In the Zagar & Evans pop song classic In the Year 2525, the duo sang of a year where “some machine is doing that for you.”
Voice-over actors, welcome to the future. A company called Sonantic has created what it claims is the first artificial intelligence voice models that sound genuinely human and capable of expressing “a wide range of complex human emotions, from fear and sadness to joy and surprise.”
Gaming producers like Obsidian Entertainment, Splash Damage and 4A Games are already on board with the technology, which is in use from development through post-production. The concept is similar to CGI for audio. Human, realistic voice tech is in its infancy, but along with this brave new frontier is a new opportunity for voiceover artists – banking their words for future use.
Actors interested in creating voice models spend a few hours in the studio recording various lines of dialogue unrelated to clients’ scripts. Sonantic records the actors’ performances and utilizes proprietary deep learning algorithms to augment the data captured from their voices to create voice models. The AI has been trained to match any voice style, so that it doesn’t need an actor to record every word or phrase.
The actors can thereafter generate passive income every time their voice models are used. The revenue is in the form of profit-sharing, according to the company, which may raise some eyebrows among Hollywood cognoscenti, given its history. SAG-AFTRA declined comment on the methodology.
Sonantic claims its AI model saves time and money by avoiding the traditional production logistics of booking studios, scheduling, traveling, and more.
“The important point is this will be augmenting how an actor currently works,” said a company statement. “Just as CGI hasn’t taken away from the jobs of the cinematographer, Sonantic won’t take away actors’ jobs either. If anything, actors get more opportunities, because they can now work virtually and in-person. In-person roles will always be important because raw performances are so compelling to us as the audience.”
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