Using VocalSynth 2 to Design Voices for Film and Video Games

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More than ever, film and video games are focused on creating relatable characters that have personality and depth. Unique character voices play a huge role in this process. A voice affects both the character’s persona and the audience.

Tone, loudness, texture, and a myriad of other parameters need to be taken into account when designing a character voice. Some studios go as far as creating a completely new language for characters.

In this article, I’ll show you how to use VocalSynth 2 to produce three voices based on common classic character archetypes in film and video games. And check out our video below to discover even more ways to create creature voices.

The cyborg

Female androids, humanoids and virtual female assistants are a regular fixture in dystopian and science fiction narratives. These characters represent the battle between human emotion and computer logic. Their voices should capture this conflict.  

I found this recording to start.

This voice has sentient computer written all over it. To enhance these qualities, I used a slightly tweaked VocalSynth 2 preset called Added Texture, new to the latest update. It combines three processing modules, Vocoder, Talkbox, and Polyvox, a pitch shifter.

Processing digitizes the voice, and it becomes authoritarian and strange. There is also an impression the voice is coming from a intercom, possibility inside a spaceship, drawing a link to technology and the future. With the help of background sound, you can intensify this aesthetic.

Did someone say Blade Runner?  

The tormented hero

VocalSynth’s Compuvox module simulates the 1980s speech synthesis technology heard in talking and teaching toys like Speak N Spell. It has a built in bitcrusher that is perfect for adding a gravelly texture to the voices of heroes, underdogs and outlaws. These characters are often haunted by something in their past and carry burdens as a result. I thought this vocal was interesting.

The vocal tone is unassuming, but the line itself is really dark and mysterious. I used VocalSynth 2’s Compuvox module to create a shadowy texture that matches the spoken content.

This is what I got:

The voice turns threatening, and even defeated. The rumble is similar to the Solid Snake character in Metal Gear Solid, and a range of other lone soldier-spy types like X-men’s Wolverine.

The alien creature

Sometimes a character does not speak a real language. Think of the aliens in District 9 or Star Wars’ Chewbacca. Total classics. They are some of the most memorable aspects of those films.

There is a lot of flexibility in this category because the voice does not need to make sense linguistically—at least in human terms—allowing you to focus solely on sound design. I’m using a collection of animal recordings as a sound source. Below, you’ll hear owls and elephants.

Spooky stuff huh? I filtered through several VocalSynth presets until I landed on Engine Startup, which gave the animals a vicious snarl. Then I added some saturation to thicken them up, plus a pinch of reverb. With VocalSynth 2’s ring mod LFO, the voices quiver, replicating the moving vocal tract of our alien creature as it speaks.

To make the voices more physical and striking, I added a sub bass.

Once you set up a solid VocalSynth chain, keep experimenting different sounds until you find something you like.

A world of vocal possibilities

Well developed characters make us fall in love with film and videos games. They can remind us of ourselves, friends, family, or provide an escape from everything we are familiar with. As you can now tell, there is a lot to consider when developing a character’s voice. What should they represent? What do they value? What has their life been like?

VocalSynth is a key tool in this process. From female cyborg to conflicted hero to extraterrestrial, VocalSynth 2 can create a voice to match in just a few steps. While the methods shown in this article are specifically for film and video games, you can apply them to music as well.

More VocalSynth 2 tutorials