American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman famously stated “War is hell.” War has direct horrific consequences such as loss of life, but can also have secondary ones such as potentially disrupting post production of some of our favorite shows. This is exactly what happened when Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Ukrainian postproduction start-up Respeecher was working on the new Star War series Obi-Wan Kenobi when the invasion began. Dedicated employee Bogdan Belyaev kept working from his makeshift shelter — despite blaring air raid sirens — to finish the project. He was able to upload his work, but this could have had a much different ending.
Belyaev is a 29-year-old synthetic-speech artist at Respeecher. The company uses archival recordings and an A.I. algorithm to create new dialogue with the voices of past performers. For Kenobi, they were working to make new Darth Vader dialogue because legendary performer James Earl Jones’ voice had changed with age. Jones has stepped back from the role because of this. His voice is so iconic and synonymous with the role that Disney still wanted the voice to sound like him, but younger. This is where Belyaev came in.
During less than ideal working circumstances to say the least, he delivered his finished product. He told Vanity Fair: “When we heard that missiles were attacking and that our [internet] connection was dropping from parts of our country, we got into shelter. If everything went bad, we would never make these conversions delivered to Skywalker Sound. So I decided to push this data right on the 24th of February.” This was the very day the invasion happened.