Distorting Voices – Old Time Phonograph

December 8, 2017

In developing the various Sleuthhounds games a good chunk of time goes into the audio preparation of the voices. This effort is usually spent on trying to make the audio sound as good as possible by removing any background noise or filtering out any breath pops that may have gotten into the recordings. However, for The Yuletide Tail I had to take the clean recordings of some lines and distort them in various ways.

Early on in the game the Sleuthhounds come across a phonograph that is used for playing wax cylinders. I wanted these wax cylinder recordings to sound distorted and grainy like a battered record player. To do that, I first recorded the voice lines and cleaned them up as per regular dialog lines. Here’s a sample:

After having prepped the clean lines, I then started experimenting with distorting those lines to sound as if they came from a ye olde-timey sound playing device. For my audio work, I use the audio editing software GoldWave.

First, I use GoldWave’s “Maximize Volume” tool to basically double the volume of the recorded lines. This takes some of the audio outside of the range that Goldwave saves, which has the effect of causing some of the words to sound a little blown out as if they haven’t been properly recorded. Like so:

Next, I apply a high pass filter of 500 Hz. This cuts off the low end frequencies in the dialog lines making them sound colder and tinnier. Thus:

This is pretty close to what I wanted to hear in the game but it still needs a little sweetening.

Fortunately, my dad has a record player and I was able to record some actual record static, clicks, and pops. I kept this recording as a separate audio file that plays simultaneously with the actual dialog lines in game. By keeping it separate, it allows me to tweak both the dialog lines and the record noise without having to reprocess everything. Anyway, the final result sounds something like this:

It feels odd intentionally distorting dialog lines but in this case it definitely adds to the experience of The Yuletide Tail.