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View Full Version : How does voice throwing work?


YogSothoth
04-28-2009, 06:11 PM
By what process can you make a sound come from your mouth, but sound like its from somewhere else? Doesn't that violate some laws of physics? :confused:

Julius Henry
04-28-2009, 06:24 PM
By a process known as "illusion." Most stage ventriloquist work at a distance from the audience not very far, but far enough so you can't really tell if the sound is coming from the ventriloquist or the dummy. Add in the visual cues of the ventriloquist lips not moving and the dummies mouth moving up and down and the effect if complete. The voice is not actually thrown, it just appears to be.

sailor
04-28-2009, 06:24 PM
The sound still comes from your mouth but it is very difficult to place it exactly and if you have a puppet and move its mouth while you do not move yours then the illusion is there. That's really all there is.

astro
04-28-2009, 07:14 PM
Is it actually possible to get a decent sound without moving your lips? I just tried in the mirror and there are certain sounds you HAVE to move you lips a bit to create. How do ventriloquists do it phonetically without lip movement? Are acts structured to avoid words that require any overt mouth movement?

Exapno Mapcase
04-28-2009, 07:23 PM
The Two and Only is a one-man show by Jay Johnson which is a tour-de-force of incredible ventriloquism. He sings, yells, whispers, howls, barks, and creates a dozen characters. He makes his voice appear to emanate from all areas of the stage. He has a long discussion of the difficulties of not moving one's lips, including the impossibility of saying the "b" sound, at which point his dummy clearly says "bastards."

How does he do it? Practice, practice, practice.

More scientifically, we use a variety of known cues to judge the origin of sounds. By making sounds softer, higher or lower in pitch, or muffled they will appear to emerge from a place other than the true origin. If you are primed to aim your attention at that point the cues seem correct.

Northern Piper
04-28-2009, 07:53 PM
The Master speaks: How do ventriloquists do it? (https://academicpursuits.us/columns/read/274/how-do-ventriloquists-do-it)

CookingWithGas
04-28-2009, 08:46 PM
Is it actually possible to get a decent sound without moving your lips? I just tried in the mirror and there are certain sounds you HAVE to move you lips a bit to create. How do ventriloquists do it phonetically without lip movement? Are acts structured to avoid words that require any overt mouth movement?I tried to learn it as a kid and found that sounds that you think you have to move your lips for, like a B, can be approximated without lip movement using other movements with your tongue inside your mouth that normally don't come into play, but I never got good at it. I would say the analogy to magic is a good one, because for the most part your audience wants to be fooled.

However, my daughter taught me how to say "Daddy! Daddy! I'm stuck in the closet and I can't get out!" with my mouth totally closed. :D It really sounds like someone in a closet, but you have to puff your cheeks out to do it so it's obvious that you are making the sound.

Projammer
04-29-2009, 12:04 AM
Jeff Dunham (http://youtube.com/watch?v=cyzDqv8Cfjw) is one of my favorite ventriloquists. B's, P,s, he's got it all.

You'll notice one of his techniques is to tilt his head slightly down so that you're not looking straight at his lips.

Whack-a-Mole
04-29-2009, 01:49 AM
Is the OP asking about ventriloquists?

Seems like the question is about how to "throw" your voice such that those listening think the sound is coming from somewhere it is not.

I have no clue if it can be done reliably but I used to try to practice this as a kid wanting to fool my dog or my parents or friends and what not (no, I did not spend my childhood working on this...just had a go a few times). I actually had some success albeit not reliable success and unfortunately I only kept mental notes on what I thought worked and applied no scientific method to any of it. In short...my results are suspect to say the least but I promise it did work on occasion.

Near as I can remember it worked when the target of my deception was not too near. The trick is to talk in a different direction and have your voice bounce off some distant wall (or whatever). I bet most of us have experienced this effect at some point (a sound coming from somewhere you realize upon looking it didn't come from). In Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry they have a "whisper hall" where you stand 50 feet or so from a friend with your back to them facing a concave plastic shield. It's shaped just-so to focus your voice straight backwards from you. Your friend at the other end is facing a similar shield which collects that sound and projects it back at a focal point (your friend in this case). Facing away from each other, 50 feet apart, you can literally whisper and the other person will hear it clearly and to them it sounds like you are standing right in front of them (really cool).

