The Ghost in the Machine

We held our breath, waiting for the first utterance of our robot voice. It wasn’t going to be “Mama,” or “Daddy”.PearlW-chinese-lantern_Extrude No. This was our mechanical baby. Talking with circuits, software, and digital utterances of phonemes being compiled at the speed of light like a phonetic jigsaw puzzle.

We’d recorded thousands of human-spoken lines which became phonemes to complete boring sentences like, “In a half mile turn right on….” Now we were waiting for the phoneme-aggregating, voice engine to combine the sounds that would speak “Gramercy Place”.

The complete sentence would start with the human voice and then the robot voice would fill in the street name by converting a text-to-speech (TTS) line into a human-sounding, “Gramercy Place.” Like the Wright Brothers waiting for their plane to crash we winced as the “Gramercy Place” part of the sentence approached. Would there be a shift in the basic characteristics : volume? presence? pitch? tone? diction? enunciation? pacing? Add to this another tier of twenty-four qualities in a voice, like “flutter” (a bleat like a lamb’s cry), or “honky” (excessive nasality), or my favorite “ventricular” (Louis Armstrong type voice.)

And we can add another tier of “listener interpretation” aspect to the voice.  What a listener reads between the lines of a voice they hear. Does the speaker seem “sincere”, “caring”, “intelligent”, “comfortable”, “certain”, “empathetic”, “interested”, “apathetic”, “cold”, “faking it” etc.

As any actor will tell you, a line can be read in perhaps a hundred ways. How could we expect a machine to jump through all the performance hoops of a trained actor? So, how did our computerized baby sound? IBM had finished their work.  The “Super Voice” was installed by Alpine into the Honda Odyssey and we sat around the parking lot, waiting for the first utterance. It was fascinating and eerie.

The voice sounded just like our voice talent, but, an “essence” was missing. With all the chopping and recombining of phonemes the “person” had vaporized. It was a “Stepford Wives” moment.  Synthetic caring.  The voice sounded just like her but “she” wasn’t there. She had slipped away during all the phoneme harvesting…escaping from the harvest…somehow dodging the phoneme harvester’s blades chopping up the elements of human speech.

Perhaps some engineer is working on a new algorithm that can inject “realness” into the synthetic personas we create.  We need a “ghost” to live in the voice files. But so far, we do not have a ghost in the machine. We may soon have. Or we may hear the machine show its first chilling signs of being a real person when it quotes the line from 2001, “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

When you’re going for a ghost in the machine, you never know what you’re going to get.

Are you a Dinosaur or a Survivor

We’re in the business of change. Or rather we help businesses change.

One of our tools is video, because it is the most effective tool to reach people. But it’s just one tools on our toolbelt.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 1.10.04 pm

Change is hard for companies, but the fork in the road is unfortunately a choice between following the dinosaurs to extinction or pivoting to a new survival route that is responsive to the demands of today’s business, not yesterday’s.

“That’s the way we’ve always done it!” is no longer a valid response. That’s what the dinosaurs said.

Bill Gates, in his book, Business at the Speed of Thought, says that the businesses that are in closest touch with their customers will survive. The communication line between business and customer must be instant and vibrant. To liken it to a marriage, it would be hard to imagine a marriage growing if the couple seldom spoke to each other or shared their feedback. In short, constant improvement is the key to survival both in our personal lives and in our professional lives. And that means GOOD communication.  Not just any communication. You need “nitty-gritty” communication.


There are many businesses losing market share and risking extinction because they are out of touch with their customer and gambling they can get them back somehow. But they’re gambling blindfolded because they’re relying on bad data, i.e. opinions, bright ideas, something edgy, fresh, out of the box,  etc. etc.

Too many businesses rely on ad agencies and research groups that feed them graphs and insights derived from numerous sources of bad data. What I mean by bad data is research done with the wrong instruments. They derive data but the tools used color the data to present a false picture. And then, the rocket starts to go off track. And even though millions are spent on the advice of “know-best” experts, the target is missed, executives replaced, agencies fired etc.

