In 2018, celebrity chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain died by suicide. The chef was a beloved personality and was credited with helping to draw attention to various cuisines around the world. As such, it didn’t really come as a surprise that a documentary would be made about him.
This documentary, called Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, will be opening in US theaters on the 16th of July, but what’s interesting about this documentary is that it actually uses deepfake audio of Bourdain to narrate parts of the story. There are probably tons of clips and sound bites of Bourdain over the years, but according to the documentary’s director, Morgan Neville, there were several quotes that he wanted Bourdain to narrate.
These were quotes that Bourdain had written down but had never spoken out loud, or at least not on recording, which Neville felt were essential to the film. The AI model was trained by feeding more than 10 hours of Bourdain’s voice.
According to Neville, “We fed more than ten hours of Tony’s voice into an AI model. The bigger the quantity, the better the result. We worked with four companies before settling on the best. We also had to figure out the best tone of Tony’s voice: His speaking voice versus his “narrator” voice, which itself changed dramatically of over the years. The narrator voice got very performative and sing-songy in the No Reservation years.”
It is an interesting use of the technology, especially since deepfake has proven to be a problem over the years as it has made it increasingly difficult for people to tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t.