Authentic AI Voices

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Authentic AI Voices


(random thoughts from a voice actor)

If you’re a voice actor, I’ll wager you’ve read or been a part of a discussion about AI Voices taking our jobs. Or one about casting for “Authentic” voices for a gig. What follows is some of my thoughts on both topics.

“Authentic” (and other meaningless words)
So, what exactly does “Authentic” mean to you when you see it in a casting notice? The people casting obviously have a reason to ask for “Authentic”. Sometimes it may be that the intended audience is from a particular region and they want to ensure it sounds right to them. Other times, the character is written for a particular ethnicity or sexual preference, etc.

But does that really *mean* anything?!?!? I’m in my 50’s, of Lebanese descent, and was raised in the Midwest. Does this mean I can only play Lebanese guys in their 50’s who are from Cleveland? I worked with a Japanese guy who was raised in Mexico and has a Mexican accent, and a South African who went to school in the UK and has a perfect RP dialect. Are they only limited to their ethnicity or to their childhood accents? And what about anyone with a multi-cultural origin or upbringing?

What is the point of acting? To fully inhabit a character, with all their traits, mannerisms, quirks, etc. To be believable to the audience. For me, that includes the vocal qualities like accent, tone, emotion, etc.

Bottom Line: as a voice actor, who isn’t seen on camera, I should be able to be cast for any role that I can convincingly portray. And so should everyone else.

For those who bring up the very real issue of under-representation for a particular group, I’d say that stems from a lack of opportunity. From the writing, to the casting, and even the funding for projects, whole groups are excluded from even auditioning.

Second Bottom Line: Leveling the playing field means being more inclusive, not less. More opportunity for all, not limiting who can play what. (Shakespeare, anyone? Hamilton?)

AI VOICES (COMING TO STEAL YOUR JOBS!)
AI voices have definitely improved in the 15 years that I’ve been a professional voice actor. They are now good enough to take some of the less demanding jobs. Ones that are just straight information. Phone system prompts. Tech manuals for vision impaired. Voices on trains.

As we move forward into the future, it’s inevitable that AI voices will be doing more VO work. But how much? Will they eventually replace us entirely? I don’t think so. For roles in animation, games, audio books, commercials, etc., where a human voice with emotion and the ability to interpret the subtleties of human interaction in the script is needed, AI will have trouble being believable.

Bottom Line: If you’re doing work that could easily be replaced by an AI voice, now’s a good time to improve your acting skills and make a move to a different genre of VO.

To be honest, I’ve heard my share of really bad Voice Acting… by humans. I don’t know how they got the job in the first place, but if the client sees that AI is cheaper and better, then that’s where they’ll go.

Second Bottom Line: Don’t suck at your job.

Authentic AI Voices
Authentic AI VO Voice Acting

I know AI will eventually replace me as a Voice Actor… but the real question is: Will it have the correct skin color, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, gender designation and sexual preference for the role?

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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How Business Is Done: William Lee

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How Business Is Done: William Lee

If you want to know how real business gets done, here’s a great example.

William Lee is a filmmaker in Ohio who’s been producing his own movies since before I met him in the 1980’s. He’s worked hard to build a network of actors, crew, distribution, etc. He’s a one-man production company. And even teaches filmmaking and has a William Lee Film Tribute released by The American Genre Film Archive. By any measure, he’s a self-made bona fide success story. And 30+ years since our last project, he’s still teaching me how real business is done.

We’ve been in touch over the years, but never had a good fit for his projects. On an upcoming film, William had an idea that he thought my voice would work for. Here’s how the process played out:

  • He sent me a message asking if I’d be interested, along with some sample copy.
  • I sent back some takes for him to choose from.
  • He liked one read in particular and wanted to hire me.
  • I gave him my rate – no beefs, negotiation or whining.
  • I recorded and sent the audio.
  • We agreed on a payment method.
  • He paid me.
  • ~ Fin ~

This. This is how Business is done. Professional. Efficient. Simple.

No Drama.

It’s easy to find people on both sides of the camera who aren’t this professional.

But it’s the true pros that are the ones you’ll want to keep as clients.

For more information on William Lee and his films, visit: Cinema Lexzikon Productions

William Lee: Filmmaker

William Lee: Filmmaker

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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I Am Not Don LaFontaine!

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I Am Not Don LaFontaine!


(parody of “I am I, Don Quixote” from Man of La Mancha)

What’s your Impossible Dream for VO?

Here’s a song about mine:

Audio version:

      I Am Not Don LaFontaine! (Joe J Thomas)

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Working at Joe’s Dump

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Working at Joe’s Dump

Here’s a bit of a peek behind the curtain about Working at Joe’s Dump.

I keep a Google doc with all of my ideas for new posts. Once I’ve actually gotten around to using an idea, I move it over to a completed document. They’re both getting pretty long after all these years.

