Respeecher Gives Voice to Michael York in Healthcare Initiative
Voice cloning startups working with Hollywood studios offers technology for amyloidosis awareness project
PR9.NET June 14, 2021 - Limited only by oneâ€™s imagination, creative partners are achieving breakthroughs with voice cloning technology across various fields, including entertainment, education, and healthcare.
Michael Yorkâ€™s illustrious career extends over 50 years in film, theatre, radio plays, and more recently in voiceover narration for audiobooks, documentaries, and animation. Yorkâ€™s grace, charm, and wit are well-remembered in such classic films as Cabaret, Loganâ€™s Run, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Austin Powers.
About 10 years ago, however, Yorkâ€™s health began to suffer from bone marrow cancer and an under-diagnosed condition called amyloidosis. This rare disease represents one class in a growing list of protein misfolding disorders. Itâ€™s a similar kind of illness which accounts for other commonly known degenerative conditions like Alzheimerâ€™s and Parkinsonâ€™s disease.
One of the common symptoms of amyloidosis, though, is swelling of the tongue, which makes it more difficult to speak clearly. York said in an interview at the time: â€œI lost my voice completely. Which, for an actor, is a bit alarming. Now itâ€™s sort of back.â€
With his health recovering, York offered his vocal talent for a nonprofit educational initiative to promote awareness of amyloidosis. A short animated film was produced to help physicians, medical students, patients, and their support network to better understand and care for the insidious disease. Though his narrator voice by then was somewhat raspy, Yorkâ€™s spirit nonetheless shined through and hearkened back to his golden voice of yesteryear.
Initially, the nonprofit team hoped to record Yorkâ€™s additional voiceover to make the edits. But it quickly became clear that the new audio was not going to be an effective match with the original narration.
As well, there was no viable prospect of finding another actor who could impersonate Yorkâ€™s unique vocal quality, especially in the production time available. And, of course, existing text-to-speech software certainly would not be able to mimic Yorkâ€™s signature tone and cadence.
"When we were approached to update an educational video with new voiceover narration from legendary actor Michael York, our options were limited.
For almost a decade, Mr. York has been managing a health condition that has impaired his beautiful, mellifluous voice. Enter, stage right, the heroic efforts of Respeecherâ€™s amazing team!
Itâ€™s been said, famously, that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Truly, given our creative constraints, Respeecher was uniquely able to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Their source/target conversion of Mr. Yorkâ€™s speaking voice demonstrably opens doors for the entertainment, education, and healthcare fields. Suffice it to say, it was an absolute honor to collaborate with Respeecher.
Their brilliant accomplishment and timely delivery have allowed our humble project to be a success, exceeding our expectations for whatâ€™s even possible."
â€" Tim Jones, Emmy Award Winning Animation Producer
Because of the ongoing global pandemic, a member of the production team recorded 60 minutes of source training audio, along with the new dialogue pickups, at a home studio.
Respeecher then created an AI model to match the source voice with Yorkâ€™s target voice, using raw data from the animated filmâ€™s original recording session from long ago. Above is a work-in-progress excerpt from the short film, and hereâ€™s another example of the projectâ€™s voice conversion:
With regards to the voice cloning, York offered his kind congratulations: â€œBravo to the entire team for a quite extraordinary achievement! The quality of the re-worked passages is indistinguishable from the original.â€ He went on to say:
"How very grateful I am to Respeecher for giving my words and work a whole new lease on life. The technique involved is as ingenious as it is amazing, and promises an unlimited future for all those involved in voice work. With Respeecher, history comes almost miraculously alive again. I heartily and thankfully endorse this great product." - Michael York
Listen to the audio recordings: https://www.respeecher.com/blog/respeecher-gives-voice-michael-york-healthcare-initiative
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About Respeecher Inc.
Respeecher helps content creators replicate and create voices for any media project - from a Hollywood movie to an engaging video game - and create natural speech that's indistinguishable from the original speaker. Their machine learning technology masters every aspect of the target voice to create a spot-on match.
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