Test Drive: Word2WAV

by Steve Cunningham

This month we’re going to take a look at a piece of Windows software that was specifically designed for use by voice actors. It records audio and allows basic editing, and also it names the recorded files. It is the last function, the naming part, that makes Word2WAV different than most other editors. Word2WAV was specifically designed for voice actors who record lots of short individual audio files for video games, IVR, and more recently, online learning. Allow me to explain why the naming function is important in these markets.

Over the past decade I’ve had the pleasure of working on a good number of video games. Usually I’m the dutiful ADR engineer, but on a few I have had the pleasure as working as a voice talent (that good-looking zombie in Resident Evil 4? Yeah, that was me). But regardless of which side of the microphone I find myself, the issue of file management looms large.

Each dialog line in a videogame is recorded separately, edited, and ultimately given a file name according to the client’s specification in the script. The file names are likely to be arcane -- in one game I recorded, the line “S03-08-00-10-01” in the script was delivered by a character identified as Federation Parliament Member B, and his actual line was “Strange... what was I doing just now?”. If the file name was incorrect, you’d never find it in a folder with thousands of other lines unless you played them back. This necessitates a workflow that includes renaming each and every file according to the script, and without error. It’s a complete PITA, but it’s a living.

The same situation comes up in the world of IVR, or Interactive Voice Response. Voice actors provide the pleasant yet insistent recorded prompts advising that “for technical support, please press 6. Your estimated wait time is currently... four... dozen... minutes...” All the phrases used in these prompts are recorded individually with a great deal of attention paid to pitch and pacing, so that when they end up strung together by the IVR system they sound at least somewhat natural. The IVR computer retrieves the appropriate next file based on the file’s name (and sometimes which directory it resides in).

More recently, some voice talent are striking a vein of paychecks in the world of eLearning, whether by narrating video tutorials and slide shows or providing spoken responses to a user clicking on an on-screen control. As the price of video cameras and software editors has fallen, the amount of audio- and video-based tutorial material has skyrocketed. And as before, much of this material requires voice work... a lot of voice work.

So the needs of these groups are similar -- record and edit a lot of files and get them named properly. Word4Wav does this with aplomb. Let’s take a look.