escape Pod - http://escapepod.org/ - are always read by one person, who usually makes slight shifts in their voice for the different characters, whether by adding an accent or making it harsher or softer as needed. I don't recall any of them being processed for effects. That (IMO) works a lot better for something written as literature.

I've used special effects just once for Librivox, and that was on a single word, ("Stop!", I think it was) which was supposed to be from a PA system. I used a bandpass filter to give it artificiality, and a touch of reverb to suggest the space of the arena.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I think it should be reserved for purposely-written audio dramas, like those at Decoder
Ring Theatre
. (Which, by the way, I highly recommend.)
There is no frigate like a book / To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page / Of prancing poetry.

Starlite
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Post by Starlite » July 5th, 2008, 3:42 am

Planish wrote: I've used special effects just once for Librivox, and that was on a single word, ("Stop!", I think it was) which was supposed to be from a PA system. I used a bandpass filter to give it artificiality, and a touch of reverb to suggest the space of the arena.
Ah yes I did this once too. A train was pulling into a station and since the story was a comedy, I added reverb too. The conductor was announcing the name of the town which the story was all about. It just worked.

I probably wouldn't have done it on a more serious piece.

If you want to hear it, it is Chapter 12 - "L’Envoi The Train to Mariposa" from Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.

Esther :D
"Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable
people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress,
therefore, depends on unreasonable people." George Bernard Shaw

SmokestackJones
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Post by SmokestackJones » July 5th, 2008, 6:30 am

Hey there,

My take - that kind of stuff is pretty subjective. I don't pitch my voice differently (with the PC that is) but I do use a few generated effects on my voice, depending on the story. With The Tomb, I added an effect to my voice throughout, so it sounds like it was done as a field recording in the wing of a mental ward, while in The Statement of Randolph Carter I use a telephone effect when Harley is speaking on the two-way. In all cases, I make sure the effect is as non-intrusive and clearly understood as possible. So, it's on a case-by-case basis.

Anyway, IMO, effects or voice/pitch changes should be like a spice. It should add to the story, not be a distraction.

-SJ
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