The Future of Voiceovers: Hold Your Tongue...Possibly Forever

"Do we need to cast a voice-over talent for this project?"

That's a valid question any producer might ask when creating an advertisement, corporate audio-video presentation, video game, etc. Of course, the answer depends on what elements the producer and client feel will best communicate with the audience.

For a radio ad, a fully sung jingle with no voice-over could work best. A TV spot or corporate narration might be most effective using scrolling graphic and text, again without an announcer. But very soon producers could be pondering whether their productions need a voice over talent for a more disturbing reason. Vocal utterances produced by air passing through folds of tissue and formed by lips, teeth, and tongue may, simply put, become obsolete. Yes, the "virtual voice talent" may very well become a reality.

Welcome to the Machine

In the May 2004 issue of Mix Magazine, in two separate articles, Stephen St. Croix and Paul D. Lehrman relate their experiences with a new piece of software ominously named "Vocaloid." This little computer-coded wonder is a speech synthesizer that's being used to synthesize background vocals on actual recordings that are being sold to the public--background vocals so good, you'd be hard-pressed to recognize they're fake singers. Now, considering the dubious singing talents of many of our current pop stars, maybe a Vocaloid virtual diva named Britney isn't too far-fetched. Audio manipulation, including pitch correction, equalization, compression, reverb, have been used for decades to save the bacon of many a pop star's performance in-studio or on stage. Technically, it's just a short step from this point to a "singer in a box."

In fact, in the letters section of the July 2004 issue of Mix Magazine a person identified only as "BC," referring to the St. Croix and Lehrman articles, boasted that he's created a "band" called The Bots, "...created wholly from speech synthesizers and 3-D graphics." BC further states, "I use Vocaloid among a variety of other speech synths to make it more into an ensemble. The Bots have released two CDs, a 'record deal' with Magnatune, and a second video in the works. It's been a long and painful ordeal, but I've finally gotten them to the point where they seem as real as any other band out there--except no live concerts."

I've Gotta Sing

And that's the crux of the matter. The appeal of virtual entertainers probably will be quite limited--at least for the foreseeable future--because they can't tour, do drugs, get into fights, sue their record labels, promote world peace, raise money for charity, or do anything live flesh and blood performers can do. We, the audience, love the performer as much as the performer's music. And, in this case, that's a good thing. Tony Bennett, the White Stripes, Diana Krall, Toby Keith, Frederica von Stade, and all of the American Idol wannabes are quite safe from Vocaloid elimination.

Speak Now of Forever Hold Your Peace

But voice over talents may not be so lucky. Voice talents are not seen. They don't have adoring fans, except their moms and, maybe, a few other voice-over talents. They perform in short increments: 30 seconds, 60 seconds, a 30 minute narration on how to make a million in real estate. If speech synthesis has reached a point of sophistication sufficient enough to create virtual singers, what's to prevent a software genius from developing a program to replace voice talent? Write the program.

Sample 300 to 500 voices, male and female, each with unique characteristics, incorporate them into the software and, voila, Instant Announcer in a Box. Just load your script text into the program, which converts the text to perfectly uttered speech. No retakes. With a few clicks of the mouse to tweak inflection, emphasis, pacing, dynamics, etc. to polish the natural feel of the voice-over and you're done.

Far-fetched? If entertainment's got a virtual band call The Bots, why can't advertising and marketing have its own virtual Don Pardo?

Well, it seems maybe they can...

©Peter Drew

Peter Drew, a freelance voice-over talent and copywriter/producer with decades of experience, is heard on radio and television stations, corporate presentations, web sites, and messages-on-hold across America and countries around the world. To send an email regarding this article, please visit Peter Drew Voiceovers at http://www.peterdrewvo.com/

In The News:

WTF is Ad-ID?  Digiday

A Lunchtime Lesson on Print Advertising

I promise you'll be able to finish this article before... Read More

The Benefits of Specific Advertising

The great Claude Hopkins (Author of Scientific Advertising) once said,... Read More

How You Measure Yourself Is How You Motivate Yourself

One of the keys to strong positive mental attitude is... Read More

Too Much Build-Up: Over-Zealous Ad Copy Can Break The Sale

How many times has this happened to you?A friend recommends... Read More

Become a Storyteller Not an Advertiser and Watch Your Traffic Increase

When you read the newspaper, do you read advertisements as... Read More

Printing - How Do I Buy It?

Why should I care where I get my printed material... Read More

Increase Business By Being Nice

I have been reading articles on increasing sales using search... Read More

Magnetic Signs: Where Do They Work Best?

Recently, a woman called to ask about replacing a magnetic... Read More

The Man With The Grasshopper Mind

The title of this article also happens to be one... Read More

How To Write Ads That Get Response

Your print ads should do more than just get noticed.... Read More

Can I Write and Print My Own Business Brochures and Business Cards?

If you have a computer and a printer, preferably one... Read More

Placemat Ad Advertising

Starting a placemat ad business can create more business for... Read More

Why Would Anyone Want Your Business Card?

Do you remember how proud you were the first time... Read More

Take Your Radio Ads to the Next Level

Most small businesses do not have a high powered advertising... Read More

If You Want To Get More Customers, Heres 10 Powerful Stories To Improve Your Ads

Remember, as a child lying in bed and listening to... Read More

Media Savvy ? Media Skills For Rural Women

The ability to lead, persuade and influence are integral skills... Read More

The Graphic Problem

Digital printing has revolutionized the sign industry. Current printers can... Read More

Testing Headlines

A correspondent to AdBriefing, my monthly newsletter, has posed a... Read More

How to Advertise with Flyers

When you first start out on your business venture, money... Read More

Information Gathering & Delivery May Never Be The Same!

Give Us The Bottom Line!If you are like most people,... Read More

How to Write Great Headlines

According to experts, just changing the headline of an ad... Read More

10 Reasons Why Your Company Needs Custom Invitations

I am always amazed when I hear about companies who... Read More

10 Tips For Writing A Profit Producing Ad

1. You can get ad copy ideas by studying similar... Read More

Online vs. Offline Advertising

Let's face it. Email marketing and publishing have became very... Read More

Radio and Television Ads: Clever Vs. Annoying

Ever heard or seen a radio or television commercial that... Read More