1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is it possible to fake someone's voice over the phone with today's audio tech?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Ryan Elder, Jan 1, 2016.

    For my story, I wrote it so that one of the villain's accomplices is killed by the police, but he does not know that. The police then send text messages from the accomplices phone, getting the villain to panic, and want to meet somewhere, in order to fool the villain into incriminating himself, since he think's it's his accomplice texting him.

    However, I was told by some readers so far that they found it too far fetched, and too easy, that the villain would use text messaging for criminal activity, even in an emergency, because texts can be used as evidence, a lot easier than it is to get authorization to tap a cell phone.

    Plus the villain does not even know who is on the other end of the line, and would want voice proof, rather than just reading who's phone it is, that is sending him texts.

    So I was wondering if it is possible with today's audio technology, for the police to fake the dead guys voice as long as they heard him talk before and they know what he sounds like. Perhaps they even have him on tape before from a taped interview, and can use that for reference.

    But I was wondering if it's possible. I recall an episode of Law and Order where that happened, but I wonder how much you can stretch or how much is true.

    Does anyone know? Thank you for the input. I really appreciate it.
     
  2. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not an expert, but I've been involved in audio production off and on since the 1970s.

    With current technology, here's what you'd have to do:
    1. find a recording of the guy's voice,
    2. break it up into sampled words,
    3. assign each sampled word to play back when a specific key or combination of keys on a keyboard is struck,
    4. during the conversation with the mark (the guy they're trying to fool) someone would have to 'build' each of the dead guy's responses a word at a time by typing the right key for each word.
    There are, however, several things that would trip up this whole process.
    • Tone of voice (emotion) within a constructed sentence isn't going to match, one word to the next,
    • Whoever's doing the typing (building the responses) would have to know the sample-keys cold (lots and lots of practice),
    • The rise and fall of the voice (musicality) during natural speech is going to be off.
    Bottom line, it wouldn't work unless you had a robot (as in Asimov's Three Laws) doing the typing, constructing the sentences in response to what the guy said and managing tone of voice and musicality on the fly... which a human wouldn't be able to do fast enough.

    But all this assumes that your story takes place in the present day, in this particular reality (universe) and there's no magic involved and no time traveling robots from the future. :)
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Since I am into filmmaking and write my own scripts, I as well, have had to do some things in the audio department. I know you can break a person's words up. However, you can make a voice sound different by changing the pitch, and things like that I have noticed. So I was thinking maybe by finding the right pitch, perhaps you can make another persons' voice sound like the dead person's.

    Like for example, perhaps the detective on the case could ask all the offices in the police station to volunteer, recording their voices, and then they would change the pitches of all of them, until they found a match.

    However, since in order to fool the villain, the dead person has to call the villain, the police are not going to know entirely what the villain is going to say, so I don't think they can use a recording of previous words, spoken by the dead man before, which were taped. I think they would have to make a live conversation with an impersonator on the other end, but with the pitch changed in his voice.

    Would a reader find this convincing, or still too far fetched?
     
  4. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    It would depend on how you set it up, I suppose. Given enough 'proof,' you should be able to make anything believable.

    All I can say for sure is the advice I read somewhere (don't remember where): If you want the reader to believe something outlandish, introduce it early in the story and don't oversell it.
     

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