Behemoth Voice-Over Jobs

I do voice-over jobs which are one-offs — the customer needs literally one recording — ever — and that’s the last they need of my services. I have many, many customers who need me to voice for them on a regular basis — several times a month, let’s say. And yes, I do have clients who hire me each and every day to voice for them.

But there are those other projects which arise — once-in-a-lifetime projects — massive in nature, requiring a huge committment of time, and multitudinous printer cartridges. I call these The Behemoths — projects which call for discipline, consistency, and a whole lot of congratulation when they’re done, out the door, and all post-production and redos are taken care of. Here’s some examples of such projects I’ve worked on:

1. The Now-Famous Names Directory

A couple of years ago, a large healthcare consortium in Calfornia hired me to voice what seemed like an impossible project: a database of a million of the world’s most common proper names. The intention was to create a very intutive auto-dialer which would call patients and let them know about changes to their insurance policies or alert them to upcoming medical appointments in a very personalized manner (“This is a call for….GREG MASON…..you have an upcoming….CARDIOLOGY…appointment with…DR. STEVENSON…..at….SOUTHWEST CARDIOLOGY PARTNERS….on….FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9th…..at….8:30 AM….”) There was also an appealing factor of satisfying privacy laws, with several steps of authentication involved to make sure they were relaying the message to the intendee. They sent a laptop with the names pre-loaded into it, which luckily dispensed them in no particular order (they randomly spewed names as opposed to it going through the lists alphabetically.) These names — despite having the mandate of being “the world’s most common names” actually ventured into oddball land, with names like “Hercules” “Pine” “Dreamboat” and “Creampuff” being a common occurance. I found myself compiling lists in my head of various TV character names to see if I could accumulate entire cast names (I was frustrated by my “Sopranos” list: I had said: “Tony” “Silvio” “Pauly”, “Carmella”, “Ritchie”, and most others — no “Meadow”. I gave up hope of “Big Pussy” ever surfacing — and it never did.)  The project lost funding and never quite made it to a million names — we have approximately 250,000 +. Still a very respectbale and usable database, which would have massive uses not only in healthcare, but in Government, military, institutional — the possibilities are limitless — AND — it’s available for sale. If interested, contact me at allison@theivrvoice.com.

2. The PetSmart Store Finder

I was hired by PetSmart to voice their Store Finder Systems (the feature where callers can enter or say their zip or postal codes and get a verbal listing of the stores nearest them) — I had done similar store finders for Diesel Jeans and Marshall Field’s, but nothing on this scale. The initial script contained 900+ store addresses, and each store then had to have a file speaking the hours of the retail stores, grooming salons, and Pet Hospitals, if applicable. It was a long, involved, and arduous task. It required me to set aside 3 hours a day, but once that initial recording was complete, there’s been wonderful recurring work every week as they continue to open and modify stores.

3. The Cepstral Text-To-Speech Allison Voice

I was commissioned by Cepstral — one of North America’s largest Text-To-Speech developers — to have a TTS model built on my voice. Since my voice is already very prevalent on many existing systems, this product would dovetail well with prompts which come pre-installed with many systems — most notably, Asterisk. I was given a modest telephone-book sized script of non-sensical statements (ie: “Molly put her on red jacket and left at noon”) and they feed these statements into a speech synthesis utility which breaks them into phonemes and sub-phonemes. The more material read, the greater the sound “library”, the more expanded the sound possibilities — and the smoother the finished product. Check it out at www.cepstral.com/demos , type in anything, and I’ll say it!  (You can even add effects like “Dizzy Droid”, which some may argue is my natural preset.)

As much as I love the brief “sprint” assignments, I really love knowing when I have huge Behemoth lurking over me every day, which needs daily care, attention, and a huge feeling of accomplishment which only comes from a huge mission accomplished on time and on budget.

Next posting: I’ll discuss the “human” factors which affect announcing — and IVR announcing — in particular. (Hint: cold & flu season is here!)

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