The Making of The Churnwalker – The Language, Acting, and Technology behind the Voice of Darkness
- October 17, 2017
- By Michael Brinkman
Actor: Roger Jackson
Writers/Producers: Sarah Arellano and Jay Osipa (SEMC)
Creative Director: Dale Crowley (Somatone)
Recording Engineer/Vocal Processing: Michael Brinkman (Somatone)
Sound designer: Dan Johnson (Somatone)
The Language – “All Secrets are Worth Knowing”
We recorded the vocal audio here at Somatone, in Emeryville, California. Sarah Arellano and Jason Osipa from SuperEvilMegeCorp, produced, Dale Crowley, of Somatone, directed, and Michael Brinkman, of Somatone, was the Recording Engineer.
While Roger Jackson was in the booth, we ran the Krotos Dehumaniser2 plugin on an aux bus so that everyone in the studio, including the actor, could hear the effect the plugin was creating, and the actor could work with it in real-time. This gave Roger total control over the final product, by allowing him to play off of the effected voice, and create the sounds that he felt worked for this character. But in the end, what we had was a clean, raw version of his recording, that we could tweak, and play with, to bring out the Churn.
Roger gave us a lot to work with, both in terms of great acting, and in setting the sound/tone of the character overall. Some of the best ideas for the direction of the Churnwalker’s voice, came from playing around in the booth, and letting Roger go wild. From creating creepy noises, to delivering spine-chilling lines, (and spitting Wu-Tang verses between takes)
Roger created a character that fans are going to LOVE. In terms of playing VainGlory, it will be just as much fun to be killed by the Churnwalker, as it will be to BE the Churnwalker! Thanks to GREAT writing and character development, The Churnwalker is set to be one of the coolest characters in MOBA games today!
Michael Brinkman handled all of the vocal processing for the Churnwalker character at Somatone. The project involved several layers of the same audio file being processed in different ways simultaneously. First, we started with the raw line of dialogue, then ran it through the Krotos Dehumaiser2 plugin, and came up with our own customized preset that included just 2 nodes. One for granular synthesis, and one for pitch shifting. This gave a really dark, sinister feeling to the voice, but also kept it clear and recognizable.
Next, we took a copy of the same clean line of dialogue, and did a little modern day backmasking. First, reversing the audio with the standard reverse plugin in ProTools Audio Suite. Then we added a decent amount of reverb with Truverb, and bounced that out as a new audio file. Once finished with the reverb, we again reversed the file using the same audio suite reverse plugin. The final product was a line of dialogue where each word begins in a reverb tail before developing into the word. This is a common effect in horror films for ghostly and/or evil characters.
The third layer was something that Roger did on the fly in the vocal booth. We all decided we loved it, so we added it to the character. It was a sound similar to the chittering of the Predator from the movies. With a little reverb that included some glittery artifacts, we ended up with a nice effect that made you wonder what kind of mouth the Churnwalker is speaking with under that mask.
The fourth and final layer of the Churnwalker’s voice, is the Churn itself. The tear in reality. The break in known existence that allows the Churnwalker to move freely among us. For this, we chose a set of samples of thunder that were really deeply rumbling, and sat mostly in the midrange, with a big notch in the area of the vocal EQ so the words were still clear, and understandable. Each line of dialogue for the Churnwalker had to be hand laid and edited with both the Predator clicks and the churn breaks, line by line. A process we believe was definitely worth it in the end.