Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Sag Awards Transformative on YouTube/Netflix

For the first time ever the SAG awards were being aired solely online this year...We were looking forward to something different and planned to be at a hotel out east on Long Island when we watched it. The awards are being carried by Youtube & Netflix. We weren't sure if signal issues were going to be something to consider for a seamless viewing, but we were game either way.

Well, the day started with a celebratory note to begin with. We were off to a 100th birthday party out on the eastern end of Long Island at the Sparkling Pointe Vinyards in Southold. Betty, the centenarian in all respects (she after all, was a Marine) was in great form and ate and drank wine as if she were 80... alright, not a smidgen over 90. It was a rare and wonderful affair, on a terrific sunny unseasonably warm day in a interesting vineyard tasting house of Méthode Champenoise Sparkling Wines.

After, we retired to our hotel nearby and piped our Chrome-Book's HDMI port into our rooms Big-Screen TV...and we were transported into front row seats at the Fairmont Century Plaza. We were feelin' kinda flush and ordered room service and felt right at home with all the other actors eating dinner. Couldn't get much cozier than Steve Martin's banjo pickin intro with Marty Short and Ms. Gomez' click for - Sag Awards Show 

Geez, by the looks of it, they seem to be eating from the same menu as we were. It could've been that we were watching the program in different surroundings, or that there weren't any commercials or host, just a roving camera that played the part of one for the evening. But, the best part of the show came from the actors who were so inviting to join them without an agenda or ulterior motive. 


It was difficult to make out at times what was going on in the background. Click the pic above to get a glimpse of Jeff Bridges helping out Michelle Yeoh to find her bearings after she unloaded the most innocent "F" bomb and said "I'm gonna walk away now"... without a dry eye in the house. And there were so many inspirational, genuine and sentimental journeys of when actors got their first SAG card. As an audience member...and as a SAG card holder, I got a strong sense of communal belonging and a ton of positive reinforcement. When you're in this business, it ain't such a bad thing to do the Susan Walker mantra of: I Believe every once in a while.

Oh, and there was no exit music played to signal actors to wrap-up their acceptance speeches. And because of it, fervent speeches like those of Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Coolidge and Sam Elliott wouldn't have happened. They didn't conform to the play book and what a difference to not feel the vicarious discomfort an actor must feel at a moment that is already a tad strenuous. 

These days, it goes with saying that our pal Stefan Nadelman (Master of the digital graphic environment) has been (in my best Keanu Reeves) prodigious these last 6 months and has a few award contenders he's worked on himself. Stefan did the graphics and animation for Sr. (a movie about the life story of Robert Downey Senior) as well as supplying the Main Title animation for Steve Carell's The Patient

Stefan, is also working on 100 ft. Wave 2,  a Hollywood grifter series, a WWF insider project and something about NFT's. This could be very inside track stuff... so, please as the Metropolitan Transit Authority has repeatedly advised; "if you see something well, you know, just keep it to yourself". (in my best Buddy Bizarre) Wrong!

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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Ai that voice-over ~ with Tom CliffordVO

While waiting to post the BLOG this month, we were presented with a second unveiling so-to-speak of a voice-over we did this past year.

Apparently, it was bandied about that if the sample rate on the VO was adjusted downward to a "Transformer" classification sound-a-like, it would enhance the engagement level. Check it out by clicking the video box below. 

Reminds us of a Twilight Zone episode featuring Lee Marvin as Steel Kelly, manager & handler to an android prize-fighter... a boxer. 

Things go south and Lee winds up the prize-fighter himself fighting his automaton's battle. After all, before becoming a second rate robot manager, Kelly was a professional fighter in the days when humans were allowed in the ring. Only this time, it's Human versus Machine.

This seems close-to-home while us voice actors are in the crux of an Ai versus real people battle for our livelihoods. Much like Lee's broken-down character 'Battling Maxo' does in the episode entitled "Steel"

So, too, do we go from organic human to robotic speech enhancement story-teller (listen below). And just like Mr. Marvin, we're not quite that sure we're all too happy about that. And if that isn't enough, it seems to be happening again just this side of...The Twilight Zone!

Got a forward of this Free-Think article about the In's & Outs of the Microsoft Ai program/app that can build a robo-clone of your voice after just 3 seconds. Microsoft's 'VALL-E' artificial intelligence is capable of mimicking anybody's voice after hearing just three seconds of speech. However, it's typically only as good as its training data, and Microsoft opted to use Meta’s LibriLight — an audio library containing 60,000 hours of speech from more than 7,000 English speakers — to train VALL-E.

This means the Ai’s training set was “hundreds of times larger” than those used to train existing voice cloning systems, according to the research paper.

When VALL-E is presented with a new voice to clone, it breaks the three second audio clip into bits Microsoft calls “acoustic tokens.” Using those tokens and its training data, it can then predict what the voice would sound like saying other phrases.

We posted in our July 2021, BLOG reports about Anthony Bourdain and Val Kilmer's voices being cloned. It was scratching the surface back then, but to a VO-Guy, this Ai stuff was going to be something taken seriously sooner rather than later. Also, every month we're confronted with voice Ai on our Medium (Twitter) page. That platform immediately transcribes the text into words...and at times, it be freaky close to human. And it's program platform is not all that sophisticated.

After listening along with Medium's Ai dude, a lot of the humanizing may come from punctuation. Comma's, ellipses, dashes could be the key to humanizing. What a fitting comeuppance to one's career of impersonations than to be impersonated by a Hal 9000 in the end. Well, you won't hear me singing D~A~I~S~Y anytime soon.

Perhaps that's just wishful thinking. For in last weeks Business section of the Sunday Times, Ai was getting some additional coverage as it applies to the print forum. It read "Bots can write sonnets and sometimes deceive people, but they're not upending our lives". It could be proffered that they meant to say - yet. Because the article went on to say that Ai is now a major player in the game called Diplomacy. It hearkens to such minds as Alan Turing and brain-trusts like Microsoft,  MIT and Meta. Excuse the pun, but we're talkin' Bots here...and not just to negotiate games, write sonnets and make dinner reservations, but a bot that'll leave people feeling as though they were chatting with a person. This particular bot is called: Chat GPT. It was released in November by Open AI, a San Francisco, California lab. They even gave the Bot a name: Franz Broseph. He's amongst a new wave of chatbots that are rapidly moving machines into new territory.      

In the meantime, why not cozy-up to a comfy resampled version of a relatively normal sounding human being's voice that's been Ai'd into a Transformer sounding character. To play, please click the triangle in the video box below.

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