INTO THE WORKFLOW

That completed, click OK in the Dialog window and you’ll find yourself back in the main Widget window. It’s finally time to hit the START button.

The Recording window will appear, which displays the first line of the script along the top in easy-to-read 16-point type. Below that line, you’ll find a single transport button, which will be blue, since the transport at this point is idle. To the right of that button is a rectangular black box in which your audio waveform will appear, but only after you have stopped recording.

Along the bottom of the Recording window are four buttons: Start Recording, Try Again, Previous, and Next. Each of these buttons is labeled with its key equivalent, which are SPACE, X, Left Arrow, and Right Arrow respectively. So when you hit the spacebar, the button turns red and you are in record. When you stop recording, your waveform becomes visible in green in the right-hand black window, along with two red vertical bars that mark the top and tail points.

At this point in time, your recorded line is still in random access memory and has not yet been written to disk. If you’re not happy with your take or believe it may have clipped or had some other technical problem, you can hit Try Again to replace that line and hold it in RAM. PromptBuddy will write your file to disk the moment you again hit the left button, which will now be labeled Save and Continue, or the spacebar. That action will bring the next line of dialog into view, and the left button will return to its blue idle state.

You may at any time engage the Previous or Next buttons, which will take you backward or forward in the script. However, once you’ve recorded a line then hitting Previous will not show you the waveform of the previous line, nor will hitting Next. In fact, PromptBuddy will assume that you want to re-record that previous line over again, and will happily record another take and substitute it when you hit Save and Continue.

DOES IT BLEND?

If all of this seems a bit confusing, in actual use it is not. In fact, once I got used to the workflow I could see how PromptBuddy could have me recording two or three lines every minute for as long as I could stand it. Having said that, there are some significant caveats.

Having adequate random access memory is probably an important metric for PromptBuddy. The developer admits that the product is designed for reading unbroken copy up to two or three minutes; it is specifically not designed for audio books. I did try a paragraph that took just under nine minutes to read, and aside from a longer pause after hitting Save and Continue, PromptBuddy kept on going. But that was also on a machine that had 8 Gigabytes of RAM. While I didn’t try it, I doubt I would get the same positive results on the Pentium 4.

I found the Threshold control to be troublesome at first. My first attempts at getting PromptBuddy to correctly top and tail my lines were less than successful. I applied some gain to the microphone until my waveforms were uniformly closer to the top and bottom of the window, and the trims were far more accurate. Still, they were not 100% accurate, and tails were occasionally abrupt if not cut off.

One change to the software that might help this would be to have a separate Threshold control for the beginning of the file and another for the end. Since the problem seems to be that the automatic trim occasionally cuts off a click consonant as in “don’t”, a separate, looser adjustment for the tail might just do the trick.

A more serious issue is the fact that PromptBuddy is not designed to deal directly with scripts formatted as Excel spreadsheets. This is standard practice for everything from large IVR and e-learning projects to videogame dialog. Of course it’s possible to simply export a spreadsheet to a text file, and in many cases that might do the job. But it brings up a second serious issue, which is that PromptBuddy will always name the file using the first 64 characters of the line. Again, in larger projects it is the case that the filename is different from the actual text of the line; for example, the file name may be preceded by a section or scene number, after which the rest of the name consists of a portion of the line.

A partial solution for this issue would be to allow a text prefix to be inserted at the beginning of the file name. A more comprehensive solution might include the ability to have an incrementing number inserted as well.

The Word2WAV product has many of these features and more, but also comes in at about four times the price. So as always, it’s a case of “ya gets what ya pays for.” PromptBuddy was designed for a very specific job, and it does that specific job quite well.

PromptBuddy carries a suggested retail price of £39.99, which is about $61 and change where I live. For more information worldwide, visit wellspark.co.uk/promptbuddy.htm.

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