Ebert’s Voice

by on February 17, 2010 at 9:46 am in Film, The Arts | Permalink

Esquire has an moving profile of Roger Ebert who has lost his lower jaw and ability to speak to cancer. I found this paragraph about resurrecting a lost voice–almost ala Jurassic Park–to be compelling:

Ebert is waiting for a Scottish company called CereProc to give him
some of his former voice back. He found it on the Internet, where he
spends a lot of his time. CereProc tailors text-to-speech software for
voiceless customers so that they don't all have to sound like Stephen
Hawking. They have catalog voices – Heather, Katherine, Sarah, and Sue
– with regional Scottish accents, but they will also custom-build
software for clients who had the foresight to record their voices at
length before they lost them. Ebert spent all those years on TV, and he
also recorded four or five DVD commentaries in crystal-clear digital
audio….CereProc is mining
Ebert's TV tapes and DVD commentaries for those words, and the words it
cannot find, it will piece together syllable by syllable. When CereProc
finishes its work, Roger Ebert won't sound exactly like Roger Ebert
again, but he will sound more like him than Alex [the generic voice] does. There might be
moments, when he calls for Chaz from another room or tells her that he
loves her and says goodnight – he's a night owl; she prefers mornings –
when they both might be able to close their eyes and pretend that
everything is as it was.

I have fond memories of listening to Ebert teach the classics like Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard and Vertigo during lazy summer seminars at the Virginia film festival many years ago. 

1 TomOfTheNorth February 17, 2010 at 11:01 am

That was great. Thanks.

Chicago born & raised, I grew up reading Siskel’s & Ebert’s film reviews in the competing Chicago dailies: the Tribune & the Sun Times. Where the two might disagree however, I would tend to go with Siskel’s take as seemingly more alligned with my personal tastes. To this day (I’m 51), if a new release appears interesting I will seek Ebert’s opinion before venturing out.

On a more personal note, my Father died from cancer in the late 70s. He too lost his jaw as a result of surgery and radiation. In his case, the perceived disfigurement – perhaps a result of the mindset of that era – was a hard psychological blow. It is heartwarming to me that Ebert, facing all manner of physical hardship, still clearly takes such delight in his own existence and that of others.

That he feels such love & joy and radiates it to those around him, notwithstanding his physical limitations, should be celebrated and admired. Those poor souls who have no such feelings are the ones who warrant our pity.

2 dearieme February 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Good God, someone was offered a Scots accent free, and turned it down? Madness.

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5 oil mill February 23, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Chicago born & raised, I grew up reading Siskel’s & Ebert’s film reviews in the competing Chicago dailies: the Tribune & the Sun Times. Where the two might disagree however, I would tend to go with Siskel’s take as seemingly more alligned with my personal tastes. To this day (I’m 51), if a new release appears interesting I will seek Ebert’s opinion before venturing out.

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