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PREACH IT! Auto-Tuned voices aren't the only TV 'reality' that producers control [Updated]

August 23, 2010 |  4:08 pm

Auto-Tune: It's not just for T-Pain anymore.

Producers for the reality singing show "The X Factor" have confirmed today that they’ve used Auto-Tune tools to enhance the voices of their contestants. An "X Factor" spokesman told the media that the work was necessary because of the number of microphones used during filming.

"The judges make their decisions at the auditions stage based on what they hear on the day, live in the arena," the spokesman said.

In general, for shows like this, what’s heard “live in the arena” sounds pretty darned good already. In fact, on shows such as "American Idol," which has a regular audience at the CBS Television City in Los Angeles, the singers routinely sound better in the theater than they do later on TV. Acoustics, you understand.

Indignant fans have taken to the Interwebs to express their surprise and outrage over the "X Factor" disclosure. ("Cannot believe they autotuned her,” one fan griped about contestant Gamu Nhengu. “Obviously the producers of 'X Factor' didn't think she was good enough.") But for TV industry insiders, this revelation shouldn’t come as any shock.

Producers of these types of shows are infamous for insisting on a high level of control ...

... over all aspects of their series. That includes the look of their live audience -- no one is allowed to leave even a second early, for fear it will show up on camera -- to the access that the public gets to their contestants.

During the first year of "American Idol," contestants were so loosely handled that they could be collared and even interviewed during cigarette or water breaks before and after tapings; the kids milled and mingled out in the parking lots with everyone else. That all changed within a year; now access to contestants is arranged far in advance through publicists. Even contestants’ families are generally muzzled by publicists on shows like this.

Given all that careful micromanagement, is it really surprising that the voices on a show like "X Factor" aren’t exactly real?

-- Leslie Gornstein

[Updated, 7:48 p.m.: A previous version of this post included a photo of David Cook shooting a Disney World commercial after his "American Idol" win. It has been removed.]

Tour the Ministry's Preach It! archives -- or study our reality TV dish to see if you can spot the unreal parts.

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