Thread: How digital face replacement could mean the end of the movie star as we know it

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  1. #1 How digital face replacement could mean the end of the movie star as we know it 
    Senior Member Karim D. Ghantous's Avatar
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    Thanks to modern software, particularly face replacement, you can put any likeness, real or fictional, onto any actor. This is usually used as a toy on social media. But, it has much more potential, and it might kill off the very idea of movie stars altogether.

    What a production can do now is to create a completely artificial face out of thin air, and paste that onto an actor in post. This means that you don't have to worry about actors calling in sick, or taking maternity leave. You just replace them with someone else, and it won't matter, because you're going to replace their faces anyway. And you could conceivably keep a franchise going indefinitely. In fact, don't be surprised if a new Star Trek or Star Wars film will be made one day using facial skins from the original cast when they were young. Not that Star Wars will live much longer, it seems, but you never know.

    Of course there is the issue of body language and mannerisms, but I'm not sure how that will affect the final product. But this scenario I've laid out is not doubt going through the heads of a lot of production companies.

    In fact I'd go further and say that many films will be literally 100% CGI. Of course actual people will have to be used for motion capture, but you'll see absolutely no photography on the screen. Don't believe me? Look at the latest version of Flight Simulator. A lot of commercial photography is being replaced by CGI already. That's probably a sign of things to come.
    Good production values may not be noticed. Bad production values will be.
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member Mark Phelan's Avatar
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    Replacing one fake celebrity with another. If so, then whom shall we worship?
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  3. #3  
    Wouldn't the end of movie stars mean we could use ordinary actors without CGI? Seems like being able to paste a movie star onto any body would only perpetuate their stardom... and their income.

    Besides, Hollywood has to constantly create "new" stars, and not just due to aging of the old ones.

    Anyway, this is pretty far down the list of things to worry about in terms of Hollywood trends...
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  4. #4  
    Senior Member Karim D. Ghantous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Phelan View Post
    Replacing one fake celebrity with another. If so, then whom shall we worship?
    Nobody complains about Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck!

    Quote Originally Posted by David Mullen ASC View Post
    Wouldn't the end of movie stars mean we could use ordinary actors without CGI? Seems like being able to paste a movie star onto any body would only perpetuate their stardom... and their income.

    Besides, Hollywood has to constantly create "new" stars, and not just due to aging of the old ones.
    Well, you're right on all points. But the fact is that you can create an artificial face, a likeness which does not exist. That's the interesting bit.
    Good production values may not be noticed. Bad production values will be.
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  5. #5  
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    Anybody remember when actor Paul Walker died in the middle of shooting Fast & Furious 7? It cost the production about $35 million dollars (that's $35 with six zeros after it) to do all the CGI replacement using his brothers as stand-ins. And it wasn't 100% effective.

    https://www.nme.com/news/film/cost-o...furious-876851

    The problem with using face replacement or any similar technology to synthesize performances is that at some point, it lacks human feeling and emotion, and it just plain looks artificial. The advantage of having a live actor on the set is that they can instantly react to changes that happen during the shoot -- plus after they shoot a few takes, the actor might say, "hey, I have an idea: what if we do something different and do this instead?" A CG character will never ad-lib.

    I worked for about a week on Final Fantasy back in 2001, and the producers of that film were convinced they were going to completely change the way films were done and would make a fortune. They were mistaken, and the film was an enormous critical and financial bomb. A lot of that boils down to the "Uncanny Valley problem," where we're so used to seeing human faces in daily life, the moment you combine CGI and real humans, or even if you have an all-CGI production, it upsets audiences at a certain level where subconciously they can't trust what they see, which prevents them from getting emotionally involved with the story. Go and take a look at Cats if you to see the same problem in a more recent (and bigger budget) film.

    You can make a case that animated films have an audience, and "cartoony" characters (as in Pixar or Dreamworks or Illumination films) work fine for certain kinds of story. But I don't think they're ever going to replace people, or sets, or the need for lighting people, or the scores of other people that make traditional movies.
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  6. #6  
    There are some amazing developments in terms of Deep Learning and VFX at the moment and a lot to do with training and inference and we're only just at the start of seeing how it can be applied.

    But one thing about all the tools right now is that they are non deterministic. Meaning that after training you don't know what you're going to get. This is not the basis of directing, it's more like a dynamics simulation. So i think it's going to be a long while before there is enough power to do this training at near real time speeds to iterate.

    Deep Learning only works from being taught - you need the training data. So if you were to replace an existing actors face with someone else then you would need to take both and match angles and train. These consumer apps are relying on very generic training data and they're not going to hold up on a big screen.

    So i can see the point for a Paul Walker replacement, the time it would take training would probably save quite bit of that $35m but a lot of work might need to be done manually to fix what doesn't work automatically.

    And the greater question is why? What on earth is the point? I feel that film making these days is too planned out, too structured because of post. A lot of amazing films are amazing because of happy accidents. The shark in Jaws was originally going to be seen a lot more but it didn't work very well and so was held back - which i think is what makes Jaws so good. These days it would be a massive in your face CG shark and you would loose all the tension that made the film a legend.

    What i do believe is more important is virtual production and giant high brightness LED walls with real time game engines - this makes the process of working with a cast more tangible and interactive than green screen - i think this is a good thing. Of course like any newish tech a lot of people just don't know how to use it, or how to match lighting, so some results are awful. But i think this is one of the bigger revolutions over the next few years.

    Making a film, telling a story is about people - not previz....

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  7. #7  
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    To anyone who hasn't seen how far things have gone, do a search on Youtube for 'Deepfake'.
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