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Hurdy gurdy bork (snif) bork.

I was on LinkedIn this week (gosh, aren't I all grown up and professional? Pff.) and was introduced to something new called Accreu, a site with the tagline "Voiceovers for small independent creatives." Instead of auditioning for projects, the VO gets to make their (English, why you no have genderless singular?) own character and let the project creators find them that way. Have a little dragon you've been doodling since fourth grade, and the voice for it in your head? Draw it up, record its voice, and upload both files - tada, you have a character. Regular VO sites have your profile and a selection of demos, each of which may have several readings with different versions of your voice on it. With Accreu, it looks like your "profile" is a collection of characters, with each avatar having only one specific voice. (The character I had prepared was a temperamental chef with a monologue on dicing onions, hence the image.) The small independent creative (say, someone making a fandub) searches for a suitable voice among the characters available. Accreu aims to give VOs something of a leg up on parametric TTS and AI (pancake-phone, anyone?), terms which the software developer behind the site understands better, very likely, than a typical VO. It's free for VOs to sign up, and the word 'free' is always appealing.

I think this site still has a ways to go, though, so until I'm convinced otherwise, I'll wait before taking this plunge.

First of all, Accreu uses Stripe (which is similar to and competes with PayPal) to get its people paid. Andy Bettisworth, the man at the helm, mentioned on Accreu's FAQs that Stripe costs less and is easier for site developers to use than PayPal, which is why Accreu uses it. However, what I've read about Stripe doesn't look good for it. The majority of the complaints against Stripe are about payment disputes - according to what I've read so far, the customers are fine, but the merchants using Stripe (one of whom I would be if I signed up) aren't. To be fair, the Better Business Bureau does rate Stripe A+, and sites like Slack, Pinterest, and Kickstarter use it. However, I can't ignore that on the BBB, 45 out of the 47 reviews Stripe has received are negative, with both payment disputes and poor customer response times cited, and Stripe's response to these frequently contain 'the company acted in accordance with its terms of service' - and that's not the only site with similar (rather recent) complaints. Another warning to small businesses, therefore, to read that TOS legalese.

Second of all, I think some of Accreu's information could be better organized and more immediately accessible. For example: as of this post, on the New Character creation page, there's a question mark icon next to both the Avatar and Monologue upload fields. Each icon leads directly to information for their respective fields. However, the list of constraints for Character Avatars specifies the image formats allowed, but there isn't anything similar for Character Monologues (MP3s are pretty standard, but there are other audio file formats around; and on a site that connects voiceovers to voice-seekers, I'd rather that Accreu's accepted audio formats were as explicitly stated as those for Avatars). Also, there aren't any size or resolution limits for images, or time limits for audio. From what I know about the interwebs, big files = slow sites, so it would be good to know the largest possible file I can upload (if file sizes are an issue) without bogging Accreu down. In addition, I wondered about how many characters each user would get starting out, which is information I found with a bit of digging in the FAQs and in a tangentially-related article. I made the suggestion to Andy that the number of allotted characters each user has available would be better off shown on the New Character page. He replied, and I paraphrase, that there isn't actually a limit to the number of characters available, but in order to prevent any one VO immediately flooding the site with characters, he chose to make the number of characters available a gradual process for all.

While I applaud this effort, and think that the concept of Accreu is a novel way of connecting VOs to clients, I also think that this is a site made by someone who isn't as familiar with the needs of a voiceover as a voiceover site's developer should be. From what I've seen so far, though, he's willing to listen, which is always a good start.

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