(Images used for review purposes only.)
I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 21, 1,500 yen, plus tax.
New magazine features:
The 4-panel comic has Rana retiring to her room at the end of a long day. She automatically reprograms her dress into a more comfortable top and bloomers, lets her hair down, and goes to sleep. This scene is used as justification for the next MMD model file – “Relaxed Rana” (as shown on the cover above). The classroom page goes through the steps for programming English lyrics in Vocaloid. As mentioned before, the Japanese version of the Yamaha vocaloid speech engine only supports Japanese phonemes, so there’s no way to enter English words or letters directly. Instead, the idea is to use Katakana English (approximating English pronunciation using the Japanese katakana alphabet), and then break the lyrics up as shown in previous volumes and tweak the enunciation with DYN.
The music genre section talks about “monogatari-kei pop”, which appears to be the Japanese equivalent of “story songs” (ala Jim Croce and Harry Chapin). There’s an interview with Toraboruta (Travolta?), a monogatari pops composer, some example songs in this genre, and then the text tutorials. For Vocaloid, the discussion is about writing melodies in non-diatonic chords, for SSW it’s the idea of “emotional arrangements” and expression. The MMD section continues the guidance from Cort on how to make music videos, focusing on the use of continuity sheets. On the last page, there’s an overview of MIDI keyboards, suggestions for what to look for if you want a MIDI controller, and mentions of the Korg MicroKEY-25 and Akai MPK261. Plus a section on vocaloid composer Nagisa’s work studio.
New DVD Features:
First, we have 2 pop-up songs: Sayonara no Gaisan (Approximate Goodbye), and Fukanshou (no translation). Both are just the audio tracks, no videos.
Sayonara no Gaisan starts out as kind of a light jazz, adopts a soft, breathy love song vocal for Rana, and then falls into a sort of electro-dance j-pop arrhythmic mess. It’s not really bad, but I’m not sure what the artist was trying to accomplish.
Fukansho has a strong 8-bit feel for the lead keyboard, and the same soft, breathy vocals. It’s kind of an 80’s retro with the main lyrics being chanted rather than sung. It’s a little better than Sayonara, but still nothing that I’d want to listen to more than once.
Then we get the Relaxed Rana MMD model file, and 3 PDFs from Cort. One PDF is a blank continuity sheet for animators to use in making their own dance video, and the other two are the sheets Cort drew up for the demo video he made for this magazine, building on his discussion from the last volume.
The video pretty much mirrors the magazine text, comparing two versions of the demo song – one with Rana’s lyrics using only diatonic chords, and the other where 3 notes have been changed to be non-diatonic. The publisher asks whether the second version sounds more lively and interesting, but you really to need to play both versions back to back multiple times to notice much difference. There are no direct instructions for the student to copy, so the idea is to play around on your own to see what works and what doesn’t.
Again, the video tutorial and the magazine section are pretty much the same thing this time, talking about getting a more “emotional” arrangement for use in story songs. It uses the same demo song as for the Vocaloid work, but with a lot more string instruments (the vocaloid version only had Rana and the piano track). The exercise is to move a few cello notes around to see how dropping them by an octave affects the overall impact of the song. This is followed by editing the strip chart for the Strings track, which works the same way as for Vel, Dyn, and Filter (on the synthesizer from the last volume). A small section of the song receives a sawtooth envelope for Expression, which makes the notes sound like the musician is varying pressure on the bow as it’s drawn back and forth. The last part of the video is just a replay of the finished song.
(Relaxed Rana model, in a side-step dance in her room.)
While I use the word “continuity sheet” above, which is based on the Japanese word “konte” (or, “conte”), really we’re talking about storyboarding. The MMD tutorial explains what storyboarding is, and then shows how a music video is broken down into parts and drawn up on the storyboard, pretty much the same way as for an animated western cartoon. What I like about this video is that we finally get Rana sitting behind a school desk, nodding and reacting to the explanatory text, which is kind of funny in a cute way. Basically, though, the main reasons for doing a storyboard in advance are to either plot out the action you want throughout the video so you don’t forget anything, and to set the pacing of the action, or to coordinate works being produced by two or more team members. Then we get a comparison between two styles of storyboarding – text only, and illustrated with minimal written directions. Either approach is fine, depending on how well you can draw.
I’m not sure if I’m the only one that had this problem, but at about 5:30 into the video, the text overlays suddenly got really chopped up and unreadable. The good part is that it was just a summary of the highlights for using a storyboard, the bad part is that it made the video come out amateurish-looking.
I haven’t really talked about this for a long while, but the publisher is trying to encourage people to buy the full series subscription upfront, rather than getting each issue every two weeks like I am doing, by giving out stuff to people that mail in proof of their subscriptions. The first couple items were sheets of Rana stickers. The third one, announced in this issue, is a special limited edition “chibi-Rana” model file for MMD. I kind of wish my situation were stable enough that I could guarantee being able receive the entire series, so I could have justified buying the subscription last Fall, just to get this model. But, oh well.