Tuesday, 24 September 2013

ReadThrough

ReadThrough is an online program which provides voices for your screenplay characters. The program was created by Guy Goldstein, a software engineer based in Austin, Texas, who wants to be a screenwriter. He also wanted to hear the screenplays he wrote read aloud by appropriate voices. No existing software would allow him to do all the things he wanted to do. So he wrote his own program.

And gave it away for free. Here. (Same as with WriterDuet. The dude keeps busy.)

I had played with Speech Control in Final Draft, and Speak Text in Movie Magic Screenwriter previously. Neither appealed to me. American accents on voices that were too young or too old for the Australian characters I had imagined... No thanks. I'd stick to my imagination, or live reads.

ReadThrough is different, though. It allows for voice actors from across the world to volunteer their voice skills. Screenwriters can listen to voice samples of hundreds of people and select ones that would suit the characters in their scripts. Professional actors looking for work have signed up, as well as many amateurs.

I listened to all those who claimed to be able to do an Australian accent. All the usual half-baked cockney sounds emerged, but zero genuine Australian accents. That's a problem that can be solved over time, especially once Australian actors hear about this opportunity.

I decided to test
ReadThrough by uploading a screenplay I had written for a short film. At the same time I would volunteer my reading skills and select myself as one of the readers. How hard could it be?

Once I'd worked my way through the registration process, and selected some other people (and myself) as readers, I attempted to record my role in the screenplay. The script opened on page nine, even though my character had lines on page one. Nothing I tried would get me back to page one. Very frustrating. In the finish I gave up.

A few days later I received a flurry of e-mails informing me of the progress of one of the readers I had invited to participate. When she had completed the process I went to have a listen, but discovered that the entire screenplay had been recorded, mostly by computer voices. I had a quick chat with my reader by e-mail and she reported that she'd taken part in several recordings and never had a problem, so we can assume that I made a blunder somewhere.

Funny thing is, even though I didn't like the voices, I learned a few things. Like, I have a lousy voice for radio; and I speak too slowly for movies; and I had left one of my characters with but a single line of dialogue. That line consisted of just one word, which was butchered by the computer reading.

Anyway, give ReadThrough a go, you might be surprised by what you learn.
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P.S.  One of the nice things about ReadThrough and WriterDuet is that the creator of these programs is both accessible and helpful. After this post appeared, Guy Goldstein responded with the following explanation of my difficulties in using ReadThrough.

About it opening at page 9 - I suspect the issue is that ReadThrough opens up to the most recent page you were on, regardless of what role you're recording (though if you've never visited before, it'll start you on the first page you have dialogue). You should definitely be able to get to other pages, though - were the slider and arrow icons not working? In the recording box you can quickly arrow through all your lines, and in the main script you should be able to get to any page.

As for most of the roles being recorded by computers, I can understand how that's confusing/not good, but I'll explain what we do. Since actors don't perform the script instantly, we always fill in roles by computer voices to start you off. As actors finish and you select them (plus click the button to perform the read-through), the computer voices are replaced.

2 comments:

Ed Love said...

What a great idea! I'll try this myself, on both ends of the transaction.

Kathy Smart said...

Trust you to try cutting edge tools, Henry. And share them. Thanks.