The success of Top Gun Maverick – 124 million dollars in the opening weekend – was also contributed by theartificial intelligence allowing Val Kilmer to speak again. In August of last year, London-based startup Sonatic teamed up with Kilmer to create a voice model that was used to get Iceman (Kilmer’s character in Top Gun) talking again in the new film. It is recalled that the actor suffered irreparable damage to his vocal cords after being diagnosed with throat cancer, which required a tracheostomy in 2015.
From the beginning, our goal was to create a vocal model that Val would be proud of. We were eager to give him back his voice by providing a new tool for any future creative project – John Flynn, CTO and co-founder of Sonantic
There Kilmer’s voice in Top Gun Maverick is fully synthetic and based on the actor’s previous voice recordings. In this specific case, Sonatic’s activity required a little more extra work: normally when the startup has to create a voice model with an actor, it asks for his collaboration by having him read a script, but Kilmer can now no longer speak, so it is it was necessary to start from the old voice recordings. The data obtained, however, was not enough – they were 10 times lower than those required for the creation of the voice model – so it was necessary to complete them using artificial intelligence algorithms.
In the end we generated more than 40 different vocal models and selected the best, the one with the highest quality and the most expressive. Those new algorithms are now built into our voice engine, so future customers can automatically benefit from them too.
Sonantic does not disclose many details on the proprietary deep learning software developed in the first person, also because they are tools to be used responsibly because they can lend themselves to illicit uses. However, it is no mystery that the final result satisfied Kilmer himself first of all who, referring to the project completed with Sonantic, stressed that the startup has masterfully restored my voice in a way I never imagined possible.