A little while ago, a flurry of Facebook tags led me to an article from 2018 Britains Got Talent winner Lee Ridley (aka Lost Voice Guy). The article was about Lee’s search for a new voice. If you’ve never encountered Lost Voice Guy before, he’s a stand up comedian who uses a sophisticated piece of equipment on his iPad to talk and communicate. Lee’s current voice is called Graeme and is very RP. Lee wanted an accent which was closer to that of his families who are from Consett in County Durham.
Consett is around 10 miles from where I currently live and of course, being a voice actor, I couldn’t resist the idea of auditioning! Daily, I work on commercials, corporate videos, occasional video games, all of these things are fictitious characters, so the appeal of voicing a real person, well it was too good of an opportunity to refuse! So I recorded Lee’s sample script from his latest book “I’m only in it for the parking”. At the end, I thought I might add in a little of my singing talent too… turns out, I can’t sing, but I gave it a shot non the less! And then here we are. From 500 applicants Lee chose me.
Here’s the press release;
LEE RIDLEY (AKA LOST VOICE GUY) HAS FOUND HIS PERFECT GEORDIE ACCENT.
Lee is pleased to announce that after much consideration he has chosen Voice Over Artist, Dan Pye as the person who will provide the new Geordie accent for his communication device.
In his search to find the perfect Geordie accent Lee has spent the last month listening to almost 500 potential donors from across the Newcastle area. They were each asked to read a short extract from his book, I’m Only In It For The Parking. Lee then listened to each entry in turn in order to select the voice that he felt best suited his regional and family accent. Dan’s voice fitted the bill perfectly.
Dan, who grew up in Whickham, Newcastle upon Tyne and is currently living in Hunwick, County Durham, said –
“I spend much of my life lending my voice to fictitious characters for a range of projects, the idea of being able to lend my voice to an actual human is just such an honour at the best of times, but when that individual is as inspirational as Lee, it’s an even greater one. Being able to help Lee communicate in a tone which is more personal to him is fantastic. Being a Geordie has a very distinctive, nationally recognisable tone which I am very proud of. Sharing that with Lee, I hope will give him a sense of identity that the rest of the North East are famed for. Tone of voice accounts for so much of our ability to communicate, I’m so thrilled to be able to help provide that element of effective communication to Lee. I’m happy that being a donor in this sense means I don’t have to be cut apart, and I get to witness Lee’s performance using my voice. Which is going to be strange I must admit. It will be nice to hear myself tell jokes that are actually funny… “
To create a highly natural Geordie text-to-speech voice tailored for use on a communication device, CereProc customises the vocabulary during the script consultation process to incorporate phrases that Lee will say often and even regional Geordie slang such as “Whey Aye Man”. The customised vocabulary will be added into the phonetically balanced script for Dan to record. Dan will record in a professional recording studio for around six hours during which he will recreate a range of vocal emotional styles. This process will give the synthetic voice emotional capability giving Lee the ability to express his emotions through his voice. CereProc will build the voice using their system CereWave AI that incorporates Artificial Intelligence with deep neural- network modelling speech synthesis. At the end of the process, CereProc will produce a Geordie voice for Lee that reflects his identity and represents where he is from so that he can sound like his family.
Paul Welham (CereProc’s Chairman & Chief Executive Officer) commented –
“Working with Lee will be an opportunity for a greater audience to see how our technology can be used to create regional accents to give him and others their own accent to talk with, rather than a bland BBC accent that many are forced to use. To hear Lee speak with a Geordie accent has been an ambition of mine since we first met.”
Lee said –
“I’m very excited to finally be getting a Geordie accent, so I can sound more like my family and friends. I had a great response to my request for a voice donor. In fact, the number of people willing to help out blew me away. So, it was hard to choose the voice that I thought suited me best. But, in the end, Dan’s voice was the one that I kept coming back too and listening to over and over again. Thankfully, my family agreed with my choice too. I can’t wait to get started on the project with Dan and CereProc, and I look forward to you all hearing my new Geordie accent soon.”