One final thing to consider is what
your budget is for speakers. There is
such a wide range of prices, and it is
easy to go overboard in your spending.
You should choose to spend what it
takes to get your desired sound quality
and no more.
Creating Your Track
The most difficult component of
this process is often coming up with a
suitable audio track for your character.
You can write and record your own, or
you may choose to recruit some help.
This is the route I have taken as my
acting ability leaves much to be desired.
I am quite fortunate to have several
friends that have a considerable amount
of talent for this type of work. They
have been generous with their time,
experience, and equipment, and have
created some outstanding tracks for our
display. If you would like to hear some
examples, check out Papa VooDoo, Big
Red, and the witch scene videos (see
I am also fortunate to know fellow builders that have
the equipment and skills to record and produce quality
voice tracks. Our process of assembling a track begins with
a brainstorming session to hash out the script. It is then put
into the hands of the performers where they do their thing.
After some post recording magic, it is ready for prime time!
Tracks can be found online for free such as those at
Freesound or at a site such as Audioblocks, where tracks
are available for purchase on a subscription plan. They
provide tracks which are royalty free. This is an important
consideration — especially if you are using them in a
If you would like to try your hand at recording your
own tracks, I suggest you download the free program,
Audacity for your audio editing (Figure 9). It is a
fairly straightforward program to learn, and
there are plenty of videos on You Tube that can
help you get started.
If you plan to use the MP3 format, be sure
to also download the LAME MP3 encoder. Due
to software patents, they are not allowed to
include it on their website, but it is easily
available from a third-party provider (see
Resources). There are full instructions regarding
installation on the website.
My preferred audio format has been MP3 as
that is what the audio module I use requires.
This may be the overriding factor when choosing
a format, so read the spec sheet of your audio
module to be sure you are saving your
files correctly. An advantage to using
this format is that the files are
compressed so they are smaller. This
does result in lower quality sound, but
for our purposes it works fine.
If you are especially sensitive to
audio quality and your module can
handle it, you may want to consider
WAV files. They produce CD quality
audio, but do require larger file sizes. In
reality, that often is not an issue as
today’s SD cards have much greater
capacity than we need.
If you would rather not do your
own recording and don’t have the
contacts to help you out, you may
choose to hire a professional. The folks
over at Sinful Audio and others in the
field would be happy to assist you. They
can help write your script, and they will
provide you with a ready-to-go audio
track that will make you proud (see
While the primary focus is usually
spent selecting the speaking track of
our character, you may also want to
consider a secondary background track.
There are two choices when adding an ambient track
to your display. You can have a track that supplies the
background sounds with continual play. For example, your
character may be situated in a factory setting and you
would have background mechanical sounds creating the
atmosphere. This is the way I go to add the proper
ambiance to my graveyard.
There is no fancy equipment needed for this application
as I put an old portable CD player to work. I record my
track to a CD and let it play on a loop for the entire show.
It does not get any easier than that!
Another option (and the one I usually select) is to have
an ambient track running until my character is triggered. It
SERVO 09.2017 15
Figure 8. Wireless microphone and
Figure 9. Audacity is a free open source
audio recorder and editor.