Over the past few weeks, there has been a flurry of tribute for film critic Roger Ebert, much of which can be linked to a recent piece in Esquire that was very moving. For those who haven’t been following along, the long road to recovery from cancer has seen the king of ‘thumbs up’ lose both his lower jaw and his ability to speak. It’s a deeply sad, but hopeful story of a man who has taken his newfound disadvantage and instead of running away from it, he hit it head on. He has since found solace in his writing via his online journal, and has made efforts to have his voice digitally recreated.
Now, thanks to a Scottish company called CereProc, the world’s most famous film critic is able to use his own voice again — or at least something that sounds like his old voice. The company used old DVD commentary tracks and audio from Ebert’s work on television to piece together an electronic version of his voice, allowing him to simply type what he’d like to say into his computer and have it read aloud as if he were able to say it himself.
“CereProc is now blending in my audio snippets for Casablanca where I sound enthusiastic, and Floating Weeds, where I sound calm and respectful,” Ebert writes on his own website. “It’s nice to think of all these great movies sloshing around and coming out as my voice.”
This past Friday, Ebert went on Oprah to talk about his cancer battle and show off his new voice. He will also be there giving his predictions for the upcoming Oscars. The show will air this afternoon. Needless to say, I will be DVRing The Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time in my life, thanks to the legendary and ever-inspirational Mr. Ebert.