One of our clients, was full of data but no one could figure out “the why” that explained why sales were falling.  I won’t give you their name but it wasn’t until our team went out into the trenches of the sales floor and talked to sales people that the why was discovered.  In fact, there were multiple why’s.  We derived a handling and sales doubled.

So what’s the solution? Finding the “real why.” That takes work in the trenches. That takes establishing a good communication line with those in the trenches so they’re comfortable in saying what’s REALLY going on, rather than politically-correct or “safe” answer to questions.

There’s a whole technology to it, actually. It’s a technology I rarely see applied in research methods used by many. I know ours works, because it has. Glowing success stories. You have to ask yourself, “If a company can really handle this problem, wouldn’t it be worth it to me?”

We always tell our customers, “Our job is to make you look good and come out smelling like a rose and looking like a genius.”

Finding The Perfect Voice

While the TV show “THE VOICE” tries to find the next great singer, our voice specialists are looking for the perfect voice for you to listen to in other applications, like car navigation systems. voice-talent-2015-femaleWe’re searching for voices to become the voices of cars, phones and appliances. We want voices that will appeal to the consumer. The normal voices used  for radio commercials just won’t do. Consumers prefer a voice that “sounds like” the product, IF the product could talk. Cadillac wanted the perfect voice for their executive coupe. They hired Alpine Electronics to design the navigation system and Alpine asked us to find “Cadillac” voices in English, Spanish and French Canadian. It’s hard to describe in words the voice we were looking for. A few parameters come to mind that we applied looking for the “Cadillac” voice:

  • Sophisticated
  • A technogically-savvy but not computer-cold voice
  • Warm but not too sensual
  • Classy but not snobby
  • Does she sound like a Cadillac if a Cadillac could talk?

These characteristics were added to our usual  screening list:

  1. Does her “persona” match the vehicle (or product)?
  2. Diction – Does her voice sound well-trained, clear, not slurred and lazy?
  3. Dialect – Does her voice have any offensive regional characteristics? (Too south, too north, too California etc.)
  4. Lively – Is she a pleasant companion to have along on a trip?
  5. Professional Certainty – Does she sound like she knows what she’s talking about?
  6. Concern – Does she sound like she cares about me and my safety?  She’s not just doing a job.
  7. Confident – Is she confident but not bitchy?
  8. Pacing – Can she speak succinctly enough to give directions in a 65 mph environment, but not so fast that she starts to sound like an attorney disclaimer?
  9. Musicality/Charm – Is her voice interesting to listen to? Uniquely engaging? Someone you wouldn’t mind listening to day after day?
  10. Are there any technical issues in her vocal instrument? Saliva clicks, excessive breathing, other anomalies that will have to be fixed later by sound engineers?
  11. Lastly, is the voice talent reliable and professional? Are they settled in their lives so we can be sure they’ll be available for 10 – 20 years to supply voice files?

Needless to say we audition as many before we find the perfect match.  The sound engineer, producer and voice coach rank them on a 1 – 10 scale and pass our recommendations to our client for their final decision.  Do you want to hear the “Cadillac” voice?  Buy a Cadillac.  Short of that,  CLICK HERE They’ll probably never make a TV show about what we do, but we’ve delivered voices that make their driving hours safer and more pleasant whether they’re driving an Accord, Honda, Cadillac, or Chrysler. We’ve been in this since the beginning of computer voices finding and recording hundreds of thousands of  voice recordings to Microsoft, Clarion, deCarta, IBM, Visteon, and  Johnson Controls at Six Sigma levels of quality.

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Is the New XC10 Faster than the 70D at Focusing???

Hi, we are back again to show you our test results of Canon’s new XC10!
This time, we are focusing on how fast it is, compared to the 70D.

Tracking Focus – Youtube , Tracking Focus – Vimeo

Unfortunately, the tracking focus for the XC10 isn’t as fast as the 70D. When we tried it out, as you can see, it takes about 10 seconds to focus.

It seems as though Canon is trying to follow the trend of having their camera autofocus more like the iPhone than a traditional Canon DSLR.

