DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #25: Why I’ll Look Stupid…no, I mean why I might look stupid for making a prediction about where VO is headed. What did you think I meant?

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

I’m gonna make a prediction in this entry about where VO is headed…in the future! The thing is, I’m a tad scared to make it. I mean, aren’t some movies pretty laughable in how off they were in their predictions about what will happen in the future? Take “Back To The Future Part 2,” for example, in the clip that I opened my entry with. According to that movie, our cities will look like THAT in…2015. Three years. If they’re right, then DAMN is there going to be a rapid explosion of technology in three years! Or how about “Blade Runner,” which supposedly takes place in 2019, and shows a Los Angeles with a smog-covered sky, lots of buildings, and lots of crowds that make it difficult to see where you’re going……..actually, that is Los Angeles, never mind. What I’m trying to say is don’t laugh at me too much if, years later, my predictions of the future turn out to be wrong. However, I’m gonna use some actual examples to back up my prediction: namely, my prediction that VO will be completely replaced with on-camera and 3D motion-capture acting.

What I’m using as the basis for my prediction is…video games. Yeah, I know, “But Dave, those are video games, not your usual day-to-day VO jobs”…right? Well hey, that’s why I said this is a prediction of the future. Currently, only clients like video game and movie companies can afford this top-dollar technology, but every technology gets cheaper in time, and I can definitely see the average client using this technology when it gets cheaper.

Y’see, I’m a bit of a weirdo when it comes to video games in that a game’s story has always been the #1 factor for me, and few stories had more effective acting than a game called “Heavy Rain.” To give the plot an absurdly quick summary, the protagonist’s 10-year-old son is kidnapped by a serial killer who continually taunts the protagonist with clues as to where he’s keeping the boy. Needless to say, that’s a pretty dark and intense story, but creator David Cage was pretty vocal that he wanted to create a video game experience that was just as emotionally provocative as a movie. To do that, it goes without saying that the acting needed to be top-notch so that players could get emotionally invested. Rather than just doing voice-over, though…Cage went the extra mile.

All of the characters in the game were designed to look completely identical to the voice actors who played them. And they did a pretty good job with it, if I do say so myself. Check out how creepy the similarities are.

The characters in “Heavy Rain” were designed to resemble their voice actors.

Conceptually speaking, that’s not quite new. Back in the old days, Disney was filming live-action sequences on film to use as a reference for their animation, and often had the voice actors serve as the physical models for the characters they played. The point behind this, though, is so that no gamer could ever complain, “That voice doesn’t sound like it fits”…because the voice belongs to the person they’re portraying.

Then, however, comes the voice acting. After designing the characters based on the voice actors who played them, and having them act out their scenes using motion-capture technology, it was time to record the voices. That’s a process that, under normal circumstances, means just having the actors come in, record their lines, and having the animators make the facial reactions. With “Heavy Rain,” though, they literally put motion capture gear on the actors’ faces while they recorded their lines, so that both their vocal delivery and their facial expressions would be captured. So the acting in “Heavy Rain” can’t really even be called “voice acting,” because it was acting on all three fronts–body, face, AND voice. To date, not even a Pixar movie has done this.

The video below shows the entire process. I’ll also end this portion of my audio narration here so you can watch the video.

FAIR WARNING: The scenes in this video from the 0:51 mark to the 1:21 mark, while not inappropriate per say, might be a little too intense for people who are bothered by physical violence, and it’s beyond my ability to edit out since I’m embedding this video from another source. So please skip that section if you’re bothered by violence.

DONE VIEWING? THEN GET BACK ‘TA LISTENING!:

“Heavy Rain” may be revolutionary now but, honestly…I think that’s where all VO is headed. Who’s to say that, when the technology gets (MUCH) cheaper, that e-learning client of yours won’t be asking if you have face-capture gear to give their e-learning program more of a personal touch? What if a major Los Angeles-based advertising company wants you to film a few sequences in your home green screen studio for use in their new commercial for Dove soap? Absurd, right?

Yeah, absurd. Just like people said home VO studios would only be a thing for the rich…before they turned into a necessity to compete in this business. Or just like people said that you had to go to a major studio to record VO…before people started delivering audio over the internet. Let’s be honest, folks…soon, more and more clients are gonna be asking us for HD audio, before moving on to more intense demands as the technology gets cheaper. Granted, I could be totally off, and either way, motion-capture acting isn’t gonna become commonplace any time soon…but I firmly believe that’s where we’re headed. Makes me all the more glad that I trained in areas of acting beyond VO!