The reason I mention it is because it’s a great way to stay creative. Whenever I hit a snag in one project, I just look to see what random ideas I’ve had in the past. Sometimes I’ll feel like completing one of those instead.

Right now, I’ve got 3 or 4 songs in the works, some ideas for business posts, poetry and graphics notions, video ideas, etc.

Once you start writing down ideas, the process becomes much easier… and a bit addictive.

So, when I feel overwhelmed or under pressure, it’s time to take a break.

Listen to your muse – sometime she’s saying “Take some time off”.

You’ll come back refreshed and ready to create.

… at least that’s how it works for me 😉

Cheers,
Joe

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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P2P Sites: Not For Practice

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P2P Sites: Not For Practice

I often see posts on social media where someone who is new to voice acting says that they’re using P2P (Pay-To-Play) sites to practice. Although I understand this line of thinking, that’s not the best way to practice… Here’s why:

The point of practicing is to improve your skills. For acting, a very important component is missing when practicing on your own: Feedback.

Constructive feedback helps to improve your acting ability. It can come in many forms. In an acting class, the teacher will provide feedback and guidance. Coaches perform a similar function, but in a more focused 1-on-1 manner. Performing on stage has many forms of feedback: the director, reactions from other actors in the scene, and the audience.

“So, Joe, what’s the harm in practicing on my own? It’s still practice, right?”

Although it may improve your reading skills and even the speed at which you can scan the copy, it may actually be a detriment to your skills as an actor. Instead of learning where your flaws and weaknesses are and addressing them to improve, you may be blind to the flaws you have. Continuing to practice without any feedback may reinforce your bad habits. Those can be even more difficult to un-learn in the future.

Let’s take the classic “You have a great voice! You should be doing voice acting!”. After hearing that, maybe you become enamored with the sound of your own voice. You join a P2P site “just for practice.” Reading one thing after another in a cool way, or an artificially deep voice, or a style that isn’t used in the industry. Spend enough time reinforcing the idea that this is the “right” way to read copy without any guidance can lead you down a path that will be difficult to correct in the future.

Other examples are speech impediments and thick accents. Learning about the issues that may impede your progress and correcting them early on will make your journey to become a voice actor that much easier.

In my opinion, the best way to a solid career as a Voice Actor is to learn acting first. And that requires training, direction, and real-world experience.

For now, due to the limitations of in-person opportunities, try to find some online ways to play. Improv Zoom groups. Classes. Audio drama (directed). There are even some VO reading groups that meet on a regular basis. These could provide a good start.

Once the pandemic is over and it is safe, get involved with a local theatre. Join a choir. Take some improv classes. Get training and direction and perform in front of live audiences. All of these will improve your acting skills and give you a solid foundation for voice acting.

Best of luck on your journey!
Joe

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Zuzubaland!

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Zuzubaland!


I’m a Hot Dog… And I finally got to play a Hot Dog too!
Zuzubaland! Hot Dog - Joe J Thomas

Zuzubaland (official site) began as a children’s book in Brazil.
The author, Mariana Caltabiano, then turned it into a cartoon series for Latin American TV, and it was dubbed into English at Bang Zoom! Studios.

The story revolves around a bee named “Zuzu” and her friends in a kingdom of food. Every episode is a fun little adventure (there’s even a witch and her hench-spider!).

Here’s a sample episode from YouTube named “Food House” (I’m the Announcer and Hot Dog):

Zuzubaland’s official YouTube page, and all the episodes so far are here:
Zuzubaland! (YouTube Page)

Zuzubaland! full cast - Joe J Thomas

The show and characters were a ton of fun to record. I hope you enjoy watching… and really hope they make more 😉

Cheers,
Joe

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Voice Acting: 15 Years of JoeActor!

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Voice Acting: 15 Years of JoeActor!

After 15 years of voice acting gigs, it’s time for a little celebration!

Here’s a collage of a few of my roles so far… Looking forward to many more:

(click on the image for FULL-SIZE!)

Joe J Thomas: Characters (JoeActor.com)

Joe J Thomas: Characters (JoeActor.com)

Top Row: Loken & Krik’Thir & Arcurion (World of Warcraft), Leoric The Skeleton King (Diabol III & Heroes of the Storm), Professor X (X-Men Live!)
Middle: Raven/Schwann (Tales of Vesperia), Tibarn (Fire Emblem), Stormtrooper (Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge), (me!), Ch’Gren (Star Trek Online)
Bottom: Nobunaga (Hunter X Hunter), Professor Oak (Pokémon), Lex Luthor (Mortal Kombat vs. DCU), Namor The Sub-Mariner (Marvel Ultimate Alliance) Yodeling Pickle (Archie McPhee)

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Nail Clippers from Tokyo

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Nail Clippers from Tokyo

While traveling in Tokyo, I learned a valuable business lesson from a little store in the hotel… all while buying nail clippers.

