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About the Voice Distillery

Felix Schaeffler

5 min read

Who is behind The Voice Distillery?

We are a team of professionally-trained voice-over artists, speech and language therapists, academics in voice research, software engineers and business managers with a passion for the human voice and voice technology. We are based in Scotland and operating out of Queen Margaret University Edinburgh.

Our vision is to provide an innovative tech platform which enables content creators to find the perfect voice in record time, while being a fair, affordable and educational marketplace for voiceover artists to excel in.

Why are we doing what we’re doing?

In the beginning we made three observations:
  1. Voiceover is a growing market, with loads of voices sought and cast every day.
  2. There’s an amazing amount of talent out there, just waiting to provide high quality voiceover from their own homes.
  3. Online marketplaces offer great opportunities to connect voiceover talent with content creators looking for a voiceover.
When we then looked at existing marketplace models, two questions stood out:
  1. Why should voice talent pay for auditioning?
  2. How can content creators cope with the bottleneck of reviewing auditions, when a fairly paid job attracts 200 auditions or more?
Question 2 gets various answers in the industry, for example:

“We don’t care. Lots of auditions simply means more selection for the client.”

While this may be true to a certain extent, it is also short-sighted: What is the value of a huge selection if you don’t have the capacity to review it? And if you can’t review all these auditions, then the talent behind the auditions will get frustrated. Voiceover artists are humans after all, and they usually put a lot of time and effort into a bespoke audition.

It’s one thing if your audition gets discarded after due consideration, but how would you feel if it hasn’t even been listened to? You’ve put your heart into it, taking a lot of time, trying different takes and making sure that the sound is the best it can be – and all for nothing. Being ignored also means there’s nothing you can learn from a particular audition as a voiceover artist. Was it the wrong job for my type of voice? Did I maybe not sufficiently consider the client’s brief? You don’t know because nobody ever considered it. The only thing you can learn from this experience is that submitting to a platform is maybe not worth your while.

“We make sure that we only have the best voiceovers on our platform so that clients don’t get overwhelmed.”

That’s nice and fine, but in our experience, even platforms that heavily vet their talent (or claim they do), often have problems with “too many” auditions. Besides, ‘vetting’ is subjective, might rely on the tastes of just a few people and might also put a lot of emphasis on “experience”, which disadvantages up and coming talent wanting to enter the industry. Besides, if your platform is ‘pay2play’, they might not want to vet too rigorously, as it affects your bottom line…

“Who needs auditions anyway? We have heaps of demo reels on our website, just pick and choose!”

Demo reels are great for talent to present their skills, and for some jobs, a demo reel is sufficient, but in our experience (and we do have over 20 year’s experience in the VO industry!), demo reels often don’t really indicate if a talent is right for a specific job. Jobs booked via demo reels often take much longer to finish and require more direction than jobs recruited through an audition. After all, a custom audition is a snippet of the client’s text, spoken with their exact requirements in mind.

“Online platform? My agent provides me with good voices all the time.”

That’s a perfectly respectable choice, but what if your client is looking for a voice that an agent with a limited roster of talent doesn’t have on their books? What if your client is looking for a new and fresh voice? And besides, why not try something new? Currently the Voice Distillery is completely free for both talent and content creators 🙂

A better way to cast voices

All of the above convinced us of one thing – there must be a better way to cast voices, a way that
  • does not exploit voice talent
  • supports casters by giving them quick access to the most suitable auditions, without ignoring a single audition.

And so the Voice Distillery was born…

In 2019, we took our idea to Scottish Enterprise, and after a competitive selection process, we got funding for a 15-month project. This allowed us to research our idea and put it into practice. We started both the project and the company completely remotely in the summer of 2020 – right in the middle of the Covid19 pandemic. Since the end of the funded project, we have built an online platform that is hopefully easy to use for both content creators and voiceover artists and have further improved our algorithms.

We cannot disclose our exact method for ranking voices (it’s our secret sauce!), but our machine “listens” to each and every audition and scores them on the voice descriptors you have chosen for your particular script and project. We train our algorithms on expert assessment as well as audience choice, to make sure that we incorporate a wide variety of preferences and make the selection as unbiased as possible. We don’t claim that our algorithms get it completely right every time and therefore do not let them pick just one voice for you.

Instead, we rank all auditions so that those that most likely fit your project and brief are at the top of the list. You are still free to make the final choice. Another bonus of our system is that it automatically filters out auditions that don’t match your script, and we also assess the recording quality to make sure you can focus on those voiceovers that can deliver a broadcast quality recording.

Curious? Want to try us out?

For a limited time only, our platform is completely free to use! (But sorry, you still have to pay the voiceover artist an industry standard fee for their great work)

Simply subscribe and submit your first job, or contact us if you want to know more!

Oh, and let’s be clear, there is no such thing as “too many auditions”. Choice is good, you just need to be able to handle it – and that’s where we come in!