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How Top Gun Gave Val Kilmer His Voice Back

The film Top Gun 1986 served as a springboard for Val Kilmer’s acting career. This one played the pilot Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, main rival then friend of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, interpreted by Tom Cruise. The new opus Top Gun : Maverickwhich premieres on May 24, 2022, brings the two actors together again, 36 years later.

However, Val Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. He underwent two tracheostomies, altering his voice to the point where people struggle to understand him. For his appearance in Top Gun : Maverick, so a solution had to be found. It is Sonantica company specializing in voice-generatedartificial intelligencewho had the task of returning his voice to the actor.

A demonstration of Val Kilmer’s voice, recreated by Sonantic’s AI. Enable automatic subtitle translation. © Sonantic

New algorithms specially designed for Val Kilmer

Usually, Sonantic reconstructs a person’s voice by having them read a series of texts, chosen specifically and always identical. In this case, the firm had only clips of variable quality, and which correspond to only one tenth of the data they normally use. She first cleaned the samples and removed all background noise, then generated the transcripts. However, the algorithms existing ones have not given the desired result.

Sonantic eventually developed new algorithms and created over 40 different voice models, before selecting the best one. A whole series of parameters allow a fine adjustment of the voice thus generated, such as the rate and the tone. If this technology could be very useful for Hollywood, to keep the same actors in roles when they have died or can no longer play, it may also serve deepfakes

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