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Synthetic Voice Actor
Writing a movie? Need a mechanical-sounding voice for your robot? Voice actors are so difficult. What if there was something easier?

A Synthetic Voice Actor (or a synthespian) is a synthetic voice program that voices a character. It's not used a lot, especially when union rules would make that difficult. It's usually used for extremely robotic voices, or a Captain Ersatz of Stephen Hawking. It more commonly springs up in Abridged Series and machinima, partly to get extra voices, and partly because of Rule of Funny. When used against human actors, it tends to make the speaker seem inhuman — in more serious works, it's used for threatening robotic characters, usually. Compare the computer voice on the Enterprise (real person) to AUTO (not a real person).

This trope may not apply to Cepstral voices, or to programs like Voicestitcher (thevoiceplanet.com is down indefinitely).

Compare Machine Monotone, Virtual Celebrity, Auto-Tune.


Examples:

Anime
  • The episode title announcer in Serial Experiments Lain was a Macintosh program named PlainTalk (often falsely called "Whisperer" because of its "Whisper" voice mode).

Film

Live-Action TV
  • The Cylons in the 1978 original Battlestar Galactica series spoke this way (human actors run through a synthesizer).
  • Doctor Who: The BBC originally considered doing this for the Daleks, but with 1963 technology, they could have done only 45 seconds of dialogue this way, so they used a human voices filtered through a ring modulator.
    • It's actually pretty easy to duplicate the Dalek voices. Record your voice with Dalek speech-patterns, over-amplify it to add clipping distortions(sometimes people, including the producers back in the day, often tend to forget this, oddly enough), then run the results through a ring modulator plugin using 20-40Hz for the frequency of the modulation.
    • In a half-way example of this, the BBC did the Cyberman voices for most of the 1960s by having a human actor use an electrolarynx (an artificial throat-vibrating device for people who had lost their larynx to cancer or injury, now rarely heard outside South Park). Later versions simply had an actor's voice run through a ring modulator with a different setting to what was used for the Daleks.
    • The Daleks, also, do not have mechanical voices, only voices that sound mechanical. A truly mechanical voice would probably be one-note-just-like-this, but Daleks have a cadence to their voices, and they also go "EX-TER-MI-NATE! EX-TER-MI-NAAAAATE!" with each intonation rising in pitch and volume. They look like tin cans, but they have some powerful emotion inside them.
  • The person with Locked-In Syndrome in Scrubs, too.

Music
  • The Radiohead song "Fitter Happier" is "sung" by Mac PlainTalk.
  • Ken Leavitt-Lawrence, better known as MC Hawking, who uses a text-to-speech program to do parody-gangster rap under the guise of Stephen Hawking himself.
  • Kraftwerk may have been the pioneers of using this trope in music.
  • Erasure's cover of "Video Killed The Radio Star" was "sung" by the keyboardist's laptop, since the human singer refused to sing it.
  • The entire point of the Vocaloid series. They still have human voice sources, though; the only exception is Defoko, the default voice of UTAU, who is sourced from a program called AquesTalk.
  • Apoptygma Berzerk's Kathy's Song has the chorus sung by the Mac text-to-speech Kathy voice. Of course, the song is essentially an exchange between the singer and his computer. It's awesome.
  • My. Name. Is. Skrillex.
  • Camper Van Beethoven's version of "Sisters Of The Moon" by Fleetwood Mac has a text-to-speech program reciting the lyrics (and also throwing in seemingly arbitrary quotes from Pindar, William Shakespeare, and This Is Spinal Tap). As with Erasure's "Video Killed The Radio Star" cover, this was done because no one in the band wanted to sing it.
  • The voice of the fictional singer Lumi of the Genki Rockets is thought to be either synthesized or a composite of Rachel Rhodes and Nami Miyahara.
  • Elise's singing voice in Sound Horizon's "Märchen" was created using the Hatsune Miku Vocaloid software, with Revo's reasoning being that it made sense for a Creepy Doll to have an artificial voice. Her speaking voice, on the other hand, is provided by Fujita Saki (aka, the original source for Miku's voice).
  • Assemblage 23's "Automaton" uses a vocoder (which he rarely uses) to complement the song's subject.
  • Mind.in.a.box's "Change", "8 Bits", "I Love 64" and "Unknown" have synthetic female vocals, or at least highly vocoderized male vocals.
  • Beck's "Ghettochip Malfunction (Hell Yes)" has a deep synthetic voice echoing some of the lyrics.
  • Overlaps with Celebrity Voice Actor: Stephen Hawking lent his voice to "Keep Talking" on Pink Floyd's "The Division Bell."
    It doesn't have to be like this. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.
  • This parody of "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line was done using the scorewriter programs Melody Assistant and Virtual Singer, the latter of which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

