We hear them everywhere, on the radio, through the television, in commercials, cartoons, even in our favorite prime time dramas: voice overs. We hear these omniscient voices at every twist and turn. Yet, haven’t you ever wondered “Who are they?” “How did they get there?” “When did this phenomenon start?” No? Just me? I’m the only one who’s curious about the guy who use to voice the Home Hardware commercials? Okay, no big deal.
But I bet you are curious about who the voice of the first ever Mickey Mouse was. What about how people are making livings out of their walk-in closest with a laptop, a $500 mic and a Wi-Fi connection. Or how those voices make it out of their closets and into your home?
In order to understand where we are today I had to go all the way back to square one.
On June 22, 1878, in St. Louis. Thomas Edison debuted his newest invention the phonograph. During this debut he recorded could by hatching marks into a piece of foil and the phonograph would playback the sound though mechanical vibrations. This set the grounds for the rise of vinyl records.
In the year 1900 a Canadian inventor named Reginald Fessenden made the first ever broadcasted voice recording. He looked at the technology used by the newly invented telephone that allowed it to transport the sound of a human voice through a wire and the already practiced technology of the telegram (which up to this point could only communicate through Morse Code), and fused them together to create a radio broadcast that carried his voice. This moment in technological history is what kicked of the industry of voice overs and voice acting.
When voices began to appear over the radio it was no longer a requirement to know Mores Code to get to know the happenings in the world. Radio became a households staple for news, advertisement and entertainment. Voices began to take over the television, in movies, television shows and eventually music programs that sounded just as good as your vinyl albums in your home!
In the 90’s the world entered the digital age and nearly every industry was inexplicably changed forever. Here’s the thing, I’m Generation Z. I don’t remember a time before the digital era, so I had to call in the big guns.
Dan Willmott, an actor who’s been in the industry since the 60’s, breached the industry right when it was going through a revolutionary period. It was the shift from the classic booming announcer voice to a more human and relatable voice. This wasn’t the first change in the voice acting industry and as Dan told me it certainly wasn’t the last.
As someone who doesn’t know anything other and the digital age it’s hard for me to understand what the shift must have been like. Dan on the other hand remembers when the digitalization of the industry opened up the door to home studios.
Dan’s Site: http://danwillmott.astralreel.com/
Dan motioned something called an ISDN which is short for Integrated Services Digital Network. This invention may have single handedly changed the voicing and audio industry! An ISDN is a machine that is connected to a network that can run audio from another ISDN anywhere in the world in near real time. The invention o the ISDN meant that actors living in Canada could audition for American productions in real time, and directors could stream sessions to clients over seas. Even news organizations use an ISDN so they can stream audio live from location.
Dug Joy is another voice actor who watched as the industry made it’s plunge into the digital world. When I interviewed him about his career and what the digital shift was like he talked about the rise of home studios and the rise of another unexpected consequence to all of this digitalization. The saturation of the industry.
Dug’s site: https://dugjoy.com/
In this digital era new jobs are being created, jobs no one could have ever imagined before the 90’s. It also revolutionized already existing jobs. Not only did the audio industry change irrevocably but so did nearly every other industry in the world. Whether the digital era solved all of the industries’ past hardships or created new ones in the process, there’s no going back. What do you think the new evolution in the voicing industry will be?