Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How to apply effects to your voice in Team Fortress 2

Recently I've started using effects on my voice while playing TF2 and some people were asking me how I did it. Some people were also telling me to shut the hell up, but more people still were telling me to say funny things or various movie quotes into my microphone. I showcased the effects on my favorite server at nom-nom-nom.us and it was received warmly, as long as I didn't talk too much and risk lashback for being just plain annoying. I said I would upload a video for demonstration purposes and write a tutorial. I've finished the video, now It's on to the tutorial. If you can follow these instructions, you should be ready to add a touch of mystique, character, or just plain WTF to your gaming sessions.

Here's what you'll need to get going:
  • A microphone (no, REALLY?) I suggest a USB mic. These are getting easier to find and you could probably find one at a big store that has an electronics or music section. My advice? Just go to your local video game shop and buy a used Hannah Montana or Rock Band microphone, they're all the same and they all work! You probably already have a Rock Band microphone laying around anyway.
  • A sound editing program. I'm not talking something cheesy and built-in with your operating system. You need a real sound editing program. It must be able to work with VST plugins. Remember that, it's important. I suggest FL Studio. I wanted to use Adobe Audition, but it only ran VST plugins in post-processing (not live). FL Studio can run them and process the sound live which is what we need. Both Audition and FL Studio cost $$$ but FL studio has a free demo version. I can't tell you if that works or not, because I believe the demo version blocks plugins or something. There may be freeware floating around somewhere that you could use too, but that's your own adventure as I'll be teaching how to do all this through FL Studio.
  • Virtual Audio Cable. This program lets you pipe audio between programs by creating fake inputs and outputs. This program also costs money, but the trial version will work for what we're doing. However, the trial version has a robot voice that blurts out "TRIAL!" ever 15 seconds or so. This won't be too big of a problem since nobody will hear it unless you're talking way too much. You can hear the voice say TRIAL a couple times in my video.
  • Voxengo Recorder. This is a free VST plugin that can reroute audio by quickly recording it and outputting it somewhere. You won't need this for when you're playing games, but you will need it to get set up.
  • OPTIONAL: Autotune. I'm guessing most of you that are here just want to learn how to autotune your voice in-game. That's another VST plugin you'll need then. FL Studio has tons of effects you can use but you'll need this if you want Autotune.
Now you've either got everything you need and are ready to get started or you already gave up while looking at the list. In case of the latter, you gave it a good try, go drink some milk and reflect on your life. In the case of the former, let's begin.

