Mann says Flawless is also looking at how its technology could help studios avoid costly reshoots by having an actor appear to say new lines. But he says some actors are a little unsettled when they see themselves manipulated using AI. “There’s a fear and wow—they’re the two reactions I keep getting,” he says.
Virginia Gardner, an actress who stars in Mann’s latest movie and has seen herself speaking Spanish thanks to Flawless’ software, doesn’t seem too worried, although she assumes that films modified with AI would include a disclaimer. “I think this is the best way to be able as an actor to preserve your performance” in another language, she says. “If you’re trusting your director and you’re trusting that this process is only going to make a film better, then I really don’t see a downside to it.”
AI video manipulation is controversial—and for good reason. Free deepfake programs that can seamlessly swap one person’s face onto someone else in a video scene have proliferated with advances in AI. The software identifies key points on a person’s face and uses machine learning to capture how that person’s face moves.
The technology has been used to create fake celebrity porn and damaging revenge-porn clips targeting women. Experts worry that deepfakes showing a famous person in a compromising situation might spread misinformation and sway an election.
Off-the-shelf face manipulation might prove controversial in the movie industry. Darryl Marks, founder of Adapt Entertainment, a company in Tel Aviv that is working on another AI dubbing tool, says he isn’t sure how some actors might react to seeing their performance altered, especially if it isn’t clear that it’s been done by a computer. “If there’s a very famous actor, they might block it,” he says.
“There are legitimate and ethical uses of this technology,” says Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, general counsel of the Screen Actors Guild. “But any use of such technology must be done only with the consent of the performers involved, and with proper and appropriate compensation.”
Hao Li, a visual effects artist who specializes in using AI for facial manipulation, says movie directors and producers show growing interest in deepfakes and related AI technology. Creating a deepfake normally requires hours of algorithmic processing, but Li is working on a movie where more advanced deepfake software lets a director see an actor transformed in real time.
Li says the situation feels similar to when the use of photo-realistic computer graphics became widely available in the 2000s. Now, thanks to AI, “suddenly everyone wants to do something,” he says.
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