The researchers at Disney have developed artificial intelligence that makes actors appear younger or older in seconds. If this becomes a standard, it could make that terrible CGI obsolete and unnecessary. It will also make it much faster, easier, and cheaper to re-age someone. But also, is it a step closer to not needing human actors at all?
Disney introduced the AI-based photorealistic digital re-aging in a recently published paper. Thanks to a bunch of prequels, sequels, and spin-offs of pretty much everything nowadays, it has become more common than ever to have significantly older or younger actors in some scenes. This requires labor-intensive, tedious frame-by-frame manual work, and the new AI was made to replace it. Or at least speed it up.
“Although research on facial image re-aging has attempted to automate and solve this problem,” the researchers note, “current techniques are of little practical use as they typically suffer from facial identity loss, poor resolution, and unstable results across subsequent video frames.” Just think of young Princess Leia in Rogue One, the scene that made some of us tear up because of nostalgia and others because of CGI that seemed a bit off.
The new AI is “practical, fully-automatic and production-ready method for re-aging faces in video images.” Interestingly, researchers didn’t train the algorithm on real faces. Just think about it: they would have to be in exactly the same pose with exactly the same lighting, years and even decades apart. Instead, they used AI-generated faces. It not only gives more accurate results, but it’s wildly appropriate in the context when you think about it.
With this AI, artists will be able to make actors younger and older pretty much with a click. Of course, there will also be room for touching up, but the algorithm shall do all the heavy lifting. It will even be able to analyze a face and predict which parts of it will look aged. What’s more, it will stay applied even when an actor moves their head around or when the lighting changes.
As I mentioned, this approach will make it much easier, faster, and cheaper to re-age actors in movies, TV series, or ads. Consequently, it will probably give us even more Star Wars-related content to binge on (and you thought there couldn’t possibly be more of it). Sure, it will be a great solution for production companies, but how about actors and creatives?
Is this technology a step closer to completely replacing actors? I mean, probably not in near future, but could it be that we’re getting there? Also, does it mean we’ll need fewer and fewer creatives in production since AI will do more and more work instead of them? It’s already possible to do so much with a few textual prompts, maybe some photos, and a click of a mouse. Again, it’s still far from perfect, but is it our future to have the entertainment industry that’s fully created by algorithms? As a creative, and knowing the current state of AI technology, it’s hard for me to imagine that kind of future (or I’m just being optimistic). But let me know what you think, does this all seem possible to you?