Bokaro P ni Naritai, vol. 7


(Images used for review purposes only.)

I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 7, 1,500 yen, plus tax.
The main premise of the Vocaloid P magazines is that Rana is attending Crea, a school for new Vocaloids (humanoid machines designed as music entertainment systems). In volume 1, Crea was presented as Rana’s new home, and a certain amount of page-space was dedicated to showing the design and floor plan. Since then, though, Crea only appeared in the 4-panel comics as the background setting for the jokes. Volume 7 spends a couple pages this time talking about the Warp Room, an area just off the main front lobby that students use to teleport to the different classroom wings.

As far as MikuMiku Dance is concerned, the Warp Room is another dance stage for the music videos. The DVD-ROM includes two new MMD accessory model files – the Warp Room, and a matching set of jewelry for Rana (red wavy star armlet, earrings and finger ring).

New magazine features:
The 4-panel comic showing Rana discovering the Warp Rooms for the first time. Robo-Panda teaching Rana about the different parts of a drum kit based on the sounds they make, and connecting that to the SSW MIDI drum kit voices. Interview with guitarist Jimmy Thumb P. Overview of the Galaco Vocaloid voice add-on. Pick-up artist: An.

New DVD Features:
Song Title: Romantic Distance (?), Artist: An
This time, we just get the song without an accompanying video, and since the name isn’t specified in the file, I’m guessing that it’s called “Romantic Distance” based on a single clue from the magazine. It’s a bouncy J-pop piece without anything really outstanding about it. Rana’s voice is kind of mechanical-sounding, like it wasn’t fully tweaked. It also suffers from a problem that many Japanese songs have – it doesn’t scan. Because the Japanese sentence structure doesn’t flow in the same way English does, there’s a tendency to cram too many syllables into one line to make a complete sentence.

The Crea Warp Room stage, and Rana’s jewelry accessories.)

Tutorials:
Vocaloid:
The focus this time is on editing per-note properties. The last 2-3 lessons talked about parameters that could be applied throughout the song, including Velocity and Dynamics. Here, clicking on an individual Vocaloid phoneme brings up the Note Properties window, where you can choose between accent and vibrato. Accent can soften or emphasize the enunciation of the phoneme, which equates to syllable stress within a word in English. Accent also allows for Portamento for rising or falling parts of the notes. In this case, rather than Vocaloid jumping in pitch from one phoneme to the next, you can have the voice sweep smoothly between the notes, which is similar to what happens with Portamento on a synthesizer keyboard. Finally, we get Vibrato, the warbling vocal effect. Vocaloid provides 16 vibrato variations (normal 1-4, extreme 1-4, slight 1-4, fast 1-4), and you can choose the effect to be applied over 100% of the note, or the last whatever percent you want (that is, if you pick 10%, and the note is one second long, then the note will be sung flat for the first 0.9 seconds, and warble for the final 0.1 seconds). In general, Accent and [Dyn] produce the same results, so it’s your choice as to apply affects song-wise or per-note. The tutorial ends by playing the fully-edited full-length version of the demo song, “The Lost World”.

SSW:
Ok, now we’re getting into the guts of cookie cutter J-pop creation. Singer-Song Writer has two collections of “phrases” – MIDI and Audio. With the MIDI Phrase Databank, there are 70 genres and a total of 3,600 phrases. 70 genres and 3,900 phrases for the Audio databank. The demo song is “The Lost World” again, with some of the phrases removed, and reverb turned WAY up. The process starts with opening the List Window. From here you can choose the genre (Jazz, Cafe, Rock) and the specific instrument (strings, drums, electric guitar). This gives you a display of the many instruments within that type. Sort on tempo and key, then drag and drop the desired phrase (intro, fill, ending) to the starting bar of the channel you want it in.


(Screen cap of Rana in the pose from the current tutorial, plus the armband and the Warp Room.)

MMD:
Last time, I wrote that I’d tried exporting the MMD dance video to an .avi file, but was told that MMD couldn’t find a specific .dll needed for the process. Turns out, I need that .dll now. The tutorial starts by discussing file encoding, which essentially is the compression of finished .avi files required prior to uploading dance videos to Niconico Douga and Youtube. Fortunately, reinstalling MMD consists of only dragging the folder off the volume 1 DVD-ROM to the desktop. Running MMD from this second folder works fine, and I can now export the volume 6 project to an .avi. The next step is to go to the Tsuderenko site (unfortunately, that’s in Japanese only) and download the latest version of the Tsundere encoder application. Installation for that is just a matter of unzipping the download. To use it, drag the finished dance video over the tsundere batch file and let go. Initially, this triggers a series of other installers which, with luck, will install properly and, after the .avi is converted to an mp4 at a 10 to 1 compression ratio, you’ll be asked if you want to upload it to Niconico, or Youtube. Naturally, the batch file choked on 3 required files and I spent an hour trying to track the problem down. Eventually I gave up, stopped the batch file command windows and tried launching the batch again. This time it finished the installs just fine, and asked me a lot of questions in Japanese that I had to guess at. Luckily, the encoder did do its job and I could move on to the next part of the tutorial.

Part two involves putting Rana into a new pose (shown in the screen cap above), and demonstrating how to move or rotate various finger and hand joints as well as controlling Rana’s hair and skirt animations. For this model, “physics” is turned on, giving the impression that her hair and skirt are being moved by a wind. To position them for a fixed pose, “physics” has to be disabled. The final portion of the tutorial covers the shortcut keys used by MMD.

Additional comments:
I’m still not able to render .jpg frame stills. The screens keep coming out black. I went back to the models from the previous volumes, as well as starting from scratch with just the Rana model, without the background set. And, the results were all the same black screen, no matter what frame I picked from the animation sequences. I can take screen caps of the MMD program screens and import them into Gimp for cropping, which is what I did for the above image. But, at this point I think it’s a bug in MMD. The DVD-ROM for vol. 7 came with a piece of paper informing me that MMD is going to be upgraded in the next volume (which I guess is why the monthly renewal serial numbers for the software were missing this time). Maybe the still frame rendering problem is a known bug and will be fixed in the upgrade. I’ll find out this Friday.

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