They Shall Not Grow Old, a 2018 documentary about the lives and aspirations of British and New Zealand soldiers living through World War I from acclaimed Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, had its hundred-plus-year-old silent footage modernized through both colorization and the recording of new audio for previously non-existent dialog. To get an idea of what the folks featured in the archival footage were saying, Jackson hired a team of forensic lip readers to guesstimate their recorded utterances. Reportedly, “the lip readers were so precise they were even able to determine the dialect and accent of the people speaking.”

“These blokes did not live in a black and white, silent world, and this film is not about the war; it’s about the soldier’s experience fighting the war,” Jackson told the Daily Sentinel in 2018. “I wanted the audience to see, as close as possible, what the soldiers saw, and how they saw it, and heard it.”

That is quite the linguistic feat given that a 2009 study found that most people can only read lips with around 20 percent accuracy and the CDC’s Hearing Loss in Children Parent’s Guide estimates that, “a good speech reader might be able to see only 4 to 5 words in a 12-word sentence.” Similarly, a 2011 study out of the University of Oklahoma saw only around 10 percent accuracy in its test subjects.

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