Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'm Ready for My Voice Work, Mr. DeMille

My little contribution to Bouncy Rock's Halloween campaign will be the first (and perhaps only) module that will feature me as a voice actor. Since my alter ego, Elysius, will be greeting player characters at the door, there was really no question as to who would lend his voice to the role. Of course, I could have settled for having all conversations play silently, but I felt that my module would have made more of an impact if it had actual voice overs.

Over a span of three days, I recorded, edited, and finalized thirty sound files to be played during the conversations with Elysius. It wasn't easy. Each sound file is the product of several recording takes, from which I chose the best segments to splice together. To make matters worse, I have an awful voice and a bit of an accent. I wasn't too worried about my accent, which I felt may lend an air of mystery to my character. It was my voice that needed fixing. I wanted Elysius to sound sinister, but my voice normally sounds bland.

Fortunately, the problem wasn't too difficult to solve. By speaking in deep chest tones, I was able to attain the effect that I wanted. I can't raise the volume of my voice without raising my pitch as well, which I was trying to avoid doing. Hence, I needed to amplify all my recordings to make my voice audible. The effect is better than if I were to speak in my normal voice and use the recording software to artificially lower my vocal pitch. It would have made me sound as if I were trying to speak underwater with cotton in my mouth.

During the editing phase, I kept all my voice files in WAV format. When I was reasonably satisfied with the results, I converted my files to MP3s. I then used the MP3toBMU software to convert them to BMU format. I made sure to enable the option to rename the BMU extension to WAV so that the NWN2 engine could play them in conversations. I don't know why the engine doesn't play the BMU files as is. It's one of the great mysteries of the NWN2 modding world, I guess. All these conversions may sound like too many hoops to jump through, but the effort is worth it. The converted files are about a fifth or a sixth of the size of the original WAVs.

From there, I packaged all my sound files in a hakpak, which also contains a bunch of other custom stuff for my module. My hakpak wound up being almost twice the size of the module itself. Even when compressed, sound files take up a lot of space.

I asked my wife to playtest my module. When she heard Elysius speak, she immediately recognized his voice as mine. I had thought that the pitch of my recorded voice was so low as to be unrecognizable, but that did not turn out to be the case.

My wife didn't get very far in my module because she really isn't a gamer. She was too frustrated with the puzzles for her to go on. Nevertheless, I found it immensely satisfying when she screamed during one of the scary moments of the game. It just goes to show that I can put together a decent horror module when I set my mind to it.

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