Controversial “DeepFakes” algorithm has actual excellent use: removing Henry Cavill’s Mustache
posted Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 1:15 PM EDT
If you are keeping a safe distance from Reddit (which is actually sometimes highly recommended, coming from this avid Redditor), you probably haven't heard of DeepFakes. DeepFakes is a subreddit (Reddit language for "community" or "forum") with a very clever algorithm at its core. The original code was written by the user u/deepfakes and grew to become an avid community with one main focus: porn. Of course Porn. With DeepFakes, you can replace any face with any other face. The results vary from the bad, to the shockingly excellent. I won't link to the subreddit for what should be obvious reasons. If you really want to see it, I'm sure you can figure it out.
Not long after the porn started to take off, other users got creative and fed the ever-growing Nicholas Cage memes. If you can get over the fact that it's a meme, the technology at play here is astounding. You can tell it's not Nick Cage in most cases, but what it's doing here based on a simple algorithm on nothing more than a cheap PC is astounding.
So what does this have to do with Henry Cavill? Any of you who saw Justice League probably noticed that the opening scene with Superman didn't look... quite right. Due to the changing of directors at the last minute and scenes being added later that weren't part of the original plan, some reshooting had to be done. Henry Cavill had already grown a mustache for another role and could not shave it for these reshoots, therefore it had to be removed digitally. But that went poorly. This photo from Buzzfeed captures the essence of the problem:
This was a very expensive computer generated job, and it looks hauntingly unreal. The uncanny valley is strong here, and it is one of the largest criticisms visually of the Justice League movie. So what does this have to do with DeepFakes? Well, what if that algorithm and a $500 PC could be employed to do exactly what a $300 million movie studio budget did? What if it could pass as the same thing?
Well, I personally think it does.
It is of course not perfect, but side by side with the work from the movie studio, and it looks... at worst the same, and at best a little more refined than their finished result. This kind of technology is incredible, and though it has some less than upstanding current uses (PornHub is banning DeepFakes videos for being "non consensual" by the way, so that's good), it clearly can be refined to do what is already being done poorly by major studios. It can save time and money when there is no choice but to remove a mustache. I would personally rather have my visual effects artists working on lighting effects, explosions, or alien skin texture than fiddling with facial hair and trying to make it look presentable. This is an excellent test case for that being possible.