Submitted by LeMonde_en t3_10smd1s in history

EDIT: Hi guys! Thanks for your interesting questions and kind comments about our work. It's the weekend here in France now, but we'll keep an eye out for any more questions that trickle in and respond early next week. Hope everyone has a good weekend too and talk to you soon!
-CH and Diana from Le Monde in English


Hello Reddit! My name is Charles-Henry Groult, and I lead the video investigations team at Le Monde, France’s leading newspaper, now also available in English.

On June 18, 1940, Charles de Gaulle gave one of the greatest speeches in French history from a BBC studio in London, where he called for the French to resist Nazi occupation. But no film or recording exists of it. With the help of historians, researchers in ethics, and artificial intelligence, our team pieced together de Gaulle’s famous appeal of June 18, 1940 and reconstructed it in his voice. You can watch the video here. I have directed Le Monde’s video department for three years, supervising high-impact visual investigations on subjects from Uyghur internment camps to Wagner mercenaries in Africa. Before joining Le Monde, I produced award-winning short documentaries about past and current wars for European media like Arte and France Télévisions. I discovered the fascinating story of De Gaulle’s lost speech ten years ago, while doing my post-graduate degree at Cardiff University. It then took me more than ten years to crack the code to telling this story.

AMA about our video investigation!

Twitter our video recreating De Gaulle's lost 1940 call for France to resist



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SowetoNecklace t1_j72drua wrote

Bonjour et merci pour l'AMA.

Can you tell us a little more about the role "researchers in ethics" played your work ? At which step(s) did they intervene and wht credentials did they have?


LeMonde_en OP t1_j72idbc wrote

Thanks for your question.
We worked with researchers in ethics from the very beginning of the project to build the project framework. One of them is Nadia Guerouaou, who specializes in neuroethics and is one of the very few researchers worldwide working on how audio deepfakes can be useful medically (to recreate the voice of someone suffering from throat cancer for example). She advised us to be very transparent about what is based on historical documents (the text of the speech, for example) and what is an artistic or technological interpretation: the actor reading the text, and the supercomputer encoding the final voice. To be honest, I was a bit surprised by the enthusiasm of the researchers in ethics I contacted. Making dead people talk through deep learning is not a moral question in itself, they told me. Everything depends on why you want to do this: to help others learn, or to manipulate?


nerdline t1_j72q85y wrote

I’m very sorry but I am a historian and I find it very hard to reconcile with the idea of re-creating someone’s voice. I understand piecing together the speech itself but what is the reason for manipulating his voice in this way? Why not simply have someone else read the speech? But I guess that would negate the point of this exercise, which is to completely re-create something in the authors original voice. I guess my question is - why? Who is this for?


_hugerobots_ t1_j740wpp wrote

Historical exploration? Artistic facsimile of an as-close-to-real event? Evolution of technology? Why not? Shirley🛫the why is explained in the post above or deeper if you’re genuinely interested.


astro_nova t1_j7426gk wrote

Why not? This is way better than someone reading his speech. I could do that myself on Wikipedia.


ChickenSpawner t1_j74kuqh wrote

Why weren't we satisfied with 16-bit computers, colorless TV or even radio?

How cool would it not be to be able to experience the room he sat in while giving the speech, as a fly on the wall, fully immersed in the moment? I personally think that would be a sweet experience, not only here but in so many other epic moments of history as well.

To me it's the natural evolution of our storytelling capabilities, as long as we stay rooted in the present and reality it self it could be a great tool.


b-movies t1_j749e8b wrote

Clearly not you, but then maybe this raises uncomfortable questions for you in other areas, as surely as an academic you have an interest (responsibility?) in cultivating an interest in your specialism? This is clearly one way to do it, even if it doesn't appeal to you.


nerdline t1_j754nq3 wrote

This is a good point, I think the hope is that both artifacts and the interpretation of those artifacts will be enough to be compelling to the Gen pop but those definitely have their limitations.


MyHeartIsAncient t1_j75ykx8 wrote

To produce for us, a living history of that day, that speech and for a moment bask in whatever emotion might have been. Remembrance is a contact sport, not merely the memorisation of dates, names and places.

With a solid moral compass, projects like this can bring to life moments that most grade schoolers are happy to forget.


Ctotheg t1_j74b0us wrote

Very interesting question! Why aren’t we simply satisfied with the content of the speech, the script and its message?

Why do we require the voice to be “as historically accurate as possible”? What’s next, a replicated 3D video of the event that we can experience as if it’s happening in front of us? To what end?

Why isn’t the script and the content of the speech enough to satisfy our inquiring minds?


david-song t1_j74lqxq wrote

If we normalize this then we will also normalize AI retouches of other historical media, and it can be done wholesale in a way that Stalin could have only dreamed of


nerdline t1_j74mufr wrote

Maybe I’m fear-mongering but yes this is exactly what I have anxiety about


david-song t1_j74qg1h wrote

We need ways to sign and tag video and other media as authentic and ways for people and systems to vouch for it in a distributed fashion, and the tools to authenticate it built into media players. It needs to be part of the file formats, built into recorders and publishing processes. Then we can just treat everything that doesn't have proof as fake.


nerdline t1_j74mqen wrote

I definitely think of this more as an existential question, and a question of when - if ever - we will be satisfied


poly_lama t1_j74z6mi wrote

Why do we need to be satisfied with technological innovation?