So it can be done but depends a lot on the acoustics available in the local environment. Whether someone can train themselves to assess that environment and have some skill at reliably "throwing" their voice I have no idea. Should be possible though I'd think.

Frylock
04-29-2009, 01:53 AM
People can make it seem like their voice is emanating from some distant source? I had no idea.

I would count the kind of ventriloquism I've seen--with a dummy sitting on the guy's lap--as a marginal case of this, I guess, though it's not so much that it sounds like the voice is coming from the dummy as it seems like it based on cues from other sensory modes.

But are there really people who can make it sound like the voice is coming from somewhere else?

Whack-a-Mole
04-29-2009, 02:23 AM
People can make it seem like their voice is emanating from some distant source? I had no idea.

I would count the kind of ventriloquism I've seen--with a dummy sitting on the guy's lap--as a marginal case of this, I guess, though it's not so much that it sounds like the voice is coming from the dummy as it seems like it based on cues from other sensory modes.

But are there really people who can make it sound like the voice is coming from somewhere else?

Sure....it *can* happen. The trick is can a person do it reliably?

A ventriloquist is very close to their dummy an probably using a microphone. The audience is at some distance and hearing the noise from speakers around the auditorium so it works. Even with no microphone the audience would trace the sound back to the general area of the ventriloquist but since they are a foot away from the dummy added to visual cues of seeing the dummy "talk" we go with the notion the dummy is speaking. We know that isn't so but suspension of disbelief is part of the fun so we go with it.

There is no magic to throwing your voice though. We all naturally trace back to the source when we hear or see. If the sound (or image) has been reflected we trace back to the reflection. In practice we compensate in a variety of ways such as knowing someone is in a room with us so adjust to just know who spoke and where they are. Lacking that though we could be fooled and think the sound can from a different area that reflected it.

The whisper gallery I mentioned is a perfect, albeit contrived, example of this. It sounds like your friend is right in front of you talking softly when in reality they are 50 feet behind you facing away. People in between you cannot hear anything of the conversation (really is cool even knowing how it works).

IIRC (vague memory) Cokie Roberts related a story about her father (who was a Congresscritter) showing her a place in the Capitol building where the acoustics worked just so to focus sound on it. In this fashion he'd eavesdrop on conversations some distance away as if he were standing next to the person thus gaining an advantage on them.

When you talk sound does not emanate in a globe around your head but is focused forward. There is some sound leakage in all directions but like the whisper gallery if the listener is distant enough to not pick up on that leakage (or otherwise aware of where you really are to adjust) and you are able to talk at something that will reflect your voice then voila...it sounds to the listener you are somewhere that you aren't. Can a person control that sound leakage and reliably choose places to bounce their voice off of is the trick....if at all possible.

NineToTheSky
04-29-2009, 08:29 AM
Jeff Dunham (http://youtube.com/watch?v=cyzDqv8Cfjw) is one of my favorite ventriloquists. B's, P,s, he's got it all.

You'll notice one of his techniques is to tilt his head slightly down so that you're not looking straight at his lips.

This is interesting because although the sounds are good, the fact that his mouth is locked in to that letter box rictus makes it seem so unnatural. That, and his throat muscles clearly moving just blows it for me.

Maybe it works better on stage.

jovan
04-29-2009, 09:01 AM
This is interesting because although the sounds are good, the fact that his mouth is locked in to that letter box rictus makes it seem so unnatural.
The best ventriloquist I've ever seen is a Japanese guy who goes by Ikkoku-do. He does a great dubbing effect that involves moving his lips out of synch with what he's saying. I can't imagine how much time he spent working on that one. You can see him do it starting around 3:40 in this video: http://youtube.com/watch?v=oUq11WWvgHI

Anyway, the "ventriloquist effect" is a well known illusion in perceptual psychology. For those who are really interested in the subject you can read a serious discussion here:
Perceptual Effects of Cross-modal Stimulation: Ventriloquism and the Freezing Phenomenon (http://beatricedegelder.com/documents/Vroomen2004Perceptualeffects.pdf) (pdf)

Kizarvexius
04-29-2009, 10:11 AM
IIRC (vague memory) Cokie Roberts related a story about her father (who was a Congresscritter) showing her a place in the Capitol building where the acoustics worked just so to focus sound on it. In this fashion he'd eavesdrop on conversations some distance away as if he were standing next to the person thus gaining an advantage on them.

