What if artificial intelligence makes actors immortal?

Original author: The Economist
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Audrey Hepburn died in 1993, but in 2013 she still starred in advertising chocolate bars Galaxy. She was shown riding in a bus along the Amalfi Coast and looking at a passing cabriolet. In 2016, Peter Cushing, who died back in 1994, re-played his part as the villain Grand Moff Tarkin in the movie “Outlaw One: Star Wars. Stories". Such resurrections are not new, but they are still rare enough to be considered news. Yet advances in special effects, increasingly using artificial intelligence, simplify the creation of compelling fakes.

In recent months, this has caused concern, because propagandists will be able to use this technology to create videos in which politicians make compromising statements. For example, a video created in April on the BuzzFeed news website reports that Barack Obama appears to be saying, “We are entering an era when our enemies can create the impression that someone is saying the words they need at some point time. In May, a Belgian political party shot a fake video of how Donald Trump makes false statements about Belgium's climate policy. In both cases, the video looks a bit unclear, and the voice is provided by the simulator, but this technology is rapidly improving. This made a dozen AI researchers make a bet about that the fake video will violate the mid-term elections in America at the end of 2018. Tim Hwang, a Harvard scholar, watched this bet.

Whatever happens in the field of fake news, similar methods undoubtedly carried out a revolution in other areas of art: in film and television. In the future, actors do not necessarily need to be made of flesh and blood, but rather, like other digitized objects, exist in the form of long chains of ones and zeros. Such digital actors will quietly be in digital storage systems until their services are required. There will be no need for luxury trailers, chefs and make-up artists.

Actors will be able to act in 100 different films in one year and continue a full and productive career decades after his death. They never get old and their digital versions at any age can appear in various films. In the month of her death in 2016, “rejuvenated” Kerry Fischery, who played the role of Princess Leia from the original Star Wars in 1977, appeared at the end of the movie “Outcast One: Star Wars. Stories". The directors will also be able to select actors for their films according to the tastes of their audience, suggests Darren Hendler from Digital Domain, a visual effects company. For example, Donnie Yen may play a leading role in the Chinese release of the action movie, while Duane "The Rock" Johnson will play in the version for the American market.

My beautiful CGI lady

Hepburn was resurrected by the efforts of Framestore, a company based in London and creating special effects for films. She was not the first actor to be “resurrected” in this way. For example, in 1993, Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, died during the filming of "The Crow". As a result, the film was complemented by a combination of rewritten scenarios, duplicates, frames with Lee and an early form of digital imitation used by Framestore on Hepburn. Over the years, many other stars, from Oliver Reed in The Gladiator to Marlon Brando in Superman Returns, have returned to the screen due to powerful special effects based on computer-generated images (CGI).

“However, doing well is a very difficult task,” says Tim Webber, head of the visual effects department at Framestore. In the Hepburn commercial, Framestore used two actors for dubbing, one of which reproduced Hepburn’s body size and the other had similar facial proportions. Several groups of digital artists subsequently used historical frames Hepburn and painstakingly replaced the head of a real actor with a computer generated one. Close-ups are especially difficult, says Webber, because viewers clearly notice even small flaws in computer-generated faces.

All this is extremely laborious, but this year the fake videos of Obama and Trump were made in a different way, much cheaper and faster. These are the so-called “deepfakes”, created using a technique that uses, as the name implies, a form of artificial intelligence, called deep learning, to create fake videos. In fact, a multilayered (i.e., “deep”) neural network shows images of a certain person taken from different angles of view and with different expressions. If there are a sufficient number of certain samples (ideally, hundreds or thousands), the network determines how the face looks and reproduces it from the right angle and with the right facial expression. Afterwards, simply select the video for editing and give the network command to replace the person from the video file with the one that it learned.

This method first became known in 2017, when an anonymous user downloaded pornographic videos on the Internet, in which the face of the original actor (without their permission) was replaced by the face of Gal Gadot, an actress known for the role of Wonder Woman in the superhero movie series. This led to the creation of a separate genre of pornography, as well as a set of comic clips with the substitution of persons, which users downloaded after processing special programs posted on the Internet for free. The quality of these amateur videos is imperfect, since getting good results requires certain skills, a powerful computer and a large number of images of the original face. However, no one video replacement of the face will be a problem for the Hollywood studio. Because DeepFake technology is included in professional video editing tools.

However, appearance is not all that deep learning is capable of, it also applies to copying voices. The neural network is trained using sound recordings and transcripts of the speaker, in order to reproduce sounds from the received words. Having received the new text, the network can generate an audio recording with a specific voice. This year, the Scottish company CereProc used this technique to synthesize the voice of John F. Kennedy to reproduce the speech he was to make on the day of her assassination in 1963. Adobe, the creator of Photoshop, developed a program called VoCo, which was called Photoshop for voice. He can simulate someone's voice, uttering almost anything, based on the analysis of 20 minutes of their conversation. In 2017, the Chinese technology company Baidu published information about a similar voice copying system called “Deep Voice”, which works on the basis of voice data played for three seconds. Other technology firms, including Google DeepMind, perform a similar task.

