• Dave McGuire

Is Deepfake Hollywood's Future?

Updated: Sep 7

The Clarksvillian

At this point, most everyone in the social media world is aware of the term “deepfake”. Deepfake is the process of artificial intelligence and machine learning focused on superimposing one person’s face onto another person within a moving video. For the moment, it’s limited to the visual and not the audio components. And believe it or not, that final piece to the puzzle is not too far around the corner.

After reading that introduction, I’m sure you’ve taken a break to surf the web for deepfake videos. You’ve probably noticed the faked videos are banned from Reddit and Twitter. The reasons are their violation of their sites’ consent policy and are essentially comparable to revenge porn. It’s doubtful those criteria will change, and the actual banning of unofficial videos may spread. However, legal corporate business innovation continues, and the developments are moving ahead at a rapid pace.

Earlier this year, researchers from Disney Studios demonstrated the latest deepfake technology which unveiled the potential to make this technology more easily accessible and available for the movie and/or television industry. At a recent CGI conference, Disney gave a presentation demonstrating the first photo-realistic deepfake. This version of the technology provides results at the megapixel resolution level. The new method’s unique characteristic is the ability to swap any face with a pre-recorded performance – a completion of the full experience. The process is so convincing, it successfully recreates the contrast and lighting conditions of the deepfaked face to any specific scene. This new Disney technology is apparently so impressively accurate, it provides the ability to fully recreate acting performances by performers no longer living, aging challenges or those physically incapable of performing a role.

Clearly one of the most exciting prospects to this technology is the reality of computer generated (CGI) personalities involving celebrities of the past. Peter Cushing shocked fans by returning to the role of Tarkin in Star Wars Rogue One. In this same movie, a youthful Carrie Fisher also appeared playing Leia Organa. The first steps are moving quickly into the mainstream.

With the continued analyzation of patterns, computers can model behaviors of characters and reproduce accurate models of movements and mannerisms. This technology is not limited to resurrecting only entertainers or performers. The same type of technology can be applied to modern day actors or actresses to reimagine characters as a different age.

The bulk of a movie really depends on the director. The director is the buffer we have between a wasted afternoon or a masterpiece. Directors, like all people, don’t last forever or have peak moments in their careers. And like actors, each director will bring clear patterns of performance related to filming techniques, innovation, and practice open for analyzation by computers as they prepare for a reproduction of styles.

While all of this may simply be fascinating wastes of time in modern online communities, for filmmakers, it opens the doors of opportunity to interesting possibilities. What if it became an option to cast any actor, who’s ever lived, in a role for an upcoming low budget film that’s been sitting on the desk? This is where deepfake movies have the most potential to thrive in the marketplace. Studios legally have several challenges when attempting to revive an actor or actress for a project. But an unofficial deepfake would not be bound by any such limitations. With enough dedication — and disregard for likeness rights and royalties — anyone could feasibly shoot a low-budget action film after gathering enough raw source deepfake data. That company could then release the project on the web as, for example, a new Heath Ledger project.

Just as the internet was beginning to fall under censorship in several areas, this may be the opening for a new wild west of creativity. Who would’ve thought your newest favorite film would be downloaded at online forums?