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Tuesday
Feb152011

The Fuzzy Lines of "Voice Acting"

Recently I stumbled across a wonderful list of the "20 Greatest Voice Over Performances," courtesy of the site ListVerse.com.  The list is a fascinating look at some great voice actors, great characters, and indeed entire careers.  While I really appreciate the work John Miller put into compiling it, I wanted to highlight some areas I found interesting that may open up new conversation:

1. Where Be the Clips? This is the internet age, with just about every nostalgic node and related ephemera located a Google search away.  Someone needs to find a sample or YouTube link to each of these voices.  That someone could be me...just not right now :)

2. The meaning of "voice over performance." As noted in the comments by an astute reader, the #1 voice, Andy Serkis as Gollum, lives in the hazy new area of motion-captured CGI.  Was it really Andy acting on screen?  Or was Gollum just as animated as Bugs Bunny?  Where is the line between voice acting and "traditional" acting with a CGI costume?  More on this to follow...

3. Role vs. Career. One mistake I think this list makes is mixing the voice of one character (in a single movie or a franchise) along with a voice actor's entire career. That's like comparing oranges and apples!  How can you compare one performance to the entire oeuvre of Mel Blanc or Frank Oz?  I believe that should be a separate list...




The Meaning of "Voice Performance"


As CGI, motion-capture, and facial mapping grows ever better and more accurate, we will only find more and more gray areas.  A voice actor providing the voice to a traditionally animated character is "voice acting," I don't think anyone would argue with that.  But what about the type of motion capture utilized by WETA for Gollum, or by James Cameron for the characters in Avatar?  How close does the CGI costume have to be to reality to defined as "acting"?  Perhaps we just need a new genre or definition...

Another commenter brings up the interesting example of Octopus Face in Pirates of the Caribbean.  His voice was probably recorded in a studio, and the tentacles are CGI.  Since only part of his body is digital, and the voice is pre-recorded, is this acting or voice acting?

Let the discussion begin...

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