Bokaro P ni Naritai, vol. 28

(Images used for review purposes only.)

I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 28, 1,500 yen, plus tax.
New magazine features:
In the 4-panel comic, Rana is having a bad dream about not being able to eat more ice cream, when she’s visited by a shadowy creature that turns out to be  “Rana Version 4.0”. The classroom section talks about the history of Vocalistener, Vocaloid 2 Prologue, and Vocaloid Kaito, then gets into the really big news – that Vocaloid 4 Editor is going to require additional study (the students aren’t done with Vocaloid, yet). And Vocaloid 4 for Rana is going to be an additional 5,000 yen if you upgrade from the versions supplied on the magazine DVDs. Vocaloid Listener is a Job plug-in, and it is also available for V4 Editor. It is used for analyzing a human singer’s voice to convert it for use by the Vocaloid engine. The featured genre is rap, and rather than having one guest artist this time, there are 9 videos suggested as viewing reference. The MMD section has Cort talking about how he applies effects to his videos, with a comparison between the MME effects plug-in and AviUtil. The magazine ends with the introduction of Talkaloid, which allows users to employ the Vocaloid package for producing plain spoken speech. Gobou-P created a PDF user’s manual, called “To-ku Dekiru” (I Can Talk), which is included on this volume’s DVD. There’s a mention of the Rana upgrade for Vocaloid 4 Editor, which will be available from the Vocaloid shop in December. And there’s a sidebar saying that the Joysound Karaoke box chain has started including Vocaloid-produced songs on their playlists.

(Cort’s examples of what not to do.1) Don’t add so many effects that it slows down the computer. 2) Don’t make the effects so strong you can’t see Rana through them.)

New DVD Features:
A few new items this time, although there’s no pick-up artist song again. For MMD, there’s a shader plug-in from Cort, an African savannah dance stage (the last of the numbered stages – #12, and the latest in the “world views” collection) and something called “Rana Dummy bone” (see below). There’s also the “I Can Talk” PDF file, and a couple sample Vocaloid data files demoing Rana simply speaking.

For Talkaloid, one of the sample demo files has Rana giving a fake interview, introducing herself and giving her height, weight and dimensions. The speaking voice used for Rana is set to a fairly high register, which gives a kind of unpleasant tinny, mechanical edge to it. I have been thinking about just using her as a kind of narrator, but I think her voice parameters are going to need to be tweaked a lot to make Talkaloid at all useful (it’s not going to help that Talkaloid doesn’t support English phonemes).

(Example showing the “down v notch” on Volume as described in the SSW tutorial below.)

The focus is on rap, and the point is to try to kind of undo the functionality Vocaloid implements in turning lyrics into music and make them sound more like they’re being spoken. In the demo song, the editors just did a real number on the pitch settings for each phoneme, going in and changing pitch at random. The next step is to adjust pitch bend to make the sounds between phonemes flow together more smoothly. Then, to make the lyrics a little more interesting, the phoneme play times are shortened in a few places get a more staccato effect. This part is more about music theory, explaining why the composer made the choices he did, than it is about how to use Vocaloid. The finished demo song is “Hard Sell of Love”, and it’s got a lot less to do with rap than it does with simple talking lyrics (where the singer takes a conversational tone to explain something to the listener). The only really useful part of this demo is where the editors show the use of “v” up and “v” down waveshapes for pitch and DYN on certain phonemes to get a stronger emotional expression in things like “iyan” (i.e. – the “don’t touch me there” sound used by some Japanese women.)

The first couple of minutes of the tutorial is just a playback of the demo song, and identifying which portions are intro, A melody and B melody. Then, we get a bit of a walkthrough to take that “iyan” sound from the Vocaloid tutorial, drop the volume in the middle of the phoneme, and then bring up the mixer to change the Graphic EQ, Reverb and Compression settings on that track. The result is mechanical and tinny, not exactly as sweet as it could be. The rest of the video gets into electronica again, with the idea being to take the synth bass track, open the Alpha3 editor, crank up the cutoff filter and resonance a bit, then map LFO1 to Main Pitch. This last mod makes the note frequency vary with the triangle wave of the LFO. This makes the base synth pretty strange when combined with the rest of the song.

(African dance stage, with Relaxed Rana, and the jumping dance motion file.)

Cort’s tips this time regard when and when not to apply effects to the video. This starts out as a series of cautions for pitfalls (or, in Japanese “holes you fall into that you didn’t know were there”). Pitfall #1) The more effects you add, the slower your computer will run. #2) Adding effects can block out your main actor (don’t put flare effects in front of Rana’s face, because you won’t be able to see her anymore). #3) Don’t rely just on Miku Miku Effects (MME), use AviUtil aftereffects, too. MME can be used for shaders, particle effects and post effects. Other movie editor software is somewhat good for particle effects, but especially good for post editing. The choice for when to use each boils down to how much time it takes to apply them to the movie. MME can run slow, and if you make a mistake and have to go back to correct it, it’s going to be time consuming. That’s why other video editing applications can be useful off and on. Most of the tips for using MME are too simple to repeat here, and the section on particles duplicates what’s in the Dummy Bone tutorial. One thing worth mentioning is M4Layer (check the usage video on Nico Douga). M4Layer, as the name implies, can be used to create videos with multiple layers, as in having a background image, the foreground character, and then text scrolling horizontally across the screen. I haven’t used it, but it seems to employ an .inf-style info file for storing your instructions, the text to scroll, and layer effects. Cort mentions that one package he likes now is suibokusan set (ink painting set). The tutorial ends with an example of MME being applied to the sun in the African savanna stage to get a stronger glowing effect.

Dummy Bone:
This is a special case, in that there’s an extra tutorial video with this issue. Dummy Bone is just that. In the MMD modeling system, actors that can move around stage, such as Rana, Robo-panda, Miku Hatsune, etc., are bone-based. That is, all movement actions involve selecting something like the left hand, the right foot, an elbow, and then pulling and/or rotating it. Moving something causes whatever it’s connected to to be pulled along with. So, if you select the model’s right hand and change its position 3 meters to the side, the entire rest of the model is going to be pulled too, making the model look like it’s being yanked through the air. Additionally, there’s something called the “center bone”, which represents the model’s spine. Moving the center bone lets you reposition the model without getting that “drag the rag doll around” effect.

Dummy bone is essentially a simple model with three bones that are not directly connected together, designed to be used with any of the effects plug-ins. The tutorial discusses how to make it look like Rana is surrounded by fireworks sparklers. The idea is to drag the dummy bone model into MMD, and then associate each of the three bones with the particle generator plug-in. If you set the keyframes for the dummy bones and have them rotate upward in a spiral with decreasing radius, you’re going to get sparks forming a kind of Christmas tree shape. But, because there’s no real model data associated with the dummy bones, they are invisible when the movie is rendered – you just get the sparks without any clue as to what is making them. Of course, the dummy bone model can be used with other effects plug-ins as well, depending on what you’re trying to do for your finished video.

Additional comments:
I haven’t played with Talkaloid yet, so I can’t comment on that aspect, but the user PDF shows that it’s just Vocaloid with flatter parameters for brightness and pitch. However, any opportunity to mess with the Alpha3 is a good thing.; so, I like the SSW tutorial just on that count. I don’t have any particular need for the dummy bone model, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

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