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Bay Area voice actor wary of AI replicating voice, livelihood

Bay Area voice actor wary of AI replicating her voice and livelihood
Bay Area voice actor wary of AI replicating her voice and livelihood 05:00

Voice actors worried about the impact of artificial intelligence reacted to the announcement of a partnership between the AI company Veritone and entertainment agency CAA with cautious optimism, as the two companies say they can store and protect the digital assets of performers.

Advancements in technology have allowed local voice talent to build successful careers in the Bay Area. But a voice actor told CBS News Bay Area that she still worries about the growing presence of AI in their industry.

"I was interested, excited, a little bit nervous, scared, and as someone who has publicly spoken about AI and my concerns as a voice actor, I knew a lot of those alarm bells would kind of be ringing as well," said Joy Ofodu, a voice actor based in the Bay Area. "Anytime that I see developments in AI, particularly as they relate to voice, it concerns me for independent artists, for those of us who are professional working artists and actors."

Ofodu has lived in the Bay Area most of her life and became a professional voice actor and SAG-AFTRA member after spending time as an independent performer.

Joy Ofudu, a Bay Area voice actor, working in her studio. CBS

Recent projects with her voice work include the animated web series "The Sales-Off" as well as the hand-drawn film "Beverly Bunny and the Misdirected Mystery" and just this week, the full release of the VR game "BlackTop Hoops" from Vinci Games which uses Ofodu's voice for one of the players.

These projects demonstrate the timeline that voice actors face when contributing to the creation of content years before it will be released.

"Whether recording in person or at home, voiceover takes time, the animation industry particularly, independent animation industries often have actors come in years before," Ofodu told CBS News Bay Area.

Veritone and Creative Artists Agency announced their partnership this week called the CAA vault to store the intellectual property of talent's name, image, and likeness.

The move comes after compensation in the age of AI became a major issue in the 2023 actors' and writers' strikes. It is a need for performers as audio cloning is relatively easy and the partnership hopes to provide a way to verify that a voice is authentically used with permission.

"What it's offering is security, it's offering a secure repository to store the valuable assets of all the associated metadata," explained Sean King, the general manager of media and entertainment for Veritone. "It's coming from the vault so they know it's theirs, you know, that CAA has checked the box, that they know how it's being used, what it's being used for, and how they're being compensated for it."

Ofodu's own process requires her to store professional audio so it is secure but the thought of putting that in the hands of someone else is a little nerve-wracking. It underlines the cybersecurity threat to voice actors because of AI and the new legal as well as ethical concerns that will come with each advancement in the technology.

As an artist who worked out of a remote home studio to book multiple roles, the transition from independent to professional voice actor has increased the level of competition she faces and changed her casting rate in new projects. 

"I am excited to see that there's a potential for actors to store, protect, track their likenesses and past performances, I think all smart voice actors including myself do have online cloud-based storage where we maintain the representations of our voice," Ofodu said. "We have our fingers crossed that as actors we remain economically prosperous, I would say for myself as an actor though, I've seen an uptick, I've seen an increase, I've seen clients come to me more and more, lean on me for recurring jobs, recurring roles, and that's super touching, especially in this trying time."

Her work has included animation, games, film, TV, and music, a chance to showcase her craft as a voice actor in several mediums. But Ofodu said it is no longer enough to just be a strong talent, you must also be knowledgeable in the technical and legal aspects of the technology that is transforming the industry.

If the partnership around the CAA vault is successful, she said a new layer in the ongoing struggle for access will arise if certain artists cannot achieve a similar level of protection. Most of all though, she hopes that AI does not take away from the actual art she and others remain so passionate about in their work.

"We voice act not because we just want to receive a check every now and again, though the check is nice, voice acting isn't the most lucrative industry, and it's not the most lucrative kind of acting per se, we do it because we love the performance," Ofodu said. 

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