If you've seen the movie "Lost in Translation" you're already familiar with Bill Murray's famously unintelligible (to movie viewers) "whisper" to Scarlett Johannson in the movie's final scene. Now, someone claims to have solved the mystery of that unscripted onscreen whisper by using digital signal processing techniques to enhance the audio.
A short video (2:39) has been posted online purporting to show the before and after results. Judge for yourself:
Hmmm. The post-processed audio still doesn't sound all that clear to me - I guess I expected more given all of the sophisticated processing tools that are available today.
It's unclear how much or what type of processing was actually performed here, so it's entirely possible that this reflects a less-than-optimal effort. In any event, while not everyone seems to be totally convinced by this demonstration, the claimed translation of the whisper does seem plausible (although not necessarily to everyone's aesthetic liking).
All of this reminds me of the excellent 70's suspense film "The Conversation," starring Gene Hackman as an audio surveillance expert who painstakingly pieces together a couple's outdoor conversation from bits and pieces of several noisy and distorted long-distance tape recordings taken from different sources at different times and locations. The film's focus on sound and audio makes it especially appealing to anyone with an interest in that area.
Of course the equipment shown in the film is all analog technology of the period. It's interesting to imagine how different this aspect of the film would be if it were made today, given the virtual revolution in audio and video processing technology that has occurred since then.
As it turns out we won't have to imagine for long - a remake is apparently due out in 2009, and I'm sure it won't miss any opportunity to highlight the latest high-tech gadgets and tools. I only hope that the original film's bleak mood and Orwellian themes - key factors contributing to its character - don't end up getting "lost in translation."
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