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  • Writer's pictureroskolewis

5 Strong Reasons Voiceover Artists Should Stop Worrying About AI

Updated: Jan 24

The absolute talk of the voiceover town right now, and rightly so! Where does the rise of the robot voice boxes leave the likes of me and my VO colleagues? Here are a handful of reasons not to worry...

Shopping around for the perfect voice won't suddenly stop

Project makers are fussy - and rightly so! Traditionally, creators have spent a lot of time finding the perfect voice for their project. Creatives have used agents and websites for voice casting and recruiting for decades. Now, I realise the irony of pointing out what has been traditionally done; but why would a creator go from relentlessly voice hunting for the perfect fit from 1000s of prospective humans to suddenly ignoring them and settling for one of a selection of massively over-used synthetic voices that stand out like a sore thumb and deliver nuances about as effectively as a ham sandwich?

You'll only get replaced by a robot if you sound like one

A good voiceover artist brings depth, connection and emotion. They'll know that bad news and good news isn't delivered in exactly the same way. They'll give you that important beat that you added to the script - that 'sideways look to the camera'. They understand every subtle bit of a script's humour, irreverence, sarcasm or indeed any one of the many thousands of intonations a human can take when saying something.

If it doesn't matter to the writer that the voiceover read is dead behind the eyes, then okay; but short of beginners or hobbyists, has any professional creator ever made something worth its salt and wanted such an important element to be bereft of soul?

Adlibs and creative interpretation are a human-only domain

With experience comes wisdom. Wisdom is a little different to knowledge - while AI may have the knowledge of how to string words together, it won't inject anything above and beyond. It can never 'excel'; it will just 'do'. You'll know precisely what you're going to get and it will only meet expectations at best. I've recorded literally thousands of voiceover jobs and of course much of the time one sticks rigidly to the script before them; but frequently I'll be asked to bring something extra - "Rosko, see what you can do with this..."

With creative licence comes a piece of work that will pleasantly surprise a client and only with that added level of creativity will the audio exceed expectations.

Everyone knows!

So a company has chosen to use an artificial voice instead of a human. Their choice. Did they use AI because they think no-one will notice or because it just doesn't matter in relation to the product? If it's the latter, then fine; but if it's the former, we all know. Aside from its general uncanny valley-like delivery, it only takes a couple of sentences before it drops the ball completely on a simple intonation - a passing moment on a syllable - and your suspicions are confirmed - and that deeply impacts the production's viability.

If you are a firm trying to create top quality content (and we all are, aren't we? We all aspire to create the best work we can), you're parading around in The Emperors New Clothes if you think your listeners or viewers all think using AI voice is indeed top quality content. Even if the robot read is relatively slick and you've manipulated the script enough to 'get away with it' - it's still one of a limited number of synthetic voices - voices that can frequently be heard in every budget-less YouTuber's "5 Real Ghosts Caught on Camera" video.

Even in a galaxy far far away, authenticity triumphs

Old photo I'm passing off as a well thought-out metaphor

Remember when George Lucas released the Star Wars prequels? CGI, he said, had finally reached a point where he could make all that previously-too-complicated Star Wars stuff in the comfort of his studio and in front of a green screen. Well, The Phantom Menace was crap. And because, 25 years later, CGI is still often incredibly jarring in movies, all the new Star Wars films are being made back out in the Tunisian desert again while their dehydrated actors sweat away in tin costumes just like they did in the 70s.

In the immortal words of Erick Sermon - Stay Real!

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