Singer Edith Piaf
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Warner Music plans to use artificial intelligence to recreate the voice and image of French artist and singer Edith Piaf, nearly 60 years after her death, the company said Tuesday.
The efforts are part of the production behind a biopic about Piaf, titled “Edith.”
News of the project comes as Hollywood grapples with anxiety over AI. It was a major point of contention in the recent writers’ and actors’ strikes, with the unions and studios clashing over guardrails for use of the technology.
AI could be a particular sore spot for the people who make animated movies. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney executive who co-founded DreamWorks, recently said AI would dramatically reduce the labor required to make animated films.
“In the good old days when I made an animated movie, it took 500 artists five years to make a world-class animated movie. I think it won’t take 10% of that. Literally, I don’t think it will take 10% of that three years out from now,” Katzenberg said.
The Animation Guild, which represents professionals in the animation industry, is taking the issue of AI seriously, a representative for the union told CNBC. The guild established a task force earlier this year to investigate AI and machine learning and then provide recommendations to union membership.
As for the Piaf biopic, the guild noted that the project appears to be in accordance with newly established SAG-AFTRA guidelines to receive consent “by an authorized representative of the deceased performer” to use a “digital replica” of the performer.
Warner Music said AI technology will be trained on “hundreds of voice clips and images” to “revive” the late singer for the 90-minute film, set to take place in the Paris and New York between the 1920s and 1960s. The biopic will be narrated using Piaf’s AI regenerated voice, while animation will “provide a modern take on her story.”
So far, only a proof of concept of the film has been created, Warner Music said. The company said it will partner with a studio to produce the full-length film. There’s no release date yet, either, a Warner Music representative told CNBC.
“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 executors of Piaf’s estate said in a release. “The animation is beautiful and through this film we’ll be able to show the real side of Edith.”
Piaf had previously been the subject of a 2007 film, “La Vie en Rose.” Marion Cotillard, who portrayed Piaf in the film, won the Academy Award for best actress.