Artificial Intelligence in the voice-over sector
Recently, the Screen Actors Guild in the U.S. reached an agreement with Replica Studios, allowing the use of Artificial Intelligence in the voice-over sector, particularly in video game projects.
In 2023, the actors’ union went on a strike that lasted 118 days, bringing the entertainment industry to a halt. One of the key demands was to ban the use of AI in entertainment. It turned out to be the longest strike in Hollywood’s history. Following negotiations, several changes were approved, including salary increases for actors, bonuses for those involved in successful streaming projects, and limitations on the use of artificial intelligence.
Despite these negotiations, the new agreement doesn’t seem to favor voice actors as much as it does Hollywood artists. Replica Studios obtained permission to create digital versions of voice actors’ voices. This raises concerns among voice professionals who are afraid of having their voices cloned for future use, even in projects they would never agree to participate in. This gives rise to questions and uncertainties:
- Will voice actors with a substantial amount of recorded material be overlooked for new projects since the agency already has enough material to replicate their voices in different projects?
- How can voice actors secure contracts that protect them from having their voices used in projects they never intended, without receiving any compensation for the use of their voice?
This agreement, signed in the U.S., is likely to reduce the number of recording sessions for voice artists, resulting in a loss of work and a detachment from their profession. Recording in a studio is a daily exercise for voice actors and reducing their chances of being in their work environment is worrisome. The human or at least auditory contact with the director, client, producer, and audio engineer is crucial for the continual evolution of their careers. It seems like the trade-off is swapping human interaction for robotic copies of their own voices to avoid paying for recording sessions and rightful voice usage fees.
Let’s not forget that the voice has the power to connect us to a situation. The voice actor serves as one of the bridges between the audience and the narrative of a work, be it artistic, commercial, or purely for entertainment. This connection is possible because something on us recognizes oneself in the melody of that voice, in its unique character, and in the modulation of emotions brought to the surface.
We are not only distancing voice professionals from their work but also separating the audience from a deep connection with something as ethereal as art.
As Walter Benjamin would say, “what atrophies in the age of the technical reproducibility of the work of art is its aura.” Just as voices are starting to become mass-produced, lacking a breath of uniqueness, our experiences with the art they articulate will also become serialized, ending up as mere echoes of an already-lived experience.