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Unleash the Storyteller


People love stories.  The juicier the better.  You’ve seen tabloid headlines like these:
Sex scandal topples Health Guru’s Empire
Corruption traced to Highest Levels
Giant creature roams sewers of Paris
We filmmakers can learn from these sleazy tabloids.
Well, often we’re asked to make films that are boring, data-driven scripts, i.e. “XY Corp finds increased efficiency on production line outperforms competitors.”   Many companies are telling their “stories” on YouTube but they’re boring, not “juicy”.
So, what’s the secret to getting people to watch our films?
We don’t have to use the sleazy tactics of the tabloids to fix a boring corporate script.  We just need to find a hook, and a pretty wrapper for the message. For example, the XY Corp story above we could massage into a more enticing approach”
“The Secret to perfectly grilled salmon”
The rewritten script would show a corporate picnic with the Pres and his workers grilling salmon together. During the video we mention that XP Corp is doing so well that they have barbecues for the employees and their families.  There are scenes of the Pres and his employees yukking it up.
The RESULT?  We got the message across.
What’s the Secret to Getting People to Watch Your Film?
  1. Bait the HOOK with something interesting to catch viewers. (Everybody wants to know how to grill salmon without drying it out).
  2. Put the message in a pretty WRAPPER – beautiful shots of buttery salmon, the sizzling grill, the smoke, the camaraderie around the table and great music.
  3. Weave the MESSAGE casually into the video (XY Corp is doing great, the president’s great and the employees are happy.  We might even throw in an interview or two of employees commenting on how nice it is to work for a well-run company.)
SUMMARY: If we want our videos to be watched, they need to be interesting (Bait the HOOK with something the audience is interested in), have aesthetically sexy images and sounds (the WRAPPER) so we have a film that captures and holds the audience’s attention while we deliver the MESSAGE.
This is our specialty.
We’ve built an award-winning career making corporate stories interesting.  And for the last five years, in the CineBootCamps, we’ve been teaching filmmakers what we’ve learned.
The old saying:
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”
I would paraphrase that to say,
“The way to the audience’s mind is through their heart.”
Turn that boring blog of data into something interesting to the heart,
with a well-baited HOOK and a WRAPPER that will get viewership.  
EXAMPLE ONE – Ocean Spray
We promoted Ocean Spray by telling the story of cranberry harvest on an Oregon farm that’s about to become a century farm (in the same family for 100 years.)  We wrapped Ocean Spray in an interesting story.  As we tell that story, we’re raising the awareness of the audience and their affinity for Ocean Spray and cranberries.  Next time they’re in the store we’ve increased the likelihood they’ll reach for Ocean Spray.  We’re selling Ocean Spray without selling it.
Check out HARVEST – a film featuring Ocean Spray.
(This CineBootCamps film premiered at Canon’s Hollywood Center.)
HARVEST (for Ocean Spray)
HARVEST (Ocean Spray)
EXAMPLE TWO – kindle
THE WOMAN ON THE TRAIN shows the poetry of Pablo Neruda comforting a woman on the subway.  Again, in telling this woman’s story with its romantic fantasy, we role of kindle in the lives of millions.  We’re selling kindle in NEW way, i.e. selling it without selling it.
THE WOMAN ON THE TRAIN (featuring kindle)
THE WOMAN ON THE TRAIN (featuring kindle)
ABOUT FLETCH – The Founder of CineBootCamps
Fletch & Cathleen block out her first shot.
Fletch has won two Emmys, a Gold Plaque at Chicago Film Festival, a Gold Medal from the National Academy of Western Art, his documentary, GOOGLE ME the MOVIE, was featured on OPRAH.  
For the last five years Fletch has helped
over 400 filmmakers tell their stories better.
  • Human Interest Stories
  • “Soft Sell” Corporate Profiles
  • “Social Responsibilty” videos
CineBootCamp Successes
“I learned more in two days than in two months of film school.” (CineBootCamps Grad) 
“Fletch handled a two-year-old problem I had in the first five minutes. (CineBootCamps Grad)
You learn by doing. So we use “Active Learning” techniques, endorsed by UC Berkeley and Columbia University as the most effective learning techniques.  So you’ll do hands-on drills not listen to boring lectures.  
We’re the highest-rated, hands-on filmmaking bootcamp in the world per student survey. This is because:
    • We specialize in private one-on-one training.
    • Your questions come first not last.
    • We tailor the training to your interests.  
    • We use “Active Learning techniques.
Joe practices focusing the Zeiss cp.2 lens
Fletch demonstrates better use of existing light.
Your in-house filmmakers can learn to shoot better, more engaging, more impactful videos in days, not weeks in our CineBootCamps.  
You’ll learn from a master filmmaker who’s boiled down the essentials of award-winning storytelling into Active Learning Drills so you become a better storyteller faster than any training available.  The workshop covers story development, camera operation, lighting, audio, and composition.

