“The day has come: they replaced me in a job with a voice generated by artificial intelligence,” Alejandro Grau, 36, an Argentine broadcaster and actor, wrote on Twitter. He had dubbed a popular Spanish-language YouTube channel for a few months with millions of subscribers in English, which he prefers not to be named: “The author is a playboy, he has some very proven expressions, sometimes he stutters, he stops in the middle of a sentence and starts another. It’s something that requires acting technique , in order to be able to represent it as best as possible, ”he explained through a video call to EL PAÍS.
In January, he saw the channel keep updating with unnamed videos: “When I hit He plays A voice completely devoid of emotion was heard saying: “Hi, welcome back to this programme, today we will be…”. A terrible thing,” he recalls. In the comments people complained about the change, but for now videos keep popping up with that artificial voice, unable to reproduce the particular way of talking about Youtube.
He then posted the tweet, which has already been seen by more than 740,000 people. Graoui’s problem is not the job he lost. He is a freelancer and has others at the moment. The problem is the trend: “It’s troubling. We’re on our way until the human factor disappears from something artistic,” he says.
Today came Yyyyyy: I was replaced in a job with an AI-generated voice. Thanks to all the actors and actresses who lent their voices to create this shit that will finally make us all obsolete. The artificial intelligence is you.
– Ale Graue (Ale Graue) January 10, 2023
In just a few months, artificial intelligence is disrupting the voiceover industry. The explosion of ChatGPT and image- or illustration-creation applications since last summer has reached audio, too. As in other creative professions that are also threatened, there is still room to get to the moment when a machine can do everything. But there is no human light at the end of this road: “Our bill has been down for two or three months,” says Noemi Gutierrez, director of dubbing company Voces en la Red. “Broadcasters are calling us, writing to us because they’ve noticed the drop. The platforms offering synthetic voices for free have multiplied. There are people who deserve a shabby voice and get rid of it,” he adds.
Although there are still those who have not fully noticed the consequences, they can be imagined, according to Begonia Ferrer, a dubbing actress: “Because I work for many people from many countries, I cannot tell if they have replaced me with artificial intelligence in some companies,” she says. Yes, they cut their participation in a certain type of video, which now “uses synthetic voices for a first audition or vocal draft.” outside, then pass it on to the announcer, who doubles his voice. Thus, they may avoid paying for two sites.
The quality and subtle tones still pay off, but many in the industry warn that the machines will continue to hone their capabilities. “I understand that it is part of the technological development and that there are a lot of things that can be solved with artificial intelligence, from answering machines to the messages one hears on the subway, for which feeling is not necessary. But whatever it is behaving, it seems to me that it should not be done in order to maintain trade,” says Grau.
Only programmers will be necessary
The danger the actor sees is that, in more and more professions, humanity is left in the hands of those who only talk to machines: “The person who does the job will not be necessary. The only necessary people are programmers and that’s it,” he adds. In the discussions Jarrawy has had since his viral tweet, some have told him to forget about “preserving the job,” and that this is like electricity: “There are people who compared it to the look of electricity and the work of a lightbulb. I said no, the advent of electricity was for a universal benefit. What about synthetic sounds, how does it benefit The public?Jarawi says it only benefits the company that pays.
And Alejandro Grau is also not old enough to believe that he can retire soon and forget everything: “If I were 70, I would say that I can’t worry so much about the future because I don’t have it. But it will affect me directly. I can open up to other areas , but without stopping to think: “I have to devote myself to something that I know they cannot replace me with.” Because I talked to colleagues, journalists, screenwriters, and everything began to be replaced by artificial intelligence.
This rapid spread between trades causes uncertainty. It is difficult to observe the present in peace while machines begin to perform, in seconds, tasks that require special skill and years of study or learning.
“When it happened to me, I’d see it on social networks, with illustrations and graphic design,” says Grau. Then we started looking at it more closely. Of course there is fear. There are those who say that this will replace those who do their job poorly, and those who are good will continue to work. But there are also those who directly aspire to devote themselves to something else. There is everything. Personally, I think that, little by little, it will gain ground,” he adds.
Graue is confident that help, if it arrives, will not be from a corporation, but from the law: “I hope there will be some kind of regulation. I understand that in Argentina work has begun at least on a project to regulate this; or at least to require certain sectors not to replace the voices of broadcasters or actors with machines.”
Brad Pitt speaks with an Andalusian accent
Meanwhile, some companies working in the field of dubbing and sound are looking for ways to reduce the loss of projects with techniques that preserve part of the work of the voice actor. With today’s tools, it is relatively easy to reproduce or create timbre, which is the specific sound of the vocal cords. More complicated, however, is to identify rapidly changing intonations and intonations, to express surprise, excitement, and anger in just two sentences. “Right now, you can get audio with Brad Pitt speaking in a Welsh or Andalusian accent, as long as you put a note into the system.” [el ritmo, la forma de hablar] With these accents, it is played by an actor, ”says Javier de Alfonso, founder of Voces en la Red.
“We’re buying time. Now six months seems like unlimited time to me,” says De Alfonso, while taking a course to adapt to this new version of his job, which is no longer the same: “We’re learning and making great efforts to orient ourselves into agencies at a pace Very demanding of registration. We tested several platforms, including a very advanced one with over 747 buttons,” he adds. It’s hard to shake the feeling that this redirection is like leaving a bunch of buoys on the beach while you hear a tsunami in the distance.
This small temporary lifeline now allows an entire movie to be dubbed with just two professionals, while preserving the actor’s original timbre: “It’s already a devastating thing,” says Noemi Gutierrez, director of Voces en la Red. “The system modifies the voice of the multiplex, giving it the same timbre as the original cast. Thus, one voice actor can do all the men; and a woman, all the women as well as the children’s voices.”
“What hasn’t been achieved yet with artificial voices is that they affect emotions well,” says Gutiérrez. “It will take some time,” he adds. In the future when this technology is fully developed, there will still be a certain space for dubbing actors: some will be able to sell their own doorbell; And others, with a less beautiful timbre, will be able to sell their acting power to an AI for copying.
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