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How Warner Music France used AI to revive the voice of legendary artist Edith Piaf for an upcoming biopic

todayNovember 14, 2023 7

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Warner Music has partnered with the Estate of legendary French artist, Edith Piaf, on what it calls groundbreaking AI technology to recreate her voice and image.

As part of the partnership, Warner Music Entertainment and production company, Seriously Happy, will develop what they claim to be “the first animated biopic of an artist using AI”.

According to Warner, AI technology was trained on hundreds of voice clips and images, some of which are over 80 years old, to allow for Piaf’s “distinct voice and image” to be revived to “further enhance the authenticity and emotional impact of her story”.

Recordings from her original songs will be used including iconic hits such as La Vie en rose and Non, je ne regrette rien.

For the proof of concept, Warner and Seriously Happy worked with two companies, one that specializes in AI-powered voice cloning and another that specializes in visual effects.

To recreate Edith Piaf’s voice, they worked with a voice AI company called Respeecher, which raised $1.5 million in 2020 from ff Venture Capital, Acrobator Ventures, ICU Ventures, Network VC, and several angel investors.

Respeecher has taken part in a few notable projects since then, including seeing its tech used in the season finale of Disney Mandalorian for synthesizing the voice of young Luke Skywalker. Its tech was also used in multiple episodes of Disney’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

In November 2022, Respeecher’s voice cloning technology was used to deliver the Elvis speech during a performance from multimedia act Metaphysic in America’s Got Talent (see below).



For Edith Piaf’s image, they worked with France-based visual effects company Mac Guff Line, marking the first time Mac Guff Line used its technology on an animated character.

The upcoming EDITH biopic will be a 90-minute film that takes place in the cities of Paris and New York from the 1920s to 1960s.  The film will be narrated by Piaf’s voice and according to Warner and her estate it “will uncover aspects of her life that were previously unknown”.

The animation will provide a “modern take on her story”, according to Warner, while archival footage including stage and TV performances, personal footage, TV interviews] will also feature in the film at the significant moments of Piaf’s life.

“We are currently exploring other ideas and projects with iconic artists and Estates, but AI remains a tool at the service of creative ideas, not the ultimate goal.”

Alain Veille, CEO, Warner Music France

EDITH is based on an original idea from Julie Veille and has been written by Veille and Gilles Marliac. The pair are working alongside Warner Music Entertainment’s President, Charlie Cohen, to bring the script and technology to life through the full-length feature.

Commenting on the challenges and sensitivities involved in using AI to recreate an iconic artist’s voice, Julie Veille told MBW: “Edith’s old interviews had very poor sound quality, which made replicating her voice quite technically complicated.”

Julie Veille added: “We were determined to make it perfect and to recreate exactly how Edith’s voice sounded. She has such a unique voice with so many different intonations, and emotions.

“This whole project is about being realistic and bringing a legend back, so out of respect for the iconic artist and the Estate, we had to get it right. And I’m pleased to say we achieved that.”

“It’s been a special and touching experience to be able to hear Edith’s voice once again – the technology has made it feel like we were back in the room with her.

Catherine Glavas and Christie Laume, Edith Piaf estate

Asked if Warner plans to develop future projects such as this, where AI is used to revive the voices of other legendary artists, Alain Veille, CEO, Warner Music France told MBW: “I think today’s technology offers a world of exciting possibilities”.

Alain Veille added: “We are always thinking of new and innovative ways to connect our legendary catalog with new audiences and keep our artists’ legacy alive.

“We, and Edith’s Estate, were impressed by what AI brought to this project. We are currently exploring other ideas and projects with iconic artists and Estates, but AI remains a tool at the service of creative ideas, not the ultimate goal. The story, project and timing have to be right.”

Looking to the future of AI’s impact on the music industry, Warner Music France’s CEO, said: “I think it’s important that we embrace new technology such as AI, to help drive our industry forward. But protecting our artists’ rights must remain at the forefront of everything we do. For this project, it was paramount to us that we worked with Edith’s Estate and got their approval every step of the way.”

“This whole project is about being realistic and bringing a legend back, so out of respect for the iconic artist and the Estate, we had to get it right. And I’m pleased to say we achieved that.”

Julie Veille

Catherine Glavas and Christie Laume, Executors of Edith Piaf’s Estate, said: “It’s been a special and touching experience to be able to hear Edith’s voice once again – the technology has made it feel like we were back in the room with her.

“The animation is beautiful and through this film we’ll be able to show the real side of Edith – her joyful personality, her humour and her unwavering spirit.”

Alain Veille added: “Edith is one of France’s greatest ever artists and she is still a source of so much pride to the French people. It is such a delicate balancing act when combining new technology with heritage artists, and it was imperative to us that we worked closely with Edith’s estate and handled this project with the utmost respect.

“Her story is one that deserves to be told, and through this film we’ll be able to connect with a whole new audience and inspire a new generation of
fans.”


We’ve previously written about legendary artists’ voices being revived with the help of AI.

Supertone, for example, generated global media attention in January 2021 with its so-called Singing Voice Synthesis (SVS) technology.

The company, which was acquired by HYBE last year, used this tech to “resurrect” the voice of South Korean folk superstar Kim Kwang-seok, with the subsequent AI-generated voice debuted on Korean television show Competition of the Century: AI vs Human.

Meanwhile, Cussion Pang, Tencent Music Entertainment’s Executive Chairman, explained to analysts last November that TME used its own “patented voice synthesis technology” to “pay tribute” to the late Anita Mui by “creating an AI code based on her [voice]” for a new track – May You Be Treated Kindly By This World [English transation] – released in support of the New Sunshine Charity Foundation in China.Music Business Worldwide



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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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