Call for Pricing Options

register now  
Please visit our home page.


(A portion of the CineBootCamps profits goes to Narconon - a non-profit, educational program to keep kids off drugs and to rehabilitate those who have drug addictions.)


Is your product’s voice dooming your product to lose?

Why does Apple, with all its reserves, invest in voices for Siri that are far below the sophistication of their technology?

The Siri voice sounds a bit put off by my questions. “Why are you bothering me?” is the subtle message between the lines of the voice of Siri on my iPhone 6 Plus. At other times Siri’s responses sounds robotic…very unhuman.

This “between the lines” subtext we can gather from Siri’s vocal delivery conveys a lot. So, sometimes it’s as if I told Siri to drive into a wall and Siri snaps back “Yes. I am blind. Whatever you say stupid human.”

Both these examples are far from the warm user experience Apple would like to create.

Here’s a pop quiz for you. What if you walked into an Apple store and the friendly person in the blue t-shirt blurted out responses that matched Siri’s vocal persona? You turn around and walk out. Computerized voices need to have that warmth we crave from our fellow humans. Not the gooey warmth of a salesperson, just real human understanding, empathy and helpfulness.


What’s a vocal persona? A vocal persona is person behind the words. For example, text messages arrive without a persona imbedded in their transmission. Unless the person added a smiley face or “no worries” to the end.

But in vocal communications, the vocal persona is the subtext that carries a lot of the meaning in the verbal transaction. My wife can say, “Yes, dear.” in a number of ways. The vocal persona fills in the subtext.

For example, “Yes, dear (you complete fool)” “Yes, dear (you darling for remembering our anniversary).” “Yes, dear (if ask me again I’ll burn dinner.”

Aside from the quality and texture of her voice she can imbed additional warmth, empathy, bitterness, apathy etc. into the same two words.

Fletcher Murray – President of The Association

In our voice casting to find the perfect voice for IBM, Chrysler, Cadillac,  Geico, Alpine, Honda, Acura, Visteon, or deCarta we go the extra mile to find a perfect vocal persona that matches our client’s technology, not just somebody who can read lines without making mistakes. We use a 14 column voice characteristics evaluation form to rank our candidates.

This voice IS the product. This voice IS the product to the consumer. That’s all they have to go by in their interaction with the product/company. And all the thousands of hours to develop, debug, and perfect the technology behind the product, rides on the human interaction of the technology’s voice and the human user.

Is that going to be a positive experience the consumer looks forward to enjoying or is it a neutral experience or is it a negative experience?

We try to find a voice that will insure that consumer interaction is “insanely great”. That was the bar that Steve Jobs set for Apple. It’s the bar we strive to clear with our voice casting and recordings – find the perfect voice match for the product and then voice coach her into being an astounding experience for the end user. It’s the bar every product should strive for.

The consumer IS listening.

(Fletcher Murray has been finding and recording voices for computerized voice systems for over 14 years. CLICK HERE for more info.)

Fletcher Murray - President of The Association

Fletcher Murray – President of The Association

Storytelling – the advertising that works

Though millions of dollars are spent trying to hammer marketing messages into our skulls, I doubt if you could name a single advertisement you remember hearing, seeing or reading on the radio on TV or now the internet.

