Ebert to appear on 'Oprah' on Tuesday with new 'voice'

Ebert to appear on 'Oprah' on Tuesday with new 'voice'

Urbana native Roger Ebert will appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Tuesday, using a new text-to-speech computer-software generated voice based on his own.

Ebert told The News-Gazette on Friday via e-mail that he calls his new voice "Roger Jr."

"I'm writing a blog that will tell all," he added.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic posted last week at Twitter that he had taped an "Oprah" segment and it was to air on Tuesday. Locally, the program airs at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday on WCIA Channel 3.

Ebert and Winfrey have been friends for a few decades. During her 20th anniversary special, she said it was Ebert who had convinced her to go into syndication. Ebert later confirmed that.

Matthew Aylett, chief technical officer of CereProc, a Scotland-based company that built Ebert's synthetic voice, told National Public Radio that the company mined the audio that Ebert had recorded over the years, in radio programs, DVD commentaries and other sources.

Ebert lost his speaking voice nearly four years ago because of complications following surgeries for thyroid surgery. He continues to write movie reviews, essays and blogs that he frequently posts online, including for the Chicago Sun-Times, where he has been employed since 1966, after graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism.

Ebert, 67, was recently the subject of a lengthy narrative piece in Esquire, written by senior writer Chris Jones, who spent a couple of days in Chicago with the Eberts. While in Chicago, Jones also made a quick trip to the Champaign-Urbana area to see Ebert-related sites, including his boyhood home on East Washington Street in Urbana.

Soon after Jones' article was published in Esquire, Ebert posted a blog essay about the article and his medical condition.