So approximately 24 years ago, I had a vision. I haven’t had too many of them, but this one seemed pretty clear. Computers were in their infancy but I could see as they struggled to create digital images that one truth would come to pass.
Some day, in the none too distant future they would make brand new movies, taking the images of old favourite actors and by scanning them, make them move and behave visually in new ways. So we’d see Steve McQueen in a “new” movie, Marilyn Monroe sing and laugh up a storm in a new musical comedy reuniting her with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. They’d all be young, vital, and their facial and body movements would be unerringly “real”. The computers would have scanned their movements in the dozens of films they were in, and sophisticated software would have the “Monroe Character” and the “Lemmon Character” ready to take their marks in a cybernetic stage.
I could see that for the first releases of these movies, “sound alike” voice actors would lip-sync with the pictures but eventually even a program would be designed that would analyse their speech patterns and allow someone to put in any lines you want.
This new kind of film making would eventually be cheaper than making films the old fashioned way, and people would always want to see their favourite stars in the prime of their youth whether they were Clark Gable or Johnny Depp. This would put struggling actors out of work permanently for everything but “art” films or “independents”, and I envisioned a kind of return to vaudeville for those who still were bitten by the acting bug.
Hey… I never said it was a good vision. It’s at best a mixed bag.
Twenty plus years later, and the visuals are still getting closer. We’ve been able to make Fred Astaire dance with a vacuum pretty easily, and place modern actors with tribbles, but we’re not quite there yet.
Audio has been even trickier. Check out Talking Gadget Theater: Blade Runner with Kindle 2 and i-Pod Shuffle. Folks are amazed at how much better computer voices have become at reading lines.
I, for one, am very glad we have a thriving, and talented audio drama community to keep the machines at bay… for now at least.