Do you remember watching interviews of famous whistleblowers, anonymised for television using darkened rooms and deep voice effects? These almost comical arrangements are used to disguise identity, but can unfortunately hide the interviewees emotion and personality from the audience, and in the worst cases undermine the seriousness of the topic at hand. Below we’ve outlined the importance of voice anonymization within media and how Altered Studio can help conceal a person’s identity, while allowing them to share their account from their own perspective.
In many cases, a person’s voice can be easily recognized by others, leading to a risk of backlash or retaliation for speaking out. It is therefore important to have the ability to safely disguise a person or informant’s identity in an interview. The interviewee could be a whistleblower of a corrupt organization, a witness to a crime, or a victim of domestic violence, all of whom naturally need to be protected through the interview process whilst also being given the chance to tell their story. It is also very likely these subjects will not agree to participate in the interview if their protection can’t be guaranteed, so their story may never be heard if the right safeguards are not in place.
Disguising an interviewee’s voice can help to reduce the likelihood of listener bias. A person’s voice may reveal information about their gender, age, race, or other personal characteristics. By using technology to disguise their voice, producers can reduce the potential for bias and ensure that subjects are judged solely on what they say.
Finally, people often have a hard time speaking openly and honestly when they are being recorded. By using synthetic speech to replace their voice, the person being interviewed can feel more comfortable and relaxed, which can lead to more candid and authentic responses.
A digital solution to an analogue problem
Fortunately, powerful solutions have recently come onto the market that allow for the speaker’s identity to be disguised, whilst still conveying the emotive power of their interview. Holistic speech synthesis software, like Altered Studio, provides two distinct solutions for this problem, Speech-to-Speech and Text-to-Speech.
Speech to Speech (STS) synthesis allows the interviewee to speak freely and to fully convey their powerful testimony during the interview in their own voice, capturing not only their words but also their emotion. Using Altered Studio’s library of over 800+ voices, production companies can take the interviewees’ spoken input and morph their voice to another voice. This completely disguises the original speaker but, importantly, accurately reproduces the interviewee’s portrayal of their experience.
True Vision Productions in the UK used STS in Altered Studio to protect interviewees’ identities in a documentary for Channel 4. Their production team describes the experience below:
“Often contributors to our documentaries wish to remain anonymous for their own safety; their stories have been told either through actors or by changing the pitch of their voice. These methods always pulled away from the story we were trying to tell, eroding the emotion from their voices. With Altered studio however, we were able to retain the emotion and the nuances of their voice whilst completely changing the way they sound, without it feeling like a distraction. This has opened up a whole new method of anonymising contributors for us, with the ability to change accents and tone so they are safe in the knowledge that they won’t be recognised.” – Alex Malcolm / True Vision Productions
UK readers can see this Channel 4 short film, and hear Sarah’s story. For readers outside the UK, this video from Altered’s video showcase is a great example of STS synthesis in action.
Text to Speech (TTS) can also be a valuable tool for disguising the voices of vulnerable interviewees, allowing producers to localize content or provide spoken voice when it is not possible to record. It could be that the person being interviewed does not have a suitable place to record the interview due to technological or safety restrictions in their area. Or perhaps English isn’t their first language, meaning they are not confident enough in their delivery to fully convey their story.
Traditionally TTS voices have been robotic and did not sound natural or engaging for viewers. However, Altered Studio’s ‘Speaking Style’ TTS comes with dozens of speaking styles from whispers to shouts, sorrowful to annoyed. By using Speaking Style TTS, a production team can take spoken or written interview content and convert it to an emotive TTS voice recording in minutes. If the interview is provided in another language, Altered Studio can transcribe the
recording in dozens of languages using powerful AI transcription, then translate this to English before generating the TTS audio, ready for production.
SBS, an Australian public service broadcaster, used Altered Studios’ Speaking Style TTS to disguise the identity of an interviewee for security reasons, in this podcast about the World Cup in Qatar. After the podcast was broadcast, the SBS had this to say:
“When we needed to conceal the identity of an interviewee for safety and privacy reasons, Altered Studio provided a suite of tools that contributed to our storytelling and allowed the interview to go longer, and more in-depth than originally planned. We used the text to speech (TTS) feature, which produced a natural-speech, editable audio track in seconds.” – Andrew Chapelle, Journalist for SBS
SBS continue to use Altered Studio’s TTS, for example in this podcast to provide an English dubbing of Nepalese interviewees’ accounts of their experience working in Qatar.
“I would have normally asked a colleague to step into an edit studio to record the voiceover, but this was far quicker and easier. – Andrew Chapelle, Journalist for SBS
Gone are the days of dark rooms, shadows and gravelly voice effects to conceal a person’s identity. Now media creatives can capture the full account of an interviewee who can not speak openly, confidently concealing their identity, resulting in powerful and engaging storytelling.
Our cutting edge speech-to-speech and speaking-style text-to-speech technology allows you endless possibilities to bring voice to your projects. Performance is at the heart of Altered Studio, giving you the ability to create engaging content with a cast of highly nuanced, diverse voice actors.
From television interviews to true crime podcasts, Altered.ai empowers creators to find their own voice for every project.
To know more about the software, Altered AI, please visit https://www.altered.ai