Bokaro P ni Naritai, vol. 4

(Images used for review purposes only.)

Ok, I now know what’s going on with the Vocaloid Producer packaging. For the first three volumes, the DVD was sealed inside a clear plastic cover sheet that also acted as filler packaging that had the same width and height dimensions as the paper magazine. Either this was too expensive an approach to maintain for the entire series, or the publishers figured it was bad for the environment. Regardless, starting with volume 4, the packaging holding the DVD clam shell in place is recycled/recyclable corrugated cardboard. So, yes, the series will continue to be taught via movie files on the DVDs, and include the highlight pickup artist videos and supplementary MMD model files. I should also mention that the DVDs have roughly 40 short voice samples each of Rana introducing herself, counting to 10, and repeating the Japanese alphabet. I’m not sure yet if the voice samples are going to be incorporated in a later lesson, or if they’re just there for filler.

The magazine has a short interview with Vocaloid musician Shoegazer; the introduction of a new supporting character, Jasmine; a discussion of how to read sheet music; and mentions of Monaca:Factory and the V Flower Vocaloid package. The printed tutorials again follow the movie files on the DVD.

For Vocaloid, the lesson this time involves using the Control Parameter window to vary Pitch, Dynamics and Velocity on an arbitrary basis to make Rana’s vocals sound more realistic throughout the song.

Last time, I said I wished the writers would get into the process of writing music from scratch, rather than having us manipulating pre-recorded music samples. Well, that’s what we get now in the Singer-Song Writer tutorial. The lesson uses an existing song file, but we’re taught how to change MIDI instruments (from a piano to finger bass), enter notes into the piano roll, and use the strip chart function for setting velocity on a note-by-note basis. The demo says that it’s possible to change velocity as if you have a slider control, but that function doesn’t seem to be available in the 32-bit version of the application. Or, at least, it doesn’t work the way the demo says it’s supposed to.

The MMD section consists of positioning Rana for a marching-dance style walk cycle. I’m still working on this part so I haven’t seen what the final results look like. Positioning is time-consuming, but the software does take  lot of the tediousness out of the process.

(MMD as used for giving Rana the walking cycle.)

As mentioned before, the tutorial videos are between 6 and 9 minutes long. However, I have to pause each one in order to read the Japanese captions, and then there’s the time needed for actually taking the described actions in the given application. As a result, I’m spending at least an hour per video to complete each lesson, three lessons per volume. This is just something to keep in mind if you decide to buy the disks.

I can read Japanese, but there are a lot of kanji that I don’t know and have to look up. Rather than spend a lot of time reading all the fine print, I skim over sentences or whole pages that don’t directly have information I deem important. Sometimes, this is a bad thing. One case in point surfaced when I started running Vocaloid this week to do the practice lesson. I got a message saying that the license activation is going to expire on the 28th. Given that the entire point of buying these volumes is to have running software, I began wondering if I’d done something wrong during the activation. The online English help pages didn’t help. Then I remembered that volume 3 included another sheet of serial numbers, so I hunted around for instructions on how to activate Vocaloid (go to the Start menu in Windows, open the Vocaloid folder and choose “Activate”). Eventually I figured it out, got the serial number entry screen to pop up, and entered the code from the third volume. This gave me a message saying that the first activation still had 2 days left to go, and if I clicked “Ok”, the next activation period would start as of right now. Meaning that even though you’ve paid for the first disk and have all three applications in your hands, unless you keep buying every odd-numbered volume (each volume comes out 2 weeks apart, so, 2 volumes a month, and activation is in 1-month chunks) the programs will expire and you’re screwed unless you drop $100 each for the commercial packages. I’m not really happy with that thought… Even if I decide that I don’t want a specific volume because it has nothing else useful for me, I still have to pay for it if it has the next set of serial numbers. Sigh. (Then again, I expect to get the full series just to send in the proof of purchase seals to get the commercial version activation codes. But still, it’s the principle of the thing.)

I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 4, 1,500 yen, plus tax.

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