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TOPIC: Sound Playback

Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #1

Let me start by saying that True Dungeon 2018 was amazing, and I loved it! Great puzzles, I've already chimed in on another thread about the high quality of NPC performances, and the increased production values this year made it great fun to just look around at the set both during and after solving each room.

I'd like to offer some constructive thoughts on the one area in which I felt that the new production values fell short. The most problematic example was N1 room 1, which begins with a fairly elaborate (i.e. long) pre-recorded speech by the NPC. I could hear just enough to tell that a lot of good work had gone into writing and voice-acting the speech, but sadly all that work was largely wasted, because the playback in the room was too soft to even understand more than about half of the words, much less actually enjoy the intended dramatic effect. Of course the NPC was still cool visually, and the combat was still fun, but because the speech was such a focal point of this room I feel like the overall experience was reduced to maybe 6/10 rather than the 10/10 it could have been. (There were some other rooms that had the same problem, but it didn't detract as much from the overall experience of a room if the speech was only 10 seconds long)

What might be done to solve this? NB I am *not* a sound engineer, so some of my ideas may be naive, but I'll offer them anyway.

1. Turn it up! The most obvious remedy IMO is to give the room DM (who's standing right there and can hear what it sounds like to the players) the ability to adjust the playback volume in real time.

I asked one N1R1 room DM if it could please be turned up for the benefit of future players, and he said he would pass that feedback along but also said there was only so much they could do because of concerns about overall noise level creep (if I turn up my speakers, the surrounding rooms will just have to turn up their speakers too). I'm sure there's some truth to that, but it's also my subjective impression that the background noise level I hear from outside the current room stays relatively constant over time, whereas raising the playback level of an intro speech would only affect the first minute or so out of every 12. Anyway, acknowledging that as a concern,

2. Are there many rooms whose speakers are playing both a speech (or other short specific sound effect) *and* a general background track? If so, mix them separately and give the room DM control over the level of the speech track only.

3. Use highly directional speakers (again I'm not a sound engineer, so all I know about these is that they exist) to minimize impact of each room's speech track on other rooms.

4. Perhaps apply more dynamic compression to the speech tracks during postprocessing? Subjectively my impression was that the N1R1 speech had a lot of internal variation (some parts delivered more loudly than others by the voice actor), so this would help make the soft parts easier to understand without having to raise the overall level so much. If it's hard to guess ahead of time how much this will be needed, maybe create 2-3 different postprocessed copies of each track with different compression levels, so you can easily switch it out at the con if need be?

I hope at least some of this is helpful. I also want to mention one room in which I specifically noticed that the sound playback was *perfect*: the N3 feast room track was at exactly the level it needed to be for full enjoyment of the room, and though a violin doesn't present all the same challenges as human speech, the fact that the feast room sounded so good (a) convinces me that the problem is solvable and (b) reinforces how much of a positive difference it makes. The feast room was one of my all-time favorite rooms ever. :)

Thanks again for everything you do to make True Dungeon awesome, and I look forward to seeing what next year holds!

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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #2

i was thinking that a small LCD screen with sub titles could be hung on a wall somewhere. run it off an arduino/raspi and it could be fairly cheap to do.

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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #3

I wouldn't mind if npc speech loops like that were added to future videos on the youtube channel.
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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #4

N1 Room 3 was also particularly bad about this (in my opinion). Part of the problem in that room seemed to be speaker placement, as the speaker channel with the monologue seemed placed at the rear of the room, while the NPC was at the front. So the party naturally moves towards the NPC, thinking it will make it easier to hear, when in reality it moves them further from the speaker.

Unfortunately, the pre-recorded speeches aren't the only ones that suffer from being difficult to hear at times. NPCs with spoken parts don't always speak loud enough for the entire party to hear them over the background noise. I think in some cases this is due to the NPC not projecting enough, but in other cases it seems to simply be a matter of not enough noise isolation from surrounding spaces.

For rooms where it makes sense, it would be nice for monologues (at least room intros) to be on in-room signage. If you want people to pay attention to the spoken part first, simply start with the sign covered and don't let it be viewed until the monologue is done.

