Category Archives: Columns

Hatsune Miku Retrospective: Lost History

“Hatsune Miku Retrospective” is a series of blogs relating to the like-named panel to be hosted at Anime Los Angeles 14. This blog “Lost History” is the first in the series and chronicles issues encountered in the research phase of the panel.

Preparing for my upcoming panel was quite a nostalgic experience.

I got to reflect on my decade of being a Vocaloid fan and look back at old videos and all of a sudden I am a freshman in college, Bleach had just come out and this viral video with a girl spinning a leek became a hit between my friends. There wasn’t a term for this at the time but I guess I can say ‘lolituma’ and ‘leek spin’ would become one of my first exposures to a “meme”. From this meme would spawn the infamous video by Otomania, Hachune Miku, and my first exposure to Vocaloid.

From there it was Miku Miku ni Shite Ageru♪, Po Pi Po, and the heyday of ryo (supercell). I became obsessed and we shared these clips and music videos with my friends at my college’s anime club. Back in the day, however, foreigners were not easily able to browse Nico Nico Douga so we mostly relied on YouTube reprinters to download these videos and re-upload them for western audiences.

Back in the day copyright enforcement was lax and no Vocaloid producer had signed up with any major record labels. With the previous sentence and this blog post’s title, you can guess where the rest of this blog is going. As copyright crackdown, almost every major Nico reprinter lost their channel and trying to get proper view counts for older Vocaloid videos before producers started cross-uploading to YouTube became very hard when researching for the panel.

It wasn’t just the Nico reprinters affected either. When Google implemented YouTube Red they failed to get many non-US record labels on board and many Vocaloid videos whose producers signed with Japanese record labels had their videos blocked abroad. Between Sony Music Entertainment Japan, EXIT TUNES, Inc., UMAAA, and other Japanese music labels many old Vocaloid videos, even official uploads on official artist YouTube channels have been blocked abroad.

Luckily there are ways to bypass these regions restrictions or we were able to get copies of the videos to use in our panel off of Nico Nico Douga but it has shown how the media landscape has changed over the years in the Vocaloid realm. From being ignored, finally accepted, to now rejected, over the last 10 years a lot of early Vocaloid history is lost.

As we now celebrate a decade of Hatsune Miku I think it’s important we reflect on the past and cherish this living history… while we still can.

Additional Reading: YouTube Red and Vocaloid @ VocaloidNews.net

Thoughts on “Mirai no Neiro -The Sound of the Future-” Panel @ AX 2014

Its a bit delayed but welcome to the first of Engloids.Info’s recap coverage of AnimeExpo 2014. First up is a VocaRant article where Executive Editor ‘Hentai’ shares his thoughts on “Mirai no Neiro -The Sound of the Future-” AnimeExpo’s annual Vocaloid panel hosted by D.P.H. (Delusion Production House)

For those unfamiliar with Mirai no Neiro’s basic format it consists of a host/translator along with a panel of 3-5 Vocaloid producers who each take turns introducing themselves, sharing a bit of their work (often a PV something new), and a segment where each producer either gives some background in the production of that particular song or Vocaloid in general.

This year’s panel of producer included the likes of buzzG, KagomeP, sunzriver, UtataP & WataameP. While they all had a lot of interesting things to share, KagomeP and UtataP in particular thanks to their relatively high English proficiency and great stories, what really stood out to me were the segments by the Illustrator WOGURA and MMD Producer MasatakaP.

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VocaRant: A Voclaoid in My Hand, 3D Volumetric Holographic Printing

Browsing Kickstarter for fun, something I have started doing after Kickstarting The BIG ALbum with Koda-P, I cam across an interesting Kickstarter project. Inspired by a book on Holography they had read as a kid a pair of entrepreneur inventors have developed a technique they are calling “Volumetric 3D Printing”.

Unlike traditional 3D printing which involves extruding plastic into shapes and forming 3D objects, theirs involves printing on to plastic slides an image, these slides are held together by machine oil and a special case, and a holographic 3D image can be found within them as they are put side by side, as seen in the GIF above.

Their rewards tier involve a treasure trove of “curiosities” trapped in plastic, but at the higher tiers you can have them 3D print an object of your own design and send it to you. All I can think of is having my own holographic virtual diva right in the palm of my hand. Sure $99 is a bit much to pay for a paperweight but sacrifices must be made FOR SCIENCE!

Kistarter video embedded after the jump…
Continue reading “VocaRant: A Voclaoid in My Hand, 3D Volumetric Holographic Printing” »

Kodakami’s Review of Yohioloid

So, the time has finally come! VocaTone’s second Vocaloid voicebank, Yohioloid, is released to much applause. Personally, I feel it’s a major milestone for the Western community, because this is the first bilingual English/Japanese voicebank to have both very good quality English and Japanese. While his English is indeed accented (Swedish-Japanese I think?), the voicebank still lends itself remarkably to small tweaks and tricks to achieve respectable results. All in all, I’m very happy to have gotten to work with the voicebank and even contribute a few (very small) suggestions.

