Darth Vader’s Voice in Obi-Wan Kenobi TV Show ‘Assisted’ by Synthetic Speech Startup Respeecher
Darth Vader’s appearance on the Obi-Wan Kenobi TV show benefitted from synthetic voice platform Respeecher and its AI. Respeecher previously generated the speech by a young Luke Skywalker in The Book of Boba Fett TV show, and now handled “voice conversion services” for the latest Star Wars show on Disney Plus.
The 91-year-old James Earl Jones has voiced Darth Vader since his initial appearance, and his voice seemed to be still strong in the latest episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi. How many of the new lines heard in the show were from recent recordings isn’t clear, however. The Respeecher credit suggests that at least some of Jones’ words were generated by an AI. Like the Mark Hamill voice, Vader’s voice may have been enhanced using old recordings Jones to produce the words spoken on the show. If anything, it would be easier since there’s no need to de-age or lipsync the audio to match a human face for Vader as was necessary for Hamill. The voice conversion services provided by Respeecher may not have handled everything Vader said, or perhaps augmented rather than replaced the existing audio.
Respeecher’s tech has produced synthetic speech for several projects even before it began working with Disney. For one project, the startup generated a deepfake Richard Nixon giving the speech he had prepared for if Apollo 11 had ended in tragedy. Most recently, Respeecher helped Aloe Blacc pay tribute to his long-time collaborator Avicii with the “Universal Langauge Remix” version of “Wake Me Up” in English, Spanish, and Mandarin. And the Ukrainian startup recently asked celebrities to share messages of support for Ukraine that the company could translate into the Ukrainian language while keeping the celebrity’s voice. Respeecher isn’t alone in combining voice tech with entertainment. Netflix’s documentary, The Andy Warhol Diaries, includes the digitally produced voice of the artist provided by voice cloning startup Resemble AI. The startup synthesized Warhol’s voice to perform excerpts from his memoir but avoided the controversy surrounding a similar move in last year’s Anthony Bourdain documentary Roadrunner by securing the Andy Warhol Foundation’s approval first.