Troubleshooting tech is sometimes enough to make you stay analog and old school

The day started around 10am. There was a break around noon when my friend came over for a short visit. And now it’s 7:43pm.
And it is only now, that the soundcard, Alesis mixer and Ableton are happily speaking to each other again. Of course this will have to happen all over again I’m sure when I get my hands on a sound card with more inputs and outputs.
Well, griping aside, I am thrilled about the set up. Now I can focus on finding the right blend of effects to get the puppet voice I want. How it works (approximately, for I am no sound engineer): The text-to-speech (TTS) engine runs on my computer, which gets piped into Ableton as a live audio track separate from any other audio clips that I want to run as additional audio tracks. Every track can have separate effects applied to it, within Ableton. As well, the live audio track can be manipulated manually through my Alesis mixer… which is nice if I find I prefer the tactile feel of the mixer knobs.
Once I get the hang of juggling audio effects in Ableton and typing/copying+pasting text into the TTS engine, I am considering getting another soundcard which will allow me to add more live audio tracks (so I can have multiple voices being outputted at the same time). That, however, would mean either getting a friend to write a bit of code or using additional computers to control each additional TTS voice. My friend Kerry at (formerly already volunteered to volunteer his staff to spend an hour on some simple code that will allow me to access the TTS engine he’s using for his video editing webware. What I haven’t asked him yet is whether they can get each TTS widget to output to a separate line out.
The other thing I’ve been doing today while waiting for downloads, installs and tech support (from the ever-obliging tk) is to muck around with CrazyTalk Animator. It’s kind of sick how easy it is to animate a face or even a whole body.. the only thing is it doesn’t output in real-time. I would basically be creating an animated film.
They’ve just released CrazyTalk for Skype, however, which is very rudimentary in some ways, but extremely interesting for a number of reasons:
  • real-time animated avatar that presumably syncs to whatever audio gets sent through Skype
  • using Skype would be a nice throwback/continuation of the history of Moments (the annual event series that my Gulliver’s Travels event is spinning out of)
  • there are 6 pre-fab animated emoticons (e.g. happy, sad, angry) which actually have a nice stylized feel about them – nice in that it would be appropriate for the look and feel of this piece I’m making, I think
It looks like I have to cough up $25 bones to try it out. Which is not a lot, but given the $25 here and there that I keep spending on these shows, I am just going to shelve it until I’ve got a puppet voice and 5 plot scenarios worked out already.
Tomorrow, I’m going to work on building a prototype of the puppet head and body. I did some research a while back and found out that wax paper (woven, then ironed together) and frosted shower curtains appear to be the top 2 mega-cheap options for making a DIY rear projection screen.
My take on the matter, in 24 hrs…

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