Artificial Intelligence: AI Used To Create Anthony Bourdain’s Voice In The “Roadrunner” Documentary

July 19, 2021 | Artificial Intelligence, News
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Filmmaker Morgan Neville calls it “modern storytelling technique.”

A documentary on the late chef Anthony Bourdain, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, will open in theatres on Friday. Morgan Neville, who made the film, used AI to convert some words Bourdain wrote, but never spoke, into speech. The move to artificially clone the voice of the renowned chef, who died by suicide in 2018, provoked a media backlash. (The Star)

How Neville did it

In an article in the New Yorker, Neville told writer Helen Rosner that he created an AI model of Bourdain’s voice and used it convert three quotes from the chef into what sounds like his voice.

Neville outlined the process to GQ magazine. After feeding more than ten hours of Bourdain’s voice into an AI model, he worked with four companies before settling on the one that produced the most accurate effect.

He added: “I checked, you know, with his widow and his literary executor, just to make sure people were cool with that. And they were like, Tony would have been cool with that. I wasn’t putting words into his mouth.”

Media uproar on voice cloning of Anthony Bourdain

“I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that,” tweeted Bourdain’s widow Ottavia Bourdain.

“When I wrote my review I was not aware that the filmmakers had used an A.I. to deepfake Bourdain’s voice for portions of the narration,” said critic Sean Burns. “I feel like this tells you all you need to know about the ethics of the people behind this project.”

After the reaction, Neville explained his position to Variety: “There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke aloud. With the blessing of his estate and literary agent we used AI technology. It was a modern storytelling technique that I used in a few places where I thought it was important to make Tony’s words come alive.”

Related Story:  AI-Simulated, 3D TV News Anchor, Now Live

Image Credit:  Flickr                                                   

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