  1. Plug your microphone in.
  2. Install FL Studio and get everything running. Once you've got it all going, close it, you just needed to make sure it was installed correctly.
  3. Install Virtual Audio Cable. Once that's installed visit the control panel that it has installed in your start menu. Make sure the number of cables is set to 1 and that the LINE box is checked. You don't need to mess with anything else. Once those settings are met, close the control panel; the actual program runs in the background.
  4. Install/extract the VST plugin for Voxengo Recorder. You may not actually need to install anything, but you need to get all the files unpacked until you find the file named VoxengoRecorder.dll. This is the plugin.
  5. Place the VoxengoRecorder.dll file in the directory called VstPlugins. It should be its own file in C>Program Files.
  6. If you're installing autotune as well. Find Autotune's .dll file and put it in the same VstPlugins directory.
  7. Now open up FL studio.
  9. Under INPUT/OUTPUT select ASIO4ALL. The window should change slightly, select the new ASIO PANEL button.
  10. On the ASIO panel, click the wrench button in the lower right for advanced options, this adds more options that you need. To the left of the window you should see some selections. These are sound tools that FL Studio has detected and we're going to pick the ones we want to work with. NOTE: When you select an audio device, FL Studio lays claim to it and other programs can have trouble using it.
  11. Press the plus sign (+) next to a device to expand it's options. Turn Virtual Audio Cable ON and turn on the 'OUT' extension but TURN OFF THE 'IN'.
  12. Locate your microphone in the list of devices and turn it and any extensions it has on.
  13. Your sound card will probably have many options. Make sure that the main button is turned on and most of the extension should be on by default too. If you can't get sound later on, try enabling more sound devices in this menu. You're done with this window for now.
  14. Back in main FL Studio, access the mixer by pressing F9 or under VIEW>MIXER.
  15. On the mixer find the IN selector to the right and select your microphone. It'll have the same name it did in the ASIO panel. Once you've selected your mic as the input, you should be able to affect the mixer visibly by talking or tapping the mic, but you probably won't hear anything yet.
  16. Then locate the OUT selector on the bottom of the little window and select Virtual Cable 1 1. What you've just done is told FL Studio to get its audio from your microphone and output it to the Virtual Audio Cable.
  17. Now all the slots that lay between the IN and OUT are the effects you want to use. You'll see that Fruity Limiter is already placed in at the bottom of the list. You click on an effect's name to show or hide it. The small light can be clicked to turn it off or on. The volume knob does what it sounds like it does. Sound that comes through the selected input will be put through all the effects you've added in order starting at the top and then the result is played through the selected output.
  18. Now we'll add effects and plugins. Select the pulldown button next to an open effects slot to get the selector for things you can put there. The first one we'll add is Voxengo Recorder. To get to it you have to select "more" from the list and locate it under "VST plugins." Check off it's box to add it to the main list and hit the refresh button. Now it should be in the list with the other effects and you can add it into an available slot. If you're going to use autotune or other external VST plugins you just repeat this process while locating and enabling them as well.
  19. Use the pulldown bar again to select Fruity Limiter and move it up one notch to slot 7 from slot 8. Now move Voxengo Recorder into slot 8.
  20. Now click on Voxengo Recorder to open its window in case it's not already opened. Under "Output to" select MME, not file. Under MME device, select your computer's main sound software, probably "Microsoft Sound Mapper". When you press START Voxengo Recorder will now steal the sound as it passes through and play it through your computer so you can hear and check yourself. This is needed because otherwise the sound would just be routed into Virtual Audio Cable and you wouldn't hear it. Voxengo is just for monitoring though, you should turn it off when you're all set up unless you want to hear yourself talking in-game.
  21. Start Voxengo Recorder and make sure the sound it being played into a device you can hear. Once you can hear yourself, adjust the microphone's levels with Fruity Limiter until it sounds good. Remember to move Fruity limiter above Voxengo Recorder in the effect order or else you'll be hearing your microphone signal before it is processed by the limiter. Make sure Voxengo Recorder is always the last effect in the order, or else your signal may be different from what you hear when broadcast.
  22. Now you can add any other effect you want from FL Studio's expansive list of built-in effects. Some good ones are Flanger, Phaser, and Reverb. Just don't make your voice to crazy and drowned in effects or else it won't be understandable online. Try to think that a voice transmitted over the internet is only half as understandable as the voice you're monitoring on your computer and you've got a good idea of how much you should modify your voice. To remove an effect that you've added and free up a slot, use its dropdown bar and select (none).
  23. Now to review: I showed you how to get the things you need, install them, select the right devices in FL Studio, choose the right input and output, and how to add and remove effects.
  24. One last thing, back on the desktop, right-click your volume icon and access the recording devices menu. How to do this can differ depending on which version of Windows you have. Google it if you get lost. Your virtual cable should be in the list somewhere. If you're not sure which one it is and you only have the trial version, watch the levels for a while. The one you want should jump up for a moment every once in a while because of the robot voice that says "Trial". Make sure it is the selected recording device with a checkmark next to it by right clicking it and selecting "enable", or by selecting it and choosing the "set default" option. Sometimes these won't work until you disable another device that has the checkmark next to it. Once you've got your Virtual Cable selected it'll be what TF2 accesses for microphone input.
  25. Before actually going online, open TF2 and go to VOICE in the options window. There you can perform a mic check by yourself to get the levels right.
Here's a demonstration video!

Though I suggest watching it on its real youtube page instead of a tiny window.

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