Monday, May 19, 2014

Game Audio In Progress: Robot Voice

Here's some sound effects work in progress for a game I'm code-naming Dome of Chrome.

The project is in development by a rogue band of designers and programmers across the U.S. I won't reveal anything about story, visuals, or gameplay, but I can share sketches of audio elements I'm putting together.

Right now I'll offer some ideas for a robot voice. That's right, folks-- it's a video game involving robots. Guess the cat's out of the bag.

Anyway, let's start with the finished version of how I imagined a robot might talk-- I figured it might speak an alien language or else some sort of Galactic/ Mech Esperanto.

To explore how it was made, let's start with the original voice performance. I recorded myself stuttering and gibbering (a brief excerpt here):

In Pro Tools' Time Shift I dialed Pitch/ Transpose to maximum and Time/ Speed to minimum, rendered, then switched settings and rendered again. This upped the glitch factor of my already stuttering performance to the intensity of a bent Speak & Spell.

I gated the signal to increase the sputter factor even more, added some EQ and the lo-fi filter (reduced sample rate and size), and limited the track a bit. Then I bounced that down, opened the result in Ableton Live and tweaked it using the Erosion filter, automating the Sine parameter within resonant points on the grid. Exported again. Back in Pro Tools, I applied a doubler and a little more limiting. Voila!

But then I figured why stop there? Why not imagine how the robot would speak when it was malfunctioning? Maybe it'd need a death rattle when it was defeated, if it were in combat... Opening the finished robot voice cue in Live again, I tweaked the clip's Transpose parameter during playback and cut together the excerpts that came out the best:

It's an interesting challenge figuring out how far to push the glitch factor while retaining a sense of the sound having been a voice originally.

I imagine the sound (whatever it winds up being; again, I consider this only a sketch) will need further tweaking depending on what sort of delivery device the robot uses to speak. For now, though, it's fun to explore the blank canvas...

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