Young Luke Skywalker’s Voice Synthesized From Old Recordings for Mandalorian Cameo
A young Luke Skywalker’s appearance on The Mandalorian TV show delighted many Star Wars fans, but the visuals and audio of young Mark Hamill were entirely artificially generated. Synthetic voice platform Respeecher fed its AI old recordings of Hamill from his younger days to produce the words spoken by the actor, whose face was deaged to fit the timeline of the show, according to creator Jon Favreau.
Favreau discussed Hamill’s cameo in an episode of Disney Gallery about The Mandalorian. He explained the secrecy that went into setting up the cameo and Hamill’s presence on the set. To limit leaks, he and the rest of the crew tried to avoid any mention of Hamill or Skywalker while the episode was under development. No one who wasn’t in the editing room would have realized that none of the current-day Hamill’s voice would be heard, however.
“Something people didn’t realize is that his voice isn’t real. His voice, the young Luke Skywalker voice, is completely synthesized using an application called Respeecher,” Favreau explained. “So I had archival material from Mark in that era. We had clean recorded ADR from the original films, a book on tape he’d done from those eras, and then also Star Wars radio plays he had done back in that time. I was able to get clean recordings of that, feed it into the system, and they were able to slice it up and feed their neural network to learn this data.”
Combined with visual editing software from Lola VFX, Respeecher’s tech helped make the illusion of a Mark Hamill from decades ago complete. The digital clone looked and sounded like Hamill from the 1980s.
Respeecher has been behind several notable synthetic speech projects, including the creation of a deepfake Richard Nixon giving the speech he had prepared for if Apollo 11 had ended in tragedy. As the technology behind speech synthesis improves, these kinds of media uses are becoming more feasible and more popular. Startups that provide tools for creating synthetic voices like Lovo, Veritone, and Wellsaid have been raising significant funding as a result. It doesn’t even require professionals working on new programs. A fan of the videogame Skyrim demonstrated earlier this year that he could produce a trailer using only synthetic voices built with an AI tool. Val Kilmer, whose illness has left him unable to speak, has begun experimenting with a synthetic version of his own voice. And while Hamill appears to have been on board with the synthetic recreation of his own younger self, a documentary director faced intense criticism for synthesizing Anthony Bourdain’s voice to speak lines he had only written down as voiceover for the from venture capitalists as the tech improves. Companies are finding more ways to implement artificial voices, from promotional videos and website guides to full interactive AI like Duolingo.