ChickenSpawner t1_j74ksjs wrote

Why weren't we satisfied with 16-bit computers, colorless TV or even radio?

How cool would it not be to be able to experience the room he sat in while giving the speech, as a fly on the wall, fully immersed in the moment? I personally think that would be a sweet experience, not only here but in so many other epic moments of history as well.

To me it's the natural evolution of our storytelling capabilities, as long as we stay rooted in the present and reality it self it could be a great tool.


Witsand87 t1_j8cnvbx wrote

To me personally, as a former History and Art teacher, who also studied animation, it’s not about why really, it’s about could it be done? Things like this will always fall under “artistic impression”, as no matter the technology, we ourselves are only limited to the present, so we could never recreate something from the past 100% accurately. Unless we somehow figure out how to view the past in real time (which by the way is theoretically possible, maybe in the future). So best we can do is recreate parts of history to give us an idea of how it would have been. In the end it’s really just playing around for our own curiosity/ satisfaction/ etc.


david-song t1_j74mb73 wrote

> To be honest, I was a bit surprised by the enthusiasm of the researchers in ethics I contacted

It's a hot topic right now and there's a fear that ordinary people will gain dangerous superpowers from machine learning models. So many people want to lock down access to and tighten controls, to regulate and have them edited and knobbled in ways that suit their agenda to the detriment of others.

Ethics researchers will have extraordinary powers if this comes to pass, and they are quite rightly very excited about this shift in power away from technologists.


nitsedy t1_j733oum wrote

As a historian, I would ask that the video only be released with superimposed text reading "computer recreation". Without that, you are likely to cause many people to believe the video is a genuine recording. That can really cause issues for those of us who do deep research on important historical events.


ItsACaragor t1_j73kvhs wrote

I assume they will, they are a major newspaper with excellent reputation, they can’t risk tarnishing that by forgetting that.


elongatedsklton t1_j76azy9 wrote

Well obviously you’re right, but how long after it is released will it be posted by somebody else without that text?


Deranox t1_j72fje9 wrote

Bonjour. My question is a bit off topic:

How did you decide to go into journalism and why Le Monde of all places ?

Thank you for doing this, really interesting piece.

P.S You're very attractive.


LeMonde_en OP t1_j72k24y wrote

Journalism may be one of the best professions where you can get paid to be curious, if that curiosity makes you discover new and important things. My dad collects old movie cameras, so I began filming with a small Super8 camera when I was 12. Around 25 I realized that I could try to bring together both of these cool worlds, and I dove into video journalism! Le Monde was not my first choice because I wanted to make documentaries, but in the past five years this newsroom has become one of the most innovative and impactful video media in France. There is no other French newsroom where you can work for one month on a single video, with the help of the best specialists and top-level motion designers.
P.S. “Diantre!” the General de Gaulle would have said ;)


thebrainitaches t1_j727rdv wrote

Hey! Félicitations on the really cool video.

What video story have you worked on where you felt that the format really helped show the journalism in a new or interesting light??


LeMonde_en OP t1_j72d7id wrote

Hi, thanks for your question! I think that part of the answer lies in finding stories with something visual at the heart of the subject. That’s why we recently created a video team investigating videos and satellite imagery. When you can show something as proof, the story almost comes by itself. For example, this story about police violence during the Yellow Vest movement of 2019 sparked an interesting debate in France about police regulation.
At the same time, some of the most interesting videos I have worked on are the ones where we had absolutely NO visual documentation at the beginning. I wanted to tell the story of French war crimes against women of the resistance during the Algerian war (1954-1962). There was no video and almost no photos. We created “Louisette”, a short animated film based on the only known audio testimony of one these women.


Knightperson t1_j73dq71 wrote

Every once in a while I'll listen back to the speeches given by key figures given during the second world war. Roosevelts "fear itself", Eisenhower before dday, Churchill's "darkest hour", and others from Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo. I don't think it's historical bias which has me hearing grim righteousness and sober defiance from the allies, and megalomanical violence from the axis. I'm glad that this project allows me to add de Gaulle to the list.


Maxco_ t1_j72xrmx wrote

Hi What do you mean by "piece together" his speech? Is it based on interpretations of what De Gaulle MIGHT have said? What gives you the authority to say you recreated his speech? Thanks for your hard work, a fascinating notion, just one I wonder about.


ItsACaragor t1_j73m2nb wrote

It’s explained in the short video.

They had three different written versions of the speech from three different sources but no actual recording to know which is the actual one.

They then found a guy who had access to Swiss military archives and apparently Switzerland kept extensive transcriptions of radio broadcasts in their archives and they had a very thorough transcription of the speech in swiss german. They translated it and compared it to the three other french versions they had to make what was most likely a very close transcription.


yourlanguage t1_j73ylg6 wrote

I would like the answer as well!


astro_nova t1_j742ias wrote

Uh just watch the video explainer.. it’s literally a few minutes


yourlanguage t1_j75tiv4 wrote

I did and it's pretty thorough, but the point of the AMA is to ask questions to get personal responses from the experts.


wegqg t1_j72mnvv wrote

Hi, thanks for sharing this!


