Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Speech recognition and creative writing

Having a bad back (temporarily, I hope) that won't let me sit down for long periods, I have been unable to type as much on my computer as I would normally like. This has driven me to try out the speech recognition software built in to Windows Vista.

My first impression was amazement. I spoke, it wrote. The tutorial system had me reading out a text which said how great speech recognition was - how it is the future of computing. Perhaps I was being brainwashed. But it seemed to work. Anything I said on the subject of speech recognition software it had a good go at transcribing. At the end of day one I was hugely impressed.

Day two wasn't so good. By this time I was starting to stray off the subject of speech recognition software and it was having a hard time interpreting my words. The system needed training. That was what the tutorial system told me. I must persevere.

But the things I wanted it to type, it decided to interpret as commands. And my commands, it decided to type. I tried to go back and edit my mistakes - as this should train the system better to understand me. But my attempts to edit were also misinterpreted. Perhaps it was the edge of stress in my voice, but eventually it stopped understanding me at all. Even when I shouted at it - which I am ashamed to say I did.

Persevere. Yes. That is what I will do. Tomorrow perhaps. Or the day after. As for this blog entry - I'm going about it in the old fashioned way. Keyboard.

But if you are a writers with experience of using speech recognition software in creative work, I'd be glad to hear of your experiences. Should I press on?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Edit Edit Edit

They say that a novel is never finished, only abandon. There are always more improvements that can be made by editing. Always more mistakes to be found. At last you reach the point where you don’t have enough emotional energy to continue and anyway you’ve reached your deadline, so you send the damn thing off. The same it seems it’s true for films.

Having written a short comedy screenplay entitled Pixicillus, gone through pre-production then actually filmed the thing this summer, it was time to start sticking it together. My good friend Gav Irons of BRAG Films set about editing it into shape.
The first edit was a rough cut. He called us together to see the result. We sat around the television watching, thinking ‘that’s not too bad’ and chuckling from time to time. Of course there were things to change. By the end of the session we’d given Gav a list of corrections about a mile long.

When we came together to see the result of the second edit, we found ourselves laughing at most of the jokes. Cutting a quarter of a second here. Adding half a second there. It had made all the difference. But by the end of the evening we’d found half a page of new edits – things we hadn’t spotted the first time.
The long suffering Gav worked away on our list so that when we came together the third time and watched our short film we found ourselves laughing out loud all the way through. But would other people find it funny?

The deadline was upon us. The last couple of edits - they had to be the last as we’d run out of time - were done. The film was sent in. And on Monday we went down to the Firebug bar in Leicester and saw, for the first time, our film projected on a big screen in front of the real audience.

The film began. I held my breath. Would they get jokes?

Then they started laughing and they didn't stop till the end. At moments like that, writing gives you its rewards – when you see people enjoying your work. Perhaps the editing is worth it after all.