Video Games
  • The Portal series is an aversion of this, since its evil AIs are voiced by humans (heavily edited in post-production, but humans nonetheless).
    • The results of running the text of GLaDOS's lines through a text to speech program were actually used to coach actress Ellen McLain with regard to giving GLaDOS her distinctive voice in Portal.
    • However, fan-made mods can't afford Ellen's voice (though, once people did think of asking her), hence, they use voice synthesizing programs for their GLaDOSes and AIs (dependent on the story for the mod).
    • This only becomes apparent in Portal: Prelude, whose main gimmick is that the test supervisors were human, rather than an AI. So of course the voices were done in a text-to-speech program.
      • It was done because the creators of Prelude were French and weren't very fluent in spoken English. They couldn't find voice actors in the timeframe in which they wanted to develop the game.
      • This becomes especially awkward towards the end of the game after GLaDOS is turned on for the first time, and she uses her sound files from the main Portal game, mixed with synthesized voices. So we have a robot that sounds more human than the humans do, and uses two personalities at once.
      • For those of you keeping track: Portal's supervisors are robots voiced by humans imitating robots imitating humans, while Prelude's supervisors are humans voiced by robots imitating humans.
  • beatmania IIDX 15: DJ TROOPERS used Microsoft Sam for the "Enemy Plane Appoach" voice in the music used for Attract Mode and some of the menus.
  • Deliberately used badly in Time Fcuk—the main character's voice is barely even comprehensible, and definitely doesn't sound human. It's not quite certain why this is—perhaps the Rule of Scary, or a deliberate attempt to "anonymize" him?
    • If you listen closely, the main character talks exactly how it is written.
  • The voice of Byte from Tron 2.0 is actually a voice of MacinTALK.
  • Impossible Mission on the Commodore 64: "Another visitor? Stay awhile. Stay FOREVER!"
  • Microsoft Sam and Mary appear chanting the name and motto of the Wii party game, Let's Tap in the game's theme tune. Yes, really.
  • The Intellivision's Intellivoice module.
  • The House of the Dead series used these in the first two games. Which, of course, made for some hilariously emotionless bits of drama. As well as the infamous "Suffer like G did?"
  • Moonbase Alpha has this for players. This leads to notorious griefing possibilities.
  • Animal Crossing uses a simple voice synthesizer to speak the text, very quickly. Characters even add the proper inflection if a sentence ends with a question mark. It's fairly unintelligible if you try to listen to it, but in the original Japanese it works a lot better.
  • Q*bert uses a Votrax voice synthesizer chipnote  to supply the voices of the various characters. Unfortunately, the chip used couldn't produce coherent phrasesnote , so the designers decided to go the other direction and have the characters speak a Starfish Language.
  • Zimos in Saints Row: The Third speaks with an AutoTuned electronic voice box.
  • Stern's Berzerk is likely the Ur Example for video games. It was either this game, or Midway's Video Game/Wizard of Wor; both were released the same year (1980).
  • The Remnant Psyches in Killer7 all use text-to-speech voices. In the original Japanese, they're speaking slightly-hard-to-make-out-but-still-understandable Gratuitous English, but in the English dub, everything they say is run through extra audio filters to make them more incomprehensible.
  • As an April Fools' Day joke, Four Leaf Studios announced that Katawa Shoujo will be fully voiced thanks to voice synthetisation technology.
  • The 2013 Rise of the Triad reboot uses the same synthesizer as Moonbase Alpha for it's text chat in multiplayer. Many of the memes follow suit.
  • The fan-made Yukkuris in the Touhou franchise tend to be voiced like this.
  • Tomodachi Life has this for every character, and lets you customize the voice using various sliders. The difficulty of getting the text-to-speech working in languages other than Japanese was responsible for slowing down the game's western release.

Web Animation
  • In her early design, Rya from Bonus Stage was voiced by a Macintosh text-to-speech synthesizer, but later went on to just having a robot-sounding voice.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • H.E.L.P.eR. from The Venture Bros. is voiced by something called "Soul-Bot", which processes Chris McCulloch's "eep!" noises into electronic beeps and boops.
  • AUTO from WALL•E. As if there weren't enough Apple references in the movie already, the voice is Mac OSX's own MacinTALK. Similarly, M-O's "Foreign Contaminant" is provided by PlainTalk.
  • The titular robot in Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? originally used MacinTalk Junior, credited as "Himself", but later switched to a synthesized human voice, and they even redubbed the earlier episodes with the real actor.
  • Compuhorse from Spliced
  • Post-ReBoot CGI series called either War Planets or Shadow Raiders had Princess Tekla (from the robot planet)'s companion device voiced by MacinTalk.
  • Frank Welker used one to voice Soundwave from Transformers, which is basically his Dr. Claw voice as heard in one episode where they forgot to use it.
    • On the other hand, Animated Perceptor's voice is completely synthetic, and probably so to bring to mind Professor Stephen Hawking. One of the writers has suggested that he "deleted his emotions and personality" to make room for more data, though (like many an "emotionless" character), he certainly seems to have both, if understated.
    • Soundwave, in fact, doesn't really count as this; although Frank's voice is run through a vocoder, it is still his voice behind it all, and in cases where Soundwave is voiced by a synthesized voice (which mostly occurs in parodic works), it sounds much different. Sadly, we don't have a trope for him, so he's staying here.
  • Steve the Disabled Professor (a Stephen Hawking stand-in) in Family Guy also used Macintalk. Ironically, three episodes also had animated cameo appearances by the real Stephen Hawking.
  • That locomotive from Dumbo, despite being male according to the song "Casey Junior", is actually voiced by a woman, as revealed in The Reluctant Dragon.
  • The BOTS Master used a synthesized voice for the evil Corp's robots, while the BOYZZ were all voiced by real actors. This was done to show that the BOYZZ were more human than their soulless corporate adversaries. To be exact, Creative Labs'note  Dr. Sbaitzo program is used.

Real Life
  • NOAA Weather Radio went to all-synthetic voices in the late '90s. Most stations have one male and one female synthetic voice.
  • Surprisingly, Siri averts this - voice actress Susan Bennett spent five hours a day for four weeks voicing seemingly random words for ScanSoft (the company behind Siri's technology), who then sliced them up to form the phonemes and intonations that the search engine uses.

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