Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

Voiceover

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

March 12, 2009

Comments (16)

world growing on a plant sprouting upOver the years, we've spelled out the name of this industry in a number of ways, however, those differences have never changed what the term means.

This word represents our world, so to speak, and we need to protect it!

What does the word "voiceover" mean to you and what makes it uniquely ours?

Share your thoughts and let the conversation begin!

Voiceover

It's time to protect a word that is rightfully ours!

Recent events have inspired this post. After publishing a blog entry last night, I had some new clarity thanks to a tip sent to me by Elaine Victoria Grey, discovering that there weren't voice actors hired specially to record voiceovers for this generation of the iPod Shuffle... it was reported on the blog Gizmodo this morning to be in fact, quite the opposite.

This was a surprise to me, and I must admit, I was really hoping to find out who got the gig. I love Apple and was excited, thinking perhaps naively, that custom voiceovers were recorded for the iPod Shuffle as the feature named "VoiceOver" suggested.

It is a widely held opinion that text-to-speech (TTS) isn't voiceover, nor are synthetic, aggregated phonemes that when read out by a computer form words and sentences. This technology does have its merits, particularly for the visually impaired, however, it isn't in the truest sense, voiceover.

The term "Voiceover" (and its subsequent variations) belongs to our community of voice artists and audio producers, and we're proud of it!

If there's any doubt in your mind, read the barrage of 68 comments left on the article where the industry debated the spelling of its own name.

Diane Havens, in relation to what Apple is referring to as voiceover, put it nicely today when she said:

"... It is, of course, not a voice over, it's not even really a voice -- it's a synthesized sound that approximates human speech. No smile."

If one were to go back to the origin of the word, "voiceover" actually referred to the laying down of a voice track over music or the like (thank you to Sid Whatley for that via Facebook).

Is the world to believe that synthetic voices are actually voiceovers?

Text-to-speech and synthetic computerized utterances must not prevail...

Say It Loud!

Leave a comment with your thoughts. This is far too important not to speak up for!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Andrejs Zemdega

Related Topics: Apple, audio, hired, industry, iPod Shuffle, recordings, voice talent, voiceover, voiceovers


Comments


    Technology cannot prevail in this instance because it has no "voice". Strictly and scientifically speaking, a "voice" is..."a sound produced by the vocal chords of a vertebrate, esp. a human." (American Heritage Dictionary 3rd Edition). The same dictionary also defines "voice-over/voiceover" (n.) as "the voice of an unseen narrator..."
    I'm reminded of my own struggle with my cellphone bluetooth technology. I am consistently forced to replicate the sound that the phone understands to mean names and numbers. In the case of numbers it's an excercise in perfect diction. For names, that's an entirely different story...you have to remove all vowels in the middle of a name to come anywhere close to a pronunciation...of sorts.
    Like drum machines, there IS a place for the phonemes but they have no soul and will never replace the original.

    Posted by:

      Stephanie, I think your post underscores the fact that behind every human voice is a human - with intelligence and personality. Perhaps engineers will find a way to simulate personality as they can now approximate intelligence in limited ways. But I think there is a message here to all voiceover artists: Regardless of whether the client understands this, v/o is not about your voice; it's about "you", the person, talking to "me."

      Posted by:

        Stephanie,
        I was saddened to learn about the new 'shuffle's' synthetic voice, but NOT surprised.
        Apple is probably trying to replicate what they hear on RADIO these days: Boring, Bland & monotone.

        Posted by:
        • JC Haze
        • March 13, 2009 10:53 AM

          It will never replace real voice acting.

          Posted by:
          • Matt Leong
          • March 13, 2009 11:59 AM

            Computers will always be "readers", they will never be actors.

            Posted by:

              This is yet one more step into devaluing human being completely and turning them into nothing more than nameless/faceless, easily replaceable drones.

              Posted by:
              • Laura Nagle
              • March 13, 2009 12:00 PM

                I agree that the term should only be used for HUMAN voices, but deep inside I can't ignore the fact that, one day, computers will put us ALL out of work.

                Posted by:

                  The first issue is the use of the term 'voice-over'. I think our industry has a legitimate complaint and should send it directly to Apple.

                  Secondly, we are concerned about our own replacement, and I wonder (loudly) about a few things. Can the development and implementation of TTS really be cheaper than hiring voice actors? How much cheaper? What are the costs here? Does it come down to cost, or to humans not wanting to deal with other humans? Why does Apple consider synthesized voice preferable to the human voice?

                  Stephanie, somebody needs to ask these questions of Apple.

                  Posted by:
                  • VOX Daily Reader
                  • March 13, 2009 12:22 PM

                    Like it or not, this was no doubt the only practical way for Apple to create this product. There's no way the company could manage the preparation and outsourcing of an artist/title announcement for each of hundreds or thousands of new songs every day, and get them distributed in sync with the MP3s. Let alone afford it.

                    The only way this could be done with real, human voices would be to have the artists themselves announce their own new songs. That could very well be the next step, now that Apple has created an expectation.

