Anthony Bourdain's Voice Recreated Using Artificial Intelligence For New Documentary

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IGN 15 July, 2021 - 04:58pm 13 views

When does Anthony Bourdain documentary come out?

The new Anthony Bourdain documentary 'Roadrunner' leans partly on deepfaked audio. Igor Bonifacic is a contributing writer at Engadget. On July 16th, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain will open in US theatres. TechCrunchThe new Anthony Bourdain documentary ‘Roadrunner’ leans partly on deepfaked audio

This news comes by way of IndieWire, which reports that Roadrunner director Morgan Neville said the team is using over a dozen hours of Bourdain's recorded voice to narrate the documentary. However, there were three instances where they didn't have the audio they needed and the team turned to artificial intelligence to get what they needed.

Have you seen Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain?

The New Yorker asked Neville how the team found audio of Bourdain reading his own email aloud and that's when Neville revealed that such a thing didn't exist. As a result, the team reached out to four software companies about recreating Bourdain's voice using artificial intelligence.

They selected what they deemed the best of the four and sent them over a dozen hours of recordings.

Neville did say in a GQ Magazine interview that the team checked with Bourdain's widow and literary executor "to make sure people were cool with that," and according to Neville, "they were like, 'Tony would have been cool with that.'"

Neville said he wasn't putting words into Bourdain's mouth, but rather, just trying to make them come alive. IndieWire reports that Roadrunner's use of words from Bourdain recreated using artificial intelligence is receiving backlash on social media, citing that film critic Sean Burns said he was not made aware of such a decision before writing his review.

"I feel like this tells you all you need to know about the ethics of the people behind this project," Burns said.

Anthony Bourdain died at the age of 61 in 2018. The Roadrunner documentary that claims simply to be a film about his life hits theaters on July 16. Check out the official trailer for Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain while waiting for it to hit theaters.

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Bourdain documentary uses 'A.I. model of his voice'

The Week Magazine 16 July, 2021 - 04:01am

Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

A new documentary about Anthony Bourdain is facing criticism after making use of an A.I. model to reconstruct his voice.

The documentary, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, includes a moment where Bourdain's friend reads a email from him, only for the movie to transition into Bourdain himself reading it, according to The New Yorker. Director Morgan Neville in an interview with The New Yorker was asked how he was able to obtain audio of Bourdain, who died by suicide in 2018, reading the email. But according to Neville, this was actually achieved using A.I.

"There were three quotes there I wanted his voice for that there were no recordings of," Neville said. "I created an A.I. model of his voice." 

The New Yorker's Helen Rosner writes that the "seamlessness of the effect is eerie" in the film, which also makes use of actual clips of the late chef and TV host. Neville further explained to GQ that "we fed more than ten hours of Tony's voice into an A.I. model," though he said he received approval from Bourdain's "widow and his literary executor," who felt he "would have been cool with that." Neville also defended the choice by saying, "I wasn't putting words into his mouth. I was just trying to make them come alive."

The revelation, though, quickly sparked a debate over whether such an A.I. reconstruction for a documentary is ethical, with critic Sean Burns writing, "I feel like this tells you all you need to know about the ethics of the people behind this project." Neville told The New Yorker that when people watch the film, "you probably don't know what the other lines are that were spoken by the A.I., and you're not going to know." He added, "We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later."

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