With movies leaning more heavily on Computer Generated Images (CGI), questions have been raised about the validity of filming. As much of the action or scenes may happen in front of a giant green screen, directors no longer have to worry about finding the right shots or the issues that come with shooting on location. For many movie fans, knowing key scenes were CGI is rather disappointing and can lead to a general dislike for the film industry.
But other types of technology could add further disappointment or controversy to the film industry. Specifically, the technology of deep fake, which can trick an audience into seeing people’s faces or likenesses that don’t actually exist.
Deep fake is a term from the combination of “deep learning” and “fake.” It refers to artificial media where a face or image of a person is replaced with a computer-generated person. The process of deep faking is not new, as Star Wars fans have seen deep faked faces of key characters in several of the new movies and shows. Deep faking works by using computer systems called artificial neural networks, because they are designed to have artificial neurons. These artificial neural networks process images by encoding and decoding them. From there the images can be superimposed to create new, flawless-looking images. The algorithms involved in this process are constantly improving, making the images more and more convincing.
As deep faking can mimic any person’s face, many have found it controversial in the film industry. Last year, Bruce Willis lent his face, through deep-faking, to several Russian mobile service commercials. Other controversial instances include swapping famous actors in key roles (like Jim Carrey for Jack Nicholson in the Shining) by various YouTubers. From these events, people have become disillusioned with the film industry. If anyone’s face can be added to anybody, is it really acting anymore?
However, others think that deep fake will become a big trend in the film industry, as it saves costs and time for production. This trend has already been illustrated in the movie Space Jam: A New Legacy. In the movie, Warner Bros. executives try to convince Lebron James to sell his likeness to them to be used in classic films. While this idea may seem rather silly, it could be the future of filming, especially because of COVID-19 regulations, which can limit cast and crew members on a set.
Deep fake not only has big implications for the film industry but also for society as a whole. Deep fakes have been used to create blackmail materials for certain individuals, showing computer-generated compromising images that are not real. Deep take technology has also been used to create celebrity pornography and inaccurate videos of famous politicians, both of which can cause scandals and ruin lives. Even the recent film Red Notice showed how deep take technology could be used successfully in robbing a safe.
Whether deep fake technology becomes adopted or not, it opens Pandora’s box of questions about the ethics of the technology, as well as makes the audience question what is real and what isn’t.
Kenna Castleberry is a staff writer at the Debrief and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). She focuses on deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology. You can find more of her work at her website: https://kennacastleberry.com/