                    Trying to engage the public in arguing the definition of an industry-niche term such as "voiceover" is not going to elicit sympathy. It sounds like whining to anyone outside our industry.

                    If we focus on delivering a product with clear benefits to TTS, that's all we can do. The consumer will ultimately decide if he wants to spend more for the real thing, because we already are more expensive than TTS. Just do your best to be worth it.

                    Posted by:

                      It's unfortunate that they had to use the very term that defines us as artists; the term that defines our career. On the occasions and in the other devices I have heard such synthetic replications of the human voice, I have not heard the actual term 'voice over' used for the feature.

                      When I first started using Final Draft I found the text-to-speech option nothing more than amusing and as a necessary component for hearing the dialogue 'spoken' when I was alone and needed to gauge pacing; these strange, robotic approximations of human words with no timbre, cadence, emotion, and spoken completely phonetically - thus rendering a word or a name totally unintelligible or different.

                      I haven't yet heard the feature on Kindle, but I understand there's been a bit of an uproar about it - but more so about breach of intellectual property.

                      Having said all this, I don't necessarily think it's going to destroy anything for us; it may sound less like Rosie from the Jetsons and more like a very shy person speaking through a tin can, but I too wish they'd chosen a different name. It's only people who are so not tuned in to anything else who may get us confused; someone who has somehow never watched TV or listened radio or seen a film etc who buys the new iPod and then when learning what we do, asks us, wide eyed, 'Oh, you're the one who tells me what song I'm listening to right now? So cool!'

                      Posted by:

                        We've all seen the direction that technology seems to be taking us. It is ironic that the concept of talking computers could only introduced in the first place because of the talents of voice actors: from Majel Barrett in "Star Trek" to Douglas Rain as HAL 9000 in "2001: A Space Odyssey" to Sigourney Weaver in "WALL•E." Now our computers can talk for themselves. I'm sure that somewhere in the future programers will find some algorithm to synthesize human interpretation and emotion as well. But there is something about the real thing that can never be duplicated. From something as simple as butter substitutes to the most advanced MIDI technology, the artificial product is never quite as good as the real thing. And as excited as I am about every new advance we make as a human species, duplicating human speech or action or thought or whatever this is one thing I hope we never quite get right. Because if we end up being able to create perfect synthetic humans, what need will there be for the original?

                        Posted by:
                        • Joseph C. Battrick
                        • March 13, 2009 5:03 PM

                          hey, guys... it's done. And it's not the end of the voice world as we know it! I agree with Paul (above)....to those outside our niche industry, what I'm hearing sounds like whining.
                          Let's look around: there's a boatload of synthesised insruments available for your recording pleasure...'music' composed and played by computers....avatars selling things... movies made entirely of computer generated characters (with a real voice, I might add). And yet, everyday a child picks up a 'real' instrument and learns to play, people attend 'live' concerts of every type to be bathed in music, films are produced with 'real live' actors and actresses, words are bought to life by 'real' voices for commercials, narrations, audiobooks... and on and on. Keep plugging....there's room for it all!

                          Posted by:
                          • Deb
                          • March 13, 2009 6:36 PM

                            While I agree with some previous comments that the term voiceover is a very strange choice for this function... I think we'll always have work too as there will always be clients who seek to create a personal experience/encounter for certain services. Too bad for Apple not to go high-quality with this. I love Apple otherwise so that's a disappointment.

                            Posted by:
                            • Kim
                            • March 14, 2009 5:22 AM

                              Folks, the "Brave New World" angst is unnecessary. When the Industrial Revolution came, it was decried as "devaluing human beings," destroying the laborer's connection to the soil and putting him in a dehumanizing, repetitive job. Yet that transformation brought an increase in the average standard of living so great that few can get their brains around it, even now.

                              Those same "dehumanizing" factory jobs are now being eulogized as the Information Revolution makes them obsolete.

                              Synthesized voice-surrogates will *certainly* "replace voice acting" in a lot of instances (they already have!) - but never in *all* instances. My prediction is that your human-ness and personality will become much more important in differentiating yourself from your silicon competitors.

                              Posted by:

                                Stephanie..

                                I think you're absolutely right to want to properly term this new feature. I also agree with Kim that we'll always have work, but I think it's more that it's a misrepresentation of function. It is not voiceover, it is truly text to speech as you have discovered.

                                I think that we should try to help apple with its' terminology and start a renaming campaign. :)

                                I'll throw my hat into the ring, and take the first shot across the bow.

                                I think apple should call it: Applespeak

                                There you go..

                                Suggestions?

                                Adam

                                Posted by:

                                  Hi Adam et al,

                                  Thank you very much for your continued discussion on this topic. I find it very interesting to hear everyone's different perspectives and thoughts on the matter.

                                  Just like Coca-Cola said, "You can beat the real thing". That perhaps should serve as our motto where TTS and synthetic voices are concerned.

                                  Anyone else want to add to the conversation? More comments are welcome!

                                  Best wishes,

                                  Stephanie

                                  Posted by:

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