Disney’s face-swap technology is as impressive as it is unsettling

Deepfakes are more convincing than ever.
Disney Face Swapping
Disney Research Studios

Deepfakes have courted a fair amount of controversy in recent times, and with the technology expected to pose major challenges within the political arena — and notably the upcoming presidential election — platforms including Google, Twitter and Facebook are taking action on the issue. One company, however, is committed to making deepfakes more realistic than ever: Disney.

In a recently published paper, Disney Research Studios outlines how it’s utilized progressive algorithm training, stabilization technology and lighting effects to achieve thoroughly convincing face-swapping results. The results are a little unsettling, to say the least.

What sets Disney’s efforts apart from others’ attempts is its focus on megapixels. Traditionally, deepfake technology has focused on smooth facial transfers — that is, making a face look like a face on a face — rather than the nitty gritty details of an image. Models from DeepFakelab, for example, produced an image that was 256 x 256 pixels. Disney however, ramps that up to a 1024 x 1024 resolution. Not only does this give deepfakes a more realistic look, but it means the images will look better on bigger screens, which is evidentally what the House of Mouse has its targets on.

The paper doesn’t detail any potential applications for the technology, but it being Disney, the chances are the company is looking at ways to enrich its future film and TV show offerings. We’ve already seen VFX used to bring Carrie Fisher back to life for The Rise of Skywalker, while James Dean is set to return to the screen this year thanks to CGI. Disney’s technology could bypass visual effects entirely, and enable the megacorp to cast anyone — living or dead — in its movies.

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