In the groundbreaking film ‘El Congreso’ , Robin Wright played herself, or at least a version of her who agreed to sell her image, face and expressions to a multinational so that he could freely use her as a (digital) interpreter of new films.
She just had to crawl into a large cage where they would take trillions of simultaneous photos of every pose and gesture : when she got out of it she would no longer be an actress, just the inspiration for the new (and eternally young) Robin Wright.
Only 6 years after the premiere of ‘The Congress’, we can find on the billboards a very different film, ‘Geminis’ , whose leitmotiv is based on facing Will Smith against a digital copy of himself … 30 years younger .
Far from what happened in previous attempts by Hollywood to digitally reproduce the image of its interpreters, this action film directed by Ang Lee manages to successfully cross the ‘disturbing valley’ (that stage in which the artificial faces are already very realistic but not enough not to be disturbing ) that so many other movies have fallen into over the past few years, like ‘The Mummy II’.
A disturbing valley that, by the way, any expert in deepfakes can help to overcome :
With ‘Gemini’, however, almost everything (except for a criticized scene at the end of the film) has been perfect : young Will Smith displayed a realistic sweat and glow of skin, a movement of eyes and lids synchronized with his body language … Smith, unlike Robin Wright’s character, is enthusiastic about his ‘double’:
“Now there is a totally digital model of the 23-year-old self. […] I can already get fat while wearing my young twin [in movies].”
The door is now open to a new entertainment industry , which does not have to give up characters when the actors who played them decide to change their scene (imagine, I don’t know, Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine for another 20 years); or in which it is not necessary to hire several actors to embody different moments in the life of the same character.Will Smith has not been the only spectacular rejuvenation Hollywood has offered us lately (Still from ‘The Irishman’ and ‘Ant-Man’, respectively)
Deepfakes as a democratization of digital effects
But if there is something that prevents that door from being already wide open, it is the crematistic factor. The budget, wow . Darren Hendler of VFX House Digital Domain recently estimated in the Hollywood Reporter that the creation of the ‘asset’ (the digitized human model) of ‘Gemini’ could have cost between $ 500,000 and a million dollars, to which is added up to $ 100,000 more for each scene.
The Financial Times, for its part, makes a more ambitious calculation and mentions industry sources who estimate that the ‘asset’ cost twice the salary of the real Will Smith , which would put the figure at about 25 million dollars.
However, just a few weeks before the premiere of ‘Gemini’, a youtuber identified only as Sham00k turned to the ‘open source’ software DeepFaceLab to introduce Will Smith in what is possibly the most famous film he has refused to star in: ‘Matrix’ . The result is still far from that of ‘Gemini’, but not as much as it should be if we pay attention to the difference in budgets (practically zero in the case of deepfake).
And the trend is clear: According to Paul Franklin, co-founder of visual effects studio DNEG, “the price of realism has dropped dramatically in the last 20 years,” and that decline has accelerated since deepfakes have entered the scene . Peter Rojas of Betaworks Ventures sees them as “the democratization of special effects.”
Hendler, for his part, believes that what is seen in ‘Gemini’ and in the imminent ‘The Irishman’, “will be the last 100% digital models of human actors that do not use some kind of as part of the process “. And he adds another prediction: “I think we’ll start to see this kind of thing in lower-budget productions.”