Izumi Yamauchi’s announcement during the disaster that went from criticism to praise in one fell swoop…had its roots in a 2017 study session | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Izumi Yamauchi’s announcement during the disaster that went from criticism to praise in one fell swoop…had its roots in a 2017 study session

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Run away now! Remember the Great East Japan Earthquake! …Izumi Yamauchi, announcer, calling for evacuation.

NHK’s announcement of the tsunami warning is too scary” and “NHK announcer’s exclamation is too emotional and makes me anxious” – these tweets temporarily appeared on SNS after the Noto Peninsula earthquake struck on January 1.

However, this changed drastically when Hajime Suzuki of the Acoustic Research Institute of Japan sent the following tweet on X (formerly Twitter).

NHK announcers have been criticized for being emotional about the #tsunami warning, and in 2017, a study session was held at our company, initiated by #Takase, who was also the host of Kohaku.

We had a serious discussion about how to evacuate people who might not be able to escape due to normality bias by making them stand up from their kotatsu, and we came to the conclusion that we need to put a little bit of emotion in order to incite some sense of crisis.

I know that some people may feel scared, but I hope that they will close their eyes to the fact that this information is to protect the lives of those who need it.

As this tweet spread, the voices of criticism quickly turned to praise.

Criticism of Izumi Yamauchi’s “scary” announcements quickly turned to praise (from NHK’s website).

This has brought attention to the NHK announcers’ high announcing skills and awareness of announcing, but what was the content of the study session in ’17 all about? Why the Acoustic Institute of Japan? We asked Mr. Hajime Suzuki of the Acoustic Research Institute of Japan about the impetus behind it.

In ’17, we were invited to participate in the second session of NHK’s program “Ningyo wo Sukui Variety: Nihonjin no Onamae! The second broadcast of NHK’s program NHK’s second broadcast of the program “Nihonjin no namae! When I asked what the name Yamada sounded like in the interview, I created a voice print to visualize the phonetic sound and confirmed it visually.

The study session was attended by a little more than 10 participants. One of the themes was “to have current announcers read the same script and analyze individual characteristics, such as whether the person is suited for news, sports play-by-play, or what kind of program is best.

The second is “Recently, actors and voice actors are increasingly being used to narrate documentaries and other programs, which were often handled by announcers. How can we take narration one step further with the identity and skills of an announcer?

And the third was how to make announcements during emergencies, as suggested by announcer Takase.

For example, “We had to change the way we spoke at different stages, such as ‘tsunami warning’ and ‘major tsunami warning,’ and put the information that it was really an emergency in the voice, with the same connotation as an emergency sound like a siren.”

What does it mean to “put information in the voice”?

What exactly should be done to “put information in the voice”?

For example, if a person screams in an emergency or speaks too fast in excitement, it would be inadequate for conveying information. Although it is necessary to raise the vibration frequency of the vocal cords firmly, if it rises too high, the articulation will collapse.

For example, if you say ‘help’ while screaming, you can recognize that it is probably help by the scream, but the phonetics will collapse and you may not be able to hear it as a word.

On the other hand, in the case of earthquakes, we need to convey information such as “a tsunami is coming,” “when,” “where,” and “how high,” so there is a trade-off between the urgency of the situation and the information. The right amount of urgency and the right amount of information is a test of an announcer’s skill, and it seems that the announcers were well trained in this area.

What exactly did they do in the study sessions?

First, they read the news as if it were normal news, then they read it in an excited way, and then they played it back, so that the audience could visually see the voiceprints and confirm that ‘this does not convey the level of urgency’ and ‘this conveys information but does not convey urgency.

For important, high-priority information such as “tsunami is coming,” “when,” and “where,” the participants practiced using stronger intonation and slowly raising the vibration rate of their vocal cords. The students were asked to use a slower, more intense intonation and to raise the frequency of their vocal cords.

In general, it is preferable to read the news without moving the vocal cords up and down to convey information in a straightforward manner, since strong intonation can cause the news to be emotionally charged. For example, in a live sports broadcast or a live horse race, the intonation is strengthened and the vibration rate of the vocal cords is increased. We also gave them visual examples to confirm these differences.

For important, high-priority information such as ‘tsunami is coming,’ ‘when,’ and ‘where,’ we had them practice stronger intonation and slowly raise the frequency of their vocal cords,” said Hajime Suzuki (PHOTO: AFLO).

The commercial broadcasters’ announcements were evaluated…

Incidentally, although only NHK’s announcements were talked about, when asked about the evaluation of announcements by other stations, …… was the most popular source of information.

I think all stations were focused on conveying information well.

NHK announcers seemed to have taken the lead based on the lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake, but I understand that some people outside the disaster area are still ‘scared’ and ‘anxious,’ so I think it would be better not to do the same thing on every station in terms of ‘having a choice. There are actually people who are relieved that TV Tokyo is playing anime.”

By the way, the Acoustic Research Institute of Japan is sometimes seen on TV variety shows, for example, on themes such as “the differences in artists’ voices,” but what kind of work does it do on a daily basis?

My predecessor was at the National Research Institute of Police Science, and he was the first in Japan to establish the technology for voiceprint identification. However, since it was a police research institute, it could only handle criminal cases.

So, as a private research institute, we analyzed, visualized, and compared sounds in appraisals of criminal and civil cases, and as we accumulated know-how, we were increasingly asked to provide consulting services for the development of new services.

In parallel, we have also been asked by the police, courts, lawyers, and others to perform voiceprint analysis, to evaluate whether or not audio has been edited, and, more recently, to infer from sound what is going on in unseen places with drive recorders, smartphones, and other devices that record sound outside the angle of view.

About 300,000 units of “BauriLingual” were shipped in Japan and abroad when it was launched in 2002, and the Ig Nobel Prize was awarded in October of the same year (PHOTO: AFRO).

The Ig Nobel Peace Prize was also awarded to the development of “BauriLingual.

Incidentally, “BauriLingual,” which was released by Takara Tomy in September 2002 as a communication tool for dogs and won the Ig Nobel Peace Prize in the same year, was also jointly developed by the Acoustic Research Institute of Japan.

The product was originally developed as a TV project around 1997, when we were asked to record a dog’s cries and see what kind of emotions could be read from them.

Another popular product was a cell phone “ringtone” service that created music based on elements of the “Takemoto Piano” commercial for the purchase of pianos, which was rumored to stop babies from crying, and which the institute had analyzed. From there, in 2007, Takara Tomy released the “Baby Kerotto Switch,” which plays music to make babies stop crying when a switch on a stuffed animal is pressed and held for a long time.

In addition, on February 22 this year, Kodansha is scheduled to release a book, “The Baby’s Giggling and Crying Stops: The Magical Method to Stop Baby’s Crying,” the culmination of his research on stopping babies’ crying since 2001. Mr. Suzuki says with deep emotion, “I graduated from university in 1993.

For the past 30 years since I graduated from university in 1993, I have been studying sound with my father, who preceded me. I would be very happy if my research could be used to make announcements during disasters, or to help mothers who are troubled by babies who cannot stop crying.

Hajime Suzuki’s book, “The Book to Stop Babies’ Stuck-up Crying: The Magical Method to Stop Crying Kerotte” (Kodansha) will be released on February 22.
  • Interview and text by Wakako Tako

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