I took a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building when I was a kid, and the guide pointed out a spot on the floor beneath the rotunda where John Quincy Adams had always placed his desk. As it turned out, this particular spot was the focus point where echos from around the room tended to accumulate. The guide demonstrated this by stepping across the room and whispering in a quiet voice -- those of us standing at the designated spot had no difficulty hearing her, despite the noise of other tourists passing back and forth.


This is interesting because although the sounds are good, the fact that his mouth is locked in to that letter box rictus makes it seem so unnatural. That, and his throat muscles clearly moving just blows it for me.

Maybe it works better on stage.

It probably would work better on stage, or if he'd wear a closed collar or turtleneck. Dunham is very good at not moving his lips, but his throat muscles do move constantly. Truth be told, the real secret behind his success is not in the "I'm not really talking" part of the trick, but in the way he interacts with his puppets. He has a terrific talent for convincing the audience that the puppet is an entity unto itself, and that the banter really is a dialogue instead of just one guy talking to his own hand.

cjepson
04-29-2009, 10:34 AM
I took a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building when I was a kid, and the guide pointed out a spot on the floor beneath the rotunda where John Quincy Adams had always placed his desk. As it turned out, this particular spot was the focus point where echos from around the room tended to accumulate. The guide demonstrated this by stepping across the room and whispering in a quiet voice -- those of us standing at the designated spot had no difficulty hearing her, despite the noise of other tourists passing back and forth.

There is a pair of "whispering benches" in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Each one is in the shape of a quarter-circle, maybe 50 feet long. If you sit at one end and whisper into the back wall of the bench, a person sitting at the other end will hear you as clearly as if they were right next to you.

BrotherCadfael
04-29-2009, 10:41 AM
Charlie McCarthy used to say, "I sit up here and do all the work, and Bergen sits behind me and moves his lips!"

YogSothoth
04-29-2009, 11:51 AM
Is the OP asking about ventriloquists?


Yes, them too. Really I was just curious how people do it and your answers have all given me wonderful insight. I've tried but still can't fake it worth a damn though :( I thought it might be fun to say "behind you!" when you're in front of someone and make it sound like someone's behind them :D

Markxxx
04-29-2009, 01:19 PM
It's actually pretty easy to talk without moving your lips, just get a mirror and practice.

Just making the movement of a puppet with your hand (instead of an actual puppet) and you will see how quickly the illusion starts.

I also see a similar illusion when I see people who do cartoon voices talk. Like Seth McFarlane (of "Family Guy") his normal voice is the same of "Brian the dog," so when you see him on talk shows or the like and the's talking, it doesn't look right. It doesn't seem like the voice is coming out of him. I've noticed the same thing with other voice actors.

Swallowed My Cellphone
04-29-2009, 02:25 PM
Truth be told, the real secret behind his success is not in the "I'm not really talking" part of the trick, but in the way he interacts with his puppets. He has a terrific talent for convincing the audience that the puppet is an entity unto itself, and that the banter really is a dialogue instead of just one guy talking to his own hand.Senor Wences (http://youtube.com/watch?v=-YJLGOBLvfE) was superb at this as well. He was famous for quick exchanges between multiple characters.

I also find the linked clip to be an excellent example of the psychological/perceptual effect that makes one feel as if they are hearing a voice from a different location. To me, it sounds like Johnny's voice is coming from behind the table. But even if Wences could actual "throw his voice" it would all still be coming from the one source: the single speaker of my computer. So no matter what I'm hearing, it's all coming from the same place, my speaker. But it doesn't feel that way when I watch it.

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