robotics and animatronics

Animatronics > Animatronic Sound > Music & Vocal Recording

Music & Vocal Recording for Animatronics Shows

Animatronic shows require either original audio or licenced sound effects, vocals, and music. There are several sources available to obtain licensed high-quality sound productions for a show. Many studios have generic sound effects and music available for sale. Original voice talent and music production is also available for a higher cost to meet the need of any show.

The royalties of any audio recording should be well defined with any sound purchase. The terms must detail the cost, including how many shows can be performed. The duration (number of days/years) the shows can be performed must also be defined in the terms. Many high-quality ambient background sounds and special effect audio sources are available for a one-time license. This type of audio recording is also known as royalty free music.

Production of original audio vocals, sound effects, and music is also an option for an animatronic character or show. With today's available computer software, what previously cost thousands of dollars for musical instruments and sound processing equipment, is now available for hundreds of dollars or less. Keep in mind, that the software cannot replace creativity in vocal talent or musical abilities, they are only a tool. If a vocal recording or ambient background music is needed for a show and you want to do it on your own, here is the equipment that is needed:

Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

The first item needed for any vocal or non-digitally produced recording is a microphone. For high quality recordings, a specific type of microphone is needed, called a large diaphragm condenser mic with a cardioid polar pattern. Although high-end studio quality mics with dual large condensors are available from companies like Neumann, Audio-Technica, and Rode, a lower cost single condenser will do the job. Actually, there are microphones available for near $100 that record almost as well as the best quality $700+ mics. A few of these microphones that are great for making sound effects or recording vocals for shows are:

Audio Interface

The second item needed is a audio interface device. The audio that is input into the microphone is analog. The audio interface takes the analog signal and converts it to digital data the computer can understand. In this case, you will need a computer interface with a phantom power supply. Large diaphragm condenser microphones need additional power that is supplied through the XLR connection. A phantom power supply provides the additional power at the XLR connection.

There are two ways a computer interface is connected to the computer, either with USB or Firewire (IEEE 1394). The Firewire audio interfaces generally have higher quality and are more expensive. Before you buy this type of interface make sure your computer has a firewire port. Otherwise, a separate Firewire card is needed. Generally, all Apple computers have the IEEE 1394 port.

Audio Editing Software

Audio editing software is needed to record the digital audio source and turn it into the final recording. If you only need vocals for the recording, save yourself some money and use the open source Audacity program. Audacity is a very good quality open source program, and is used by many professionals. It accepts VST effects, so not only are there different built-in effects choices, but a library of add-on effects also work. For audio recordings, compression and amplification are likely needed to turn source audio into the final recording.

If you need to add a large number of audio tracks, a musical score, or need more professional effect consider bumping up to a good quality audio sequencer like Ableton Live or Stenberg Cubase. Sequencers allow easy composing of musical sounds, including looping or MIDI composition, with vocal recordings. Timing of the audio is set or even squished or stretched automatically without effecting the quality of the audio.

MIDI Keyboard Controller

The last item you may need for animatronic audio is a MIDI controller. If you need any broundground sound, either ambient or for songs, a MIDI controller is essential. There many different pre-recorded high-quality samples available. A MIDI controller (keyboard) allows very simple recording of a huge range of sounds, from a concert hall grand piano to a full orchestra. There are also great sounds like Africa drums or woodwinds or Caribbean Island drums. Any instrument or sound you have heard in a movie is easy to recreate with sound sampling using a MIDI keyboard controller. Audio sequencers are shipped with many different sound samples. There are also specialty programs like Propellerheads Reason that have many more sound samples and add-on sample packs called refills.