How did you find the output differed from what you would have expected from a human re-enactor?

For example, do you feel that the integration of AI got you closer to the likeness of De Gaulle than a human actor might have done having studied him closely?


ItsACaragor t1_j73lapg wrote

They did use a human actor and made him reproduce De Gaulle’s rhythm from actual recordings but without changing his voice. The AI intervened after that to modify the voice of the actor by analyzing the voices of De Gaulle and of the actor to make them match.


wegqg t1_j73m1mo wrote

Yes so my question is how it compares in terms of believability vs what you could achieve with an actor?


ItsACaragor t1_j73ri3v wrote

As a native french speaker I can say that the speech they recreated is much much faithful to De Gaulle's actual way to speak than the actors who played him.

De Gaulle had a very special way to talk, he talked extremely slowly exagerating the pronunciation of every word and making long pauses. I never heard an actor actually doing him perfectly, in Le Monde's video they are basically spot on, I don't think anyone could tell it's not De Gaulle with any certitude.


ErickFTG t1_j7541w6 wrote

It's explained on the article op posted, which contains a video explaining everything.


BlackJackKetchum t1_j730av7 wrote

Not a question, but a note. My English mother lives in SW France and her Mairie has an enamel plaque with the central text of De Gaulle’s speech on it. It always brings a lump to the throat…

Je vous souhaite une bonne continuation.


PSU632 t1_j735rva wrote

Incredible work. As an avid lover of history, the doors of opportunity this technology could open are nothing short of fascinating.

Running with that idea, my question is this - do you foresee this same methodology being applied to other potential examples of bringing dead historical figures to life? Are there other occasions wherein a historical figure's voice is able to be replicated, then used to bring things they said to life (as has been done here)?

I'm eager to know what the thoughts are on where this technology can go moving forward. Again, outstanding work with this!!!


thebookklepto t1_j73njwk wrote

How does one go about doing something like this? What were the steps you followed to do this?


whitney_k_j t1_j73wd30 wrote

Yay to go! What a great use of modern technology to solve mysteries of the past


FeedbackUSA t1_j73xlq9 wrote

This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time


CCCmonster t1_j73zvwq wrote

Seems like an insurmountable task. Did you ever consider giving up?


AnCanadianHistorian t1_j741x0b wrote

This was an incredible video, thank you for creating it.

What was it like the first time you heard the recording?


wonteatyourcat t1_j745ryj wrote

This is amazing and definitely an “event”, so congrats on that.

Would you say that IA could change the way you work, and maybe how we think about history? We could recreate a lot of other historic moments in the future, maybe from even more fragmented informations.

Also, a few years ago, someone from your team contacted me to try an AI video search engine I created. I now have a new version, would you be willing to talk to see if it could be useful to you? I’m in Paris by the way.



Ra_In t1_j75cign wrote

Do you have plans to take this same approach to other historical figures or historical speeches?

If you could bring any speech in history back to life like this (even if it isn't technologically possible), what would you choose?


Pinkie_Flamingo t1_j748b45 wrote

I don't speak French, je regrette de dire. Is there a translation I can read or listen to?

Thank you for this brilliant, important work.


grove_doubter t1_j74d2t6 wrote

Could you summarize your education and professional experience which prepared you for this fascinating project?


EverGreenSD t1_j74jyk4 wrote

This is absolutely fascinating. Congratulations on such a major accomplishment!

What will you be working on next?!


Gwouigwoui t1_j74vn12 wrote

Du beau boulot ! You don't mention it in the video, but which one of the three original sources was closest to the transcript from the Swiss archives?


blubinx t1_j75ykxv wrote

Couldn’t someone easily feed the script of the speech into a tool like along with some other recordings of DeGaulle’s voice to arrive at a similar result?


Ok-Feedback5604 t1_j794yxz wrote

How much you sure that this recreation is accurate?


A_L_A_N_ t1_j79t9cd wrote

Do you have any thoughts to share about the ancient Roman guitar riff, which had sounded as if it inspired their crucifixion act, and then the development of the electric guitar occurring right around 1938?


RagingD3m0n t1_j75pplu wrote

Isnt France the origin of the "Great Replacement Theory"? Im geniunely wondering how they went from "Reject Nazi's" to "Brown people are taking over".


292ll t1_j766aq0 wrote

They didn’t reject the Nazi’s with any legitimate force, France folded quickly.


rudeguy5757 t1_j7510qe wrote

Did you recreate the part where Chuck abandoned your country? Or the part where he cooperates with the Nazis?


rainmace t1_j74otcc wrote

Why use an AI to make a "guess" about what was actually said in the recording, thereby replacing a lack of knowledge with incorrect knowledge, which I'm sure is worse


im_thatoneguy t1_j75papt wrote

The AI simply helps an actor better impersonate a historical figures' known voice reading a known transcript. Should we not have actors recreate historical events? Is it bad to have an actor/impersonator read Abraham Lincoln's speech transcripts?