By Stephanie Ciccarelli
March 5, 2013
Everywhere you go, it seems like there is a voice talking to you. New technologies incorporate the human voice in many ways, many of these applications employing the means of text-to-speech (TTS).
Do you think that TTS poses a threat to custom voice recordings? Why or why not?
Be sure to state your case in today's VOX Daily!
Recently I had an opportunity to defend the intrinsic value and necessity of custom voice-over recordings in a debate over whether or not text-to-speech would ever fully replace the need for actors to record custom voice-overs in studio.
Being the co-founder of a company that specializes in the recording of spoken word messages, it is safe to say that I am more than a little biased. That being said, there are many different factors as to why text-to-speech will never fully replace the human voice.
In a nutshell, these factors include:
- Sheer number of different languages, dialects, accents, vocabulary and manner of speech (linguistics)
- Complexity of cultural, historical and societal nuance/understanding of context (social)
- The need to customize or brand for corporate purposes picking a specific voice (customization)
- Cognitive ability to know and see the 'big picture' when telling a story or making an argument (suspension of disbelief)
- Artistic direction that can be interpreted and internalized making a read more believable (performance)
When you consider that there are 6,800+ spoken languages being used today, the potential for text-to-speech to replace the human voice, its delivery, correct pronunciation, tone, nuance and so on is difficult to comprehend let alone achieve.
There are so many things that a computer program cannot infer or know. Information, when interpreted, could be expressed in myriad ways depending on the situation, context and audience. It is up to the individual performing the script to properly assess what it is that they are reading and to know how best to convey that information to the intended audience. This is what makes custom voice-overs so effective.
The voice artist uses discernment and all of the tools at their disposal to act like a detective as it were to become educated on the subject, develop a character and determine how best to present the message to those meant to hear it. There are unspoken sentiments that can be expressed using the human voice in a performance that would not be as effective, artistically or technically, if TTS were the go-to solution.
Something else to consider is intent. An educated voice actor makes choices whereas an untrained actor makes guesses. The actor uses their own experiences (method acting) and combines those with the information in front of them to craft a read that is both accurate and persuasive (emotion). The computer program could be considered untrained in the sense that the selections it makes are based upon formulas and not upon heart knowledge. Head knowledge is important but heart knowledge is critical to comprehension and communicating effectively.
Will text-to-speech ever be on par with custom voice-over recording?
Looking forward to hearing from you!
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