“Pros and cons”, you ask? I only got to play with his English bank, so my commentary is limited to half of the package.

On the downside, as I mentioned, ‘Hio is clearly not a native English speaker. The good news is, with only a few vowel replacements, I was surprised to hear a big difference. I’d rank his receptiveness to phoneme-tweaking on the same level as Big Al’s or Avanna’s. With such an easy-to-fix problem as number one, I think it speaks volumes for this quality voicebank.

As for the second disadvantage, along the same lines, some of his English phonemes don’t play nicely together. I noticed “eI and “N” (“ang”) don’t have a smooth transition, which is a fairly common combination in American accents. I substitute “e N” (a more British or perhaps non-regional version), but it’s not quite what I want. In the end though, I did manage to quickly find an alternative phoneme combination, so I suppose it’s not that big an issue.

Somewhere in the middle of a pro and a con is the formant in his voice. For you non-music-speakers, that’s the same as Vocaloid Editor’s “gender” value. While ‘Hio sounds distinctly male in his natural pitch-range, once you get above a certain point on the piano roll his voice takes on a more feminine tone until it’s hard to hear him as the same singer anymore. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your preferences, but I find it not so much a “good” or “bad” thing as just a “thing”.

On the other end of the discussion, I think ‘Hio’s voice is great in a wide variety of musical genres. Because of his higher range, he’s great at sailing over the top of the sea of thick musical textures you might find in trance or in metal. As a producer, I like writing songs where the instrumental lines can be enjoyed even without the singer, which often makes it difficult to add a singer on top of them. I don’t have this problem at all when mixing Yohioloid in, and I’d call that a definite plus.

As a final compliment to this product, I’d like to refer back to my first point: Yohioloid is one of only a few bilingual Vocaloids on the market today. More than anything else, I appreciate the opportunities this provides for more cross-over between those Vocaloid producers who write in Japanese, and those who write in English. It’s a great chance to try writing music in a different language, without the investment of buying a different voicebank that you might end up regretting. In plain English that means you’d be buying two separate, remarkable voicebanks for the price of a single, modestly-priced one.

To put it all together, Yohioloid ended up surprising me. When I expected a bilingual voicebank to have low-quality English, VocaTone delivered a respectable musical instrument that I’d be glad to add to my growing collection. While I don’t think this particular Vocaloid will be the one to bring balance to the Force, nor the Vocaloid movement to the West, I do think that it has the great potential to turn the world’s (and even the kuudere Japanese community’s) glance in our direction.

Thoughts on Yohioloid and His New Demo

Hi! I’m Kodakami, and this is a Kolumn.

Looks like we have another Yohioloid demo, this time from the well-known and respected Giuseppe-P! If his credentials aren’t already established by the quality of his covers, then you’ll surely know him for being the first business card on every English Singthesis company’s Rolodex. It seems like every English voicebank earns a Giuseppe-P cover demo, and well they should. It’s legendary, Giuseppe’s ability to pick a song that precisely compliments a given singer’s voice, and then to bring it with finer execution than most Western cover-producers’ today.

This time around, we have Yohioloid (I’ll call him Hio) singing a cover of pop artist Robbie Williams’ single, “Bodies” from the album Reality Killed the Video Star. To me, the choice of this 2009 single is a breath of fresh air – both a relief from the endless EDM and modern Billboard Hot 100 titles that pervade the Engloid cover scene, and from the classical and folk songs that people often force on Vocaloid only to sound “different”. The choice of “Bodies” also impresses the producer in me for it’s bold goal of tackling a high-charting pop song that many Vocaloid fans might still not have heard (it charted highly in Europe, but not on Oricon).

Even with the bar set as that high, Giuseppe still manages to deliver. From its faithful, true-to-the-original mixing, to its use of the original harmony lines to fill out Vocaloid’s inherent weakness of vocal sterility, I feel like great care was put into the details here. After all, he wants to show us how passionate he really is about this new Engloid.

Now then, let’s talk about Yohioloid. Is he a good or bad voice? Should we really be calling him an “Engloid”, and not an “Engroid”? Since we can’t put him up to the Kit-Kat Challenge just yet, we can only figure based on demos as they are released. After hearing Hio’s cover of “Bodies”, I believe I can safely say I’m positive he’ll pass with flying colors. With this demo alone, I can confidently say that Yohioloid, while being more heavily accented than almost any other Engloid, has such fidelity of recordings as to be more understandable than almost any other Engloid. This suggests to me that, which a little tampering around and the discovery of a few new phoneme-workarounds, Hio might just be the answer to what the majority of the Western community has been crying out for: A Japanese-English bilingual voicebank.

I’m not here to sell a product, of course, but if you ask me “Would you buy Yohioloid and use him?”, I’d have to admit that, though I tend to be against heavily-accented banks, I would jump on a chance to have this bank.

I’d classify Hio as a high-risk-high-reward Vocaloid, not for people who are content with slapping a 4-year-old VSQ on a karaoke track and saying “I make good music”. No, I think Hio is for people who really do care about vocal quality and are willing to work hard to make something beautiful with the best-quality tools.

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