Deepdub raises $20 million for an AI-powered dub that uses the actors’ original voices – TechCrunch

Netflix’s Korean drama “Squid Game” has been one of the most-watched dubbed series of all time, proving the enormous potential of foreign-language programming to become a hit in overseas markets. Today, a startup called Deepdub is capitalizing on the growing demand for localized content by automating parts of the dubbing process using AI technology. With its end-to-end platform, Deepdub can reduce the time it takes to complete a dubbing project, allowing content owners and studios to achieve results in weeks instead of months.

Plus, it does this using only a few minutes of the actors’ voices – so the dubbed version sounds more like the original.

The Tel Aviv startup has now closed a $20 million Series A funding round for its efforts, led by New York-based investment firm Insight Partners.

Existing investors Booster Ventures and Stardom Ventures also participated in the round, alongside new investors at Swift VC. Deepdub was additionally supported by several angels, including Emiliano Calemzuk, former president of Fox Television Studios; Kevin Reilly, former CCO of HBO Max; Danny Grander, co-founder of Snyk; King Tiger VP, Engineering at Meta; more Gideon Marks and Daniel Chadash.

The company was founded in 2019 by two brothers, Ofir and Nir Krakowski, whose backgrounds included machine learning and AI expertise.

The older brother, Ofir, “basically founded the machine learning division of the Israeli Air Force,” says his younger brother Oz Krakowski, who is also CRO of Deepdub, having joined the startup later. (Ofir had held positions within the IAF Ofek unit, including Head of Data Science and Integration, Chief Architect and Technical Director of the AI ​​Branch, and Head of Research and Innovation in AI.)

The team’s youngest sibling, Nir, meanwhile, has some 25 years of technology R&D expertise, including in cybersecurity roles, and previously co-founded the Y Combinator-backed web gateway Metapacket.

Entrepreneurial in nature, the brothers were looking for a new venture where they could leverage the knowledge gained over the years in a way that would bring the most value to consumers, says Oz. They landed on what became Deepdub after having conversations with several people in the industry.

With Deepdub, the goal is to bridge the language barrier and cultural gaps in entertainment experiences using advanced artificial intelligence technologies with an end-to-end platform for content creators, content owners and distributors. This means that Deepdub is not only involved in the dubbing process itself – it takes care of all other aspects of a dubbing project, including translation, adaptation and mixing. In other words, it’s not just an AI platform, it’s a comprehensive enterprise that includes human experts at every step of the process to help oversee the work and make corrections, if needed.

But Deepdub’s use of AI and machine learning is what makes it unique in this space.

While a traditional dubbing process can take 15-20 weeks to convert a two-hour movie into another language, Deepdub can complete the same project in just about four weeks. To do this, Deepdub first takes two to three minutes of voice data from the original actors and uses it to create a model that translates the characteristics of the original voices into the target language. And, notes Oz, Deepdub’s AI voices can “scream, shout and do all these things that are very complicated for AI voices in general,” he says.

“We basically cracked something that hasn’t been done until now,” Oz adds. “You and I can’t say it’s a machine. It will sound entirely like a human voice.

The details of how this process is accomplished are the startup’s secret sauce – in other words, they say nothing, beyond noting that they’ve preempted published academic research on the matter. The proof, according to Deepdub, lies in the production, investor backing and studio relationships it has garnered.

For example, Deepdub recently entered into a multi-series partnership with streaming service Topic.com to double its catalog of foreign English-language TV shows. Deepdub also became the first company to dub an entire feature film into Latin American Spanish using artificial intelligence voices (“Whenever I Die”). And now Deepdub says it’s working with small and big Hollywood studios on projects, but can’t say which ones due to nondisclosure agreements.

There is however much debate on whether viewers should enjoy foreign language movies and shows in their original language with subtitles, or the dubbed version. Netflix’s “Squid Game,” for example, may have seen a lot of dubbed streams, but there was controversy over the lack of accuracy of the dubbed version compared to the original Korean dialogue. Even the creator of “Squid Game” recommended that viewers watch the subtitled version instead.

One problem is that the dubbed versions try to match the tongue to the movement of the actors’ lips so as not to detract from the viewing experience. But there’s an art to it – and it can be tricky to get it right. Some dubbing needs to be stretched or shortened using different words and phrases so that the dubbed speech matches the movement of the actor’s mouth, which may slightly alter the meaning of what was said as a result.

Oz, of course, argues that the dubbed version is better than reading subtitles.

“Some people don’t read as well,” he says. “And reading subtitles makes you stare at the bottom of the screen…with subtitles you sometimes find yourself rewinding just to watch what really happened because you missed it,” he said.

Additionally, the demand for dubbed content is increasing as the streaming industry becomes more competitive. Being able to more easily convert titles into other languages ​​can help expand a platform’s offerings without requiring direct investment in producing new original content or acquiring or licensing titles from other studios. It can provide more value from an existing catalog by allowing titles to reach a global audience.

This trend is also on the rise. Recently, Netflix COO and Chief Product Officer Greg Peters noted that the streamer doubled some 5 million minutes of content runtime in 2021 and captioned 7 million. “At this scale, we learn […] how to make this location more attractive to our members,” he said.

“We are accelerating towards a world where AI now augments the creative potential of humanity,” said George Mathew, managing partner at Insight Partners, who joins Deepdub’s board with this round. “As the media industry continues to go global, we see Deepdub’s AI/NLP-based dubbing platform as essential for delivering quality content to audiences around the world. We believe Deepdub represents the next big leap forward in global content distribution, engagement and consumption,” he added.

The startup said it would use the funds to double its current team of 30 full-time employees, most of whom are based in Tel Aviv. It is hiring in sales and marketing to help increase brand awareness and global market reach, as well as researchers and engineers to improve its AI engine and further develop its platform.

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