Seeing Sound

I’ve noticed an unexpected consequence of podcasting.

You start to recognize what sounds look like.

It’s a bit like learning a language. Over time, with lots of repeated exposure, you start to associate certain visual patterns with sounds. We do it all the time with letters. After hours and hours (and hours) of recording and editing, I’m finding myself doing the same with the playback on my screen.

I can usually tell which of my four actors is speaking just by looking at the audio. I can see laughs and breaths at a glance. Certain specific sounds and words are clearly recognizable.

This is all fairly abstract, though. Let me show you:

Gavin is easy to spot because his voice is the lowest. See, how his voice goes a LOT further down into the bass range than mine does? He’s also got a short laugh in there (the two vertical spiky things at the beginning of his line).

Syd’s lines also act as a useful marker while scanning episodes. Alesta tends to have nice, long speeches, and again, there’s a bit of contrast between our voices…

But it’s not just specific people’s voices that look distinctive. Certain words and sounds also have consistent patterns. If I know what the line is, it’s easy to see how the patterns in the playback match up to the words. So, if I’m looking for one of Simon’s lines, and I know the line immediately preceding it ends with a “t” sound, I can look for that “t.”

Among the words I can recognize fairly consistently: “River,” “Davi,” “No,” “Hapax,” and “mage.”

And then there’s the laughs.

Laughs look really, really distinctive.

Of all the characters, Serafine laughs the most, so I mostly work with Blythe’s laughter. That broken-up pattern all but leaps off the screen, but judging by our outtakes, that’s what most people’s laughs look like.

So there you have it: a new way of looking at sound (pardon the pun). Useful, cool, and often, highly, highly entertaining.

Oh man, I love this.

Posted on October 13, 2012, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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