Madison Avenue has done nothing but help us develop an amazing set of what I call “advertising deflector shields”. Just like the shields of the SS Enterprise, our human version can detect and deflect the marketing message without us even being aware of it.

So, what does work?

Stories. Interesting human interest stories can fly under the deflector shields and suddenly we’re embracing a client who’s bringing us an interesting or amusing story.

We’ve been telling clients’ stories for years now. Telling Princess passengers how their cruise will be a cut above the scary land-based vacation, or how Health Valley is making foods to ensure a happy, healthy future for their customer, or how Ocean Spray’s growers are salt-of-the-earth people bringing one of the healthiest foods we can eat to our table.


(click to play video)

So, before you spend your advertising budget on things that just won’t work, consider hiring us to tell a story that might get through….and actually work.

We used to say our videos were free. Nobody got it. But in actuality, our videos work so well, they pay for themselves.

And isn’t that what you expect when you buy something? That it’ll work?

Is Canon’s 70D the best BASIC filmmaking tool?

The 70D has so many advancements that solve so many problems it’s a dream camera for filmmakers, old and new, who don’t want to be bothered with all the buttons. Sure it’s been out a while and other cameras have jumped on center stage but it’s core competency keep it in the spotlight. And that’s the ability to nail focus with the touch of a finger instantly…fast than any focus puller I’ve worked with. So the 70D’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF empowers you to shoot live view and still be in focus without interruption. This sensor has not migrated over to Canon’s Cinema cameras as well.

Now this video isn’t about that focus feature. I’ve got other videos showing how well it does in the focus department listed below. This video is a shootout with the Canon 5D Mark III when we set it at ISO 1250 for a night filming.

Check it out for yourself but I stand with Vincent LaForet that this is the perfect basic camera for the beginner (and experience filmmakers who are tired of being out of focus).

Even the kit lenses are sharp (though not built for heavy use). Check out their MTF stats. (Flat lines along the top is a very good thing.)



Click here to check out the 70D night test video.
Or click below

Nite Fountain Shootout – Canon’s 5D M3 vs 70D from Fletch Murray/CineBootCamps on Vimeo.

Below are the CineBootCamps tests we ran on the 70D’s ability to focus FAST and with pinpoint accuracy.

The 70D’s fast touch focus tests

Fast Touch Focusing 70D

70D focusing shootout with the Panasonic GH4

70D vs GH4

What’s in a voice? …..everything !

It baffles us to see companies with immense technological prowess and customer service choose a voice that is uncaring, cold, and distant.

The voice of a company defines the company’s persona.  The persona often determines whether the person wants to have a relationship with the company or not.

So to help our clients find a voice that will be an asset and not a liability, we audition at least 43 voice talents and rate them on a scale of fourteen characteristics of their voice.

We are located in Hollywood, which is the deepest talent pool on the planet.  Not just English but people from just about every country are here. 


Of course we’re not proposing using Hollywood movie stars. 

We have to be frugal in what we offer our clients. So we also check to see if the voice talent has good comprehension skills, i.e. can read quickly with perfect diction and retain all the other pleasant characteristics.  So, often our “Hollywood” quality voices are less expensive than the “staff” voices companies have on contract.  One minute they’re reading a grocery store ad and the next minute your company’s persona is in their hands.  Our production line is so streamlined after sixteen years of recording the best voices that we can outperform any voice recording service in error-free, sustainable voice systems.

Example One – Cadillac STS came to our client Alpine for voices for their executive tier vehicle.  We found the most delicious voices in French Canadian, Spanish and English you ever heard.  If a Cadillac could talk, this is how it would sound.  What a win that was.

If you’d like help finding a truly remarkable voice that conveys how professional and how committed your company is to quality and customer satisfaction, please give us a call.   We’ve got the voice for you.

Don’t hesitate to call my personal cell is 818 606-3538.  My voice isn’t pretty but the voices I find take you breath away.