Another thing I suspect would help is making sure that ambient noise is higher when doing pre-event audio testing. That may help uncover problems sooner.

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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #5

travis wrote: i was thinking that a small LCD screen with sub titles could be hung on a wall somewhere. run it off an arduino/raspi and it could be fairly cheap to do.


That, or posters or something. I agree, “audio” seems to be the category with the most complaints every year.

From an accessibility perspective, some sort of captioning seems the way to go. Not sure you want to go as far as having flip charts the DM can run through as the NPCs give their speeches, but the older my ears get the less I would object.
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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #6

I think the sounds could use an experienced sound engineer's input or a mixing artist or something. All the sounds play from a single source, at least with the older equipment. If you raised the NPC speech volume it would increase the background sound volume as well. This would need to be done in software when the sounds were initially edited.

It is a tricky balance as that background sound washes out the noises from other rooms, and the NPC's spiel shouldn't carry over to other rooms too much. For instance, one of the ice trolls was very tired of listening to the feast music. :)

A closed captioning screen would probably break immersion a bit much except for a few cases. The signs that Fiddy suggested would help but are easy to get lost in setup, or forgotten to reveal. They are working on newer technologies. I won't go into what they use, but if they could soften the background sound while the NPC speech is given and then raise the background afterward that would probably work much better.

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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #7

I had similar issues with some of the audio clips. Perhaps the NPC/DM can gather everybody into a portion of the room where you can best hear the speaking before it starts? I'm no expert in this area, but I agree that I would have liked to be able to hear and understand more of the pre-recorded speech.
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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #8

I've heard they are in the process of upgrading the sound system to run off raspberry pis rather then the old dvd player/usb with audio file method so they should have much better control of the individual track levels going forward.
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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #9

My inexpert ideas for making the rooms with 'speeches' more understandable:

1) provide a transcript, or screen with a closed caption-like feature. The transcript would stay for the duration of the room, but the closed caption would stop when the speech stopped - depending on how the room was intended.

2) I may be wrong, but I think there are no 'ceilings' in the rooms. Structurally, and practically, this makes a lot of sense because of time, materials and the ability for a ceiling to safely stay in place. However, adding perhaps a fabric 'roof' to the room (akin to a carpet over a thin frame) would DRAMATICALLY reduce sound coming and going from the room. Even if PART of the room was covered, the sound in that area would be significantly improved. I do not think this needs to be done throughout the dungeon. But when the effort is in place to make a recording it makes sense that everybody hears it. In the 'everyday' puzzle room, I was standing inches from the speaker and still struggled to hear more than 50%.

3) make headphones available - the ugliest, but maybe easiest, way to let people hear the recording. Wired headphones are dirt-cheap and would never leave the room. A set of headphones behind a small curtain might minimize the visual problem. Bluetooth headphones would obviously be nicer, but would need to be collected by the room DM and need to get charged, etc.

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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #10

I also had issues with the sound levels of the pre-recorded speeches. I'm glad this topic was brought up as it seemed to be one of the weak points of the new sets. Some good ideas on this thread. Hopefully something TPTB have on their list to address.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." - Albert Einstein

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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #11

I have no desire to put anything on my head/ears that has been worn by dozens, possibly even hundreds of other people. :sick:
Have you looked it up in the TDb ?
Please post TDb corrections/suggestions in this thread .
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Sound Playback 10 months 1 week ago #12

Druegar wrote: I have no desire to put anything on my head/ears that has been worn by dozens, possibly even hundreds of other people. :sick:



That's totally valid, but it would be nice to have a "closed captioning for the hearing impaired" option if it would work with the current technology. Could be something as simple as a splitter between the DVD player and the speakers people could tap into with their own headphones.





Or a baby monitor style local broadcast of NPC audio tracks, but I'm probably getting carried away trying to tech around a non-problem.
Semper Gumby, Always flexible.

Sartre sits in in a coffee shop and asks for a coffee without cream. The barista apologizes “Sorry, we don't have any cream. Can I offer you a coffee without milk instead?”

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