Digital Rights and Offenses

What happens when faces and voices can also be easily manipulated like text, images or video files? Low-paid actors, at least a bit in proportion to the proportions and appearance of popular movie stars, play the role of puppets, whose facial features and voices are replaced after shooting in a digital way. Hollywood itself is thinking about when this trend might end. In the film “Congress,” released in 2014, Robin Wright plays an unnecessary actress (also known as Robin Wright) who is allowed to digitize herself by transferring her rights to her likeness to the fictional film studio MiraMount.

One of the main features of the film: the character of Mrs. Wright is known for his demanding and impermanence, and it is usually difficult to work with her. Her digital twin does not cause hysteria and does not require payment. At the same time, she gets a lot of money and a quiet life. But the price to this is the loss of control over what is being done with its digital copy and, therefore, how it perceives it. In the film, the contract is once, that is, all rights belong to the studio indefinitely. Mrs. Wright points out that her digital counterpart will not appear in porn movies or in Nazi films. But in the end, she starred in the incredibly popular science fiction series, on which she would never have agreed.

The question of who owns the rights to a digital copy of an actor actually already exists. Framestore had to agree with the Hepburn family to make their own promotional video. However, star fans often claim their rights too. In 2013, the computer version of Bruce Lee was used in Chinese advertising in China whiskey “Johnnie Walker”. The company “Johnnie Walker” states that it consulted before filming an advertisement with Shannon Lee, Bruce's daughter. She approved of this idea. However, many fans were outraged, pointing out that Lee was non-drinker for most of his adult life, and argued that, if he was still alive, he would never have acted in this kind of advertisement.

The emergence of deepfakes exacerbate legal problems. SAG-AFTRA, a union of American actors, states that it is attempting to protect its members from the unauthorized use of their digital copies in advertising, commerce, propaganda, film, video games, or pornography. Meanwhile, the bill being considered by the New York State Assembly, which would restrict the creation of “digital copies” of people without their permission, was criticized in June 2018 by Disney, Star Wars, Marvel and other franchises, as well as American association of film companies, which represents the entertainment industry. Disney said that although the bill allegedly had good intentions, in order to prevent the use of celebrity images in unauthorized pornography, it would still restrict “such companies like ours, the ability to create movie plots about real people and events, ”for example, in biographical films. ". It seems that Hollywood is against today's unauthorized substitution of a person, but wants to secure the right to freedom of action in the use of this technology in the future. unconstitutional consequences. " It seems that Hollywood is against today's unauthorized substitution of a person, but wants to secure the right to freedom of action in the use of this technology in the future. unconstitutional consequences. " It seems that Hollywood is against today's unauthorized substitution of a person, but wants to secure the right to freedom of action in the use of this technology in the future.

It is not difficult to understand why the unions of actors are worried about the appearance of digital copies of actors and why film studios want to protect their rights to create and use them. Digital copies of actors can make life easier for movie studios, while at the same time making life more difficult for the actors, or at least most of them. Acting is a game in which the winner gets everything, and a small number of participants receive the lion's share of rewards. In fact, the ability to “clone” yourself can allow popular stars to get an even larger share of the pie. Meanwhile, novice actors will be much harder to get the attention of the director. "Ben Hur" ( 1959 film - Approx. Per.), as you know, had thousands of actors, but in our days the infested crowd and fighting forces shown in blockbuster films consist of computer-generated characters.

I'll be back and be back, and be back

The increase in the number of digital copies of actors can even strengthen the existing conservatism of the film industry. Movies, especially blockbusters, are expensive, so the studios are so passionate about creating sequels and remakes. The low-risk strategy is simply to show viewers more of those films that they love and are already familiar with. Since the first film screening in 1984, five Terminator films have been released, each with Arnold Schwarzenegger, or its digital copy. There are no reasons that prevent him from appearing in five more films over the next 34 years. Similarly, in the cinematic universe of Marvel, more than 20 films were shot based on the comics created by her. Comic characters are known to never age, never die, and are available for endless restarts.

Nevertheless, those who are tired of watching their hundredth romantic comedy with Hugh Grant will be able to afford to use the face replacement technology in another convenient way. Why not allow viewers to choose the actors they would like to see, replacing them in certain roles, or even allow viewers to replace the actors in their favorite films with themselves and their friends? Not everyone watches films for acting; sometimes the act of watching a movie is important, and it can be used.

All this will probably become real in decades, but it may never happen. The filmmakers, no doubt, will abandon the use of digital actors in their films (although some may prefer them, since they will obediently follow any team of the tyrannical director himself). Nevertheless, the increase in the number of immortal digital copies of the actors is a logical result, since modern filmmaking methods, saturated with effects, use the versatility of artificial intelligence. The trick, which is now rarely resorted to, can easily become a standard cinematographic tool, such as matte shots, chromakey and CGI before. Digital copies of the actors open up new opportunities, but they also cause many new questions and they will be able to answer them using any face or voice,

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