This was many years ago when my wife and I were vacationing in Tokyo. While I was thinking back on the trip, I realized that one memory stood out.

One evening in our hotel room, my wife tasked me with going downstairs to buy some nail clippers. Seems we hadn’t brought any in our bags (it was allowed back then).

So, there I was, with only the most basic of Japanese language skills… on my own! After making my way downstairs, I found the tiny little in-hotel store. They had all the essentials that a traveler would need: toothpaste, band-aids, aspirin, etc. I couldn’t seem to find the nail clippers.

I walked up to the counter. An older woman sat patiently behind it. We had a short conversation… without words. Finally! My years of pantomime were useful!

She pointed to where the nail clippers were, and I retrieved a nice pink one for my wife.

When I went up to pay, I expected that the woman would just run my card, give me a receipt, and I’d take the clippers and go.

That is not what happened.

After ringing up the bill and giving me the receipt, she carefully took the packaged clippers and wrapped them – very neatly – in a nice paper. She then put this into a small bag, along with some hand-folded paper origami cranes (my wife later told me they were for luck). Then, she folded over the top of the bag and put a small bit of tape on it.

When she handed it to me, I knew enough to bow slightly and say “domo arigatou gozaimasu” and left the store to go back to my room.

It was a short, simple interaction, yet when I think back, there was a lot of meaning to unpack from it.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned that can apply to many businesses:

  • Be kind
  • Know your job
  • Be Helpful
  • Exceed Expectations
  • Have Good Intentions

In the end, it’s these things that people, and your customers, will remember.

The nail clippers were common.

The woman who sold them to me was special.

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Joe’s Dump: The Rebootening!

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Joe’s Dump: The Rebootening!

A long time ago, on a blog of random stuff…
Joe’s Dump!
Episode #!%&@
THE RISE OF A NEW REBOOTENING
It was the dawn of time, or at least 2012.
The Mayan Apocalypse had passed.
But a new blog of random posts
threatened to destroy the sanity
of those that read it.
Now, eight confusing years later,
That blog has faltered.
It has stumbled.
The keys to the car are missing.
And there’s something strange
in the road ahead…
Joe’s Dump!
The Rebootening!!!
(coming to an internet near you)


Joe’s Dump: The Rebootening!
Weekly Nonsense (almost) Guaranteed!
Songs, Poetry, Art, Comedy, Animation, Audio Drama, Business, Opinion, Religion, Politics…
AND LOTS MORE WORDS!!!
(almost) Guaranteed!
www.JoesDump.com
Joe's Dunp: The Rebootening!

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

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Time Traveler: Month One

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Time Traveler: Month One

One month ago, my wife and I moved from Los Angeles to Barcelona. I’ve noticed advantages and disadvantages due to the time difference.

The following is my general weekday schedule, and below that, my thoughts on how the move has affected me… Forward! 9 Hours Into THE FUTURE!!!

Los Angeles Barcelona Activity
10:00 PM 7:00 AM Rise and shine!
10:30 PM 7:30 AM Morning stretches and hygiene
11:30 PM 8:30 AM Light breakfast; Check emails for auditions
12:00 AM 9:00 AM Walk; Buy daily groceries, bread, snack
1:00 AM 10:00 AM Auditions; Work
2:00 AM 11:00 AM Mid-day snack; Pre-lunch walk
3:00 AM 12:00 AM Other Work Stuff; Creative Time
5:00 AM 2:00 PM Lunch
6:00 AM 3:00 PM More Creative / Work time
9:00 AM 6:00 PM Exercise; Shower + Shave
10:00 AM 7:00 PM Sessions; Auditions; Make it Rain!
12:00 PM 9:00 PM Dinner
1:00 PM 10:00 PM More work (if needed); TV Time
3:00 PM 12:00 AM Bedtime!

This schedule allows me to be available until 3 PM in Los Angeles and 6 PM in New York. For the majority of jobs, that works very well. There are exceptions, of course. I’ve already had one session with LA/Tokyo/Barcelona that presented some timing issues. But I can stand the occasional Midnight-2 AM gig 😉

Positives: Able to handle most jobs and auditions. More relaxed schedule. Greater Work/Life balance. More available for clients in Europe.

Negatives: May miss out on some RUSH!!! auditions. Not available for late day sessions, classes, or meetups.

Other thoughts: With the political climate in the US of A, I found my time being consumed with negative emotions, both my own and others, while living in LA. Since moving, the distance has allowed a greater sense of calm, and a broader perspective. Perhaps it’s because the consequences seem less. Or maybe it’s just not being under a constant barrage of news, posts, and tweets. Either way, I feel it’s better for my mental and physical health. It’s possible the same thing can be achieved without moving. Turn off the TV, social media, etc. But if that were the case, I wasn’t able to find a way to make it work while there.

Next stop… VOTING!

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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