*sound of record scratching*

EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT…OR LISTEN ALL ABOUT IT, DEPENDING ON YOUR PREFERENCE AND INTERNET CONNECTION SPEED! This audioblog entry was originally published on June 3rd, but I’ve got an update as of June 15th that I’d like to share with you all. This entry of mine received a very polarized response, with some very worried about my prediction, and others saying, “Dave, calm the heck down!” Well, this audioblog entry was written with a slight tongue-in-cheek tone, but it lies somewhere between a joke and a prediction. Like I said, motion-capture technology isn’t going to become commonplace anytime soon…but one VO talent by the name of Peter Drew was nice enough to point me to an article he wrote–years ago, mind you–on a threat that is even more imminent…a computer program that can actually mimic convincing human speech. I do mean convincing, too, not that fake stuff that you’re hearing in this particular clip. Check out the article here!

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8 thoughts on “DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #25: Why I’ll Look Stupid…no, I mean why I might look stupid for making a prediction about where VO is headed. What did you think I meant?

  1. Pingback: DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #25: Why I’ll Look Stupid…no, I mean why I might look stupid for making a prediction about where VO is headed. What did you think I meant? | Voiceover | Scoop.it

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks very much!…Well, actually, I can’t say that. I’m not David Cage, it’s not like I concieved this very thorough method of immersive voice acting…but thanks for the comment on my blog, at any rate. 😀

  2. All very true. Advances in gaming technology are coming on so fast, major tech companies are now hacking into things like Microsoft’s KINECT for the X-Box 360 to re-purpose it for entirely new uses. “LA NOIR” from Rockstar Studios was another game that made extensive use of mo-cap techniques, and, for my money, it was more successful than Heavy Rain in hitting the target of perfect lip-synch and conveying emotion. (Add to that the fact that many high-profile actors were used in the game and their likenesses were so good, whilst I was playing I was saying, “Hey, that’s what’s-his-name from that show!”).
    With gaming consoles looking to upgrade to the next generation in the next year or so, and pioneers like James Cameron making films in The Volume, the only thing that can really be assured of at this time is that they STILL need humans to do the acting. Hopefully it’ll stay that way for a while at least. ?

    • Hey there, Chris!

      Do I correctly sense that I’m hearing from a fellow gamer!? Ya’ know, it’s really funny that you bring up “LA Noir,” because in an earlier draft of this entry, I included it as another example. Ultimately it got cut because I found my entry was getting a bit long-winded, but it’s another great example of motion-capture. In some ways, I don’t mind motion-capture acting, because I think a ton of us actors would LOVE to do it, and at times the acting is just awe-inspiring. I would also point to an early PS3 game called “Heavenly Sword,” which featured motion-capture acting that was directed by Andy Serkis (the guy who played King Kong and Gollum), who also voiced the main villain.

      I think that the general rule is that if something makes money, you’ll see it again in a different form. People were scoffing at the idea of James Cameron making a movie in 3D, but all of a sudden, against all the speculation…”Avatar” was a success, and now movie studios are scrambling to retrofit many of their movies in 3D (including the new “G.I. Joe” movie, which was delayed nine months)! Similarly, we’ll see “Heavy Rain”‘s (and “LA Noir”‘s) technology becoming much more common. It would have been bold of me to try and guesstimate how long it will take but, alas, I’m not that bold…I didn’t want to run into a situation where I would be laughing at myself for how off I was (see the “Back to the Future Part 2” clip).

      You are right, though, Chris…the silver lining is that, even with this evolution in technology, they do still need humans to SOME degree!

      • Hey Dave – yes, a dedicated gamer from way back (although I seem to have less and less free time for it these days!).

        I also enjoyed Heavenly Sword, and it does seem that Andy Serkis’ name will forever have the term “motion-capture” attached to it. His recent work on RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES was just a hair’s breadth away from being considered Oscar-worthy, and another great example of the tech, but even moreso a great example of his ability as an actor. (The fact that he can pull off these performances whilst wearing those ridiculous mo-cap outfits is also amazing. And with Avatar-style filmmaking on the rise, that is something that more and more actors will have to be able to achieve.)

        I predict it possibly won’t be long before we’ll be able to “load up” a character, scene and music score into our X-Box, act, direct, photograph, and edit our own movies – playing all the characters ourselves. Then just upload it to YouTube and wait for Hollywood to come knocking! It may not be for everyone, but there may be a new form of Machinima just around the corner!

      • I went into “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” determined to hate it, thinking it was just another cheap way for Hollywood to avoid originality, but Serkis won me over. I would have nominated him for that Oscar by the end of the movie!

        And I agree, media production is only going to get easier. On the one hand, that’s an interesting way for people to build a name for themselves, but on the other hand, it may hurt the industry a bit if people end up selling their services for dirt cheap. The way I see it, though, we can’t stop technology from getting more advanced, so we might as well learn to work with it!

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