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Observations, musings and rubbish from the mind of an IVO (International Voice Over)

July 5, 2023 2:01 pm

Ai, cloning and the whole darn thing…

A long time ago, in February 2003, I was booked, through a recording studio, to participate in a number of VoiceOver sessions spanning several days for IBM (International Business Machines – the irony of that last word will become apparent).

20 years on, in April 2023, a client I only occasionally work for in the UK, sent a message and a link to a website I’d never heard of before, asking if one of the VoiceOver ‘samples’ on the platform was me. Every now and then, clients, agencies, friends and family, mention that they’ve heard me on the internet or a commercial voicing something and, occasionally, they’ll send me a link, or I’ll go searching for the piece out of professional interest or curiosity.

When I hit the link the client had forwarded and found the sample which they thought sounded like me, on hearing the audio, I concluded, “Hmmm, yes, it does sound like me, albeit with a cold and slightly robotic”. So I listened again. And again. And again. And that’s when I realised that the sample VoiceOver didn’t just ‘sound like’ me, it was me — or rather my voice, although quite badly represented in the format I’d heard – complete with the characteristics of my voice-print in terms of the subtle nuances, cadences, inflections, intonation, colour and overall timbre.

20 days later, a client, based in France, sent me the very same link, asking the very same question, “Is this you, Greg?”.

About three weeks later, yet another UK client forwarded me a different link featuring what, by this time, I realised, was actually my ‘cloned’ voice in an online promotion being used to teach people how to operate a photo processing software program.

British Actors’ Equity, who have been following a number of similar cases, contacted me, the upshot of which was a small mention in The Times newspaper, a longer reference in The Financial Times, an interview with Dubai Eye Radio’s “The Agenda” (a live online current affairs programme, broadcast across the UAE), and finally a TV interview/piece with the UK Channel 4 News team.

Channel 4 approached the story from a “David vs Goliath” perspective, which I considered to be ‘interesting’ at first. However, as the story gained momentum and continues to evolve, I think the metaphor is rather apt…