Deepfakes, the A.I.-aided face-swapping technology that threatens the future of truth as we know it, are everywhere. But while some of the potential applications are pretty darn unnerving, some are just plain fun as well.
Ever since the tech first burst onto the scene, a burgeoning community of deepfake creators has assembled online. Due to the controversial nature of the technology, many of these creators weren’t willing to share their real names. But share their work and thoughts on said work? That’s another thing entirely.
Here are some of the most dazzling realistic fruits of their labor.
Ryan Reynolds wasn’t born for another five years after 1971’s Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory hit theaters. Thanks to the magic of deepfakes, however, we can see how he might have looked had he somehow beaten Gene Wilder for the role of everyone’s favorite eccentric chocolate factory owner. And let’s just say that, as strange as it is to see the Deadpool star in this iconic role, it kinda, well, really works.
“I became interested when deepfakes first started rising up; I believe it was around 2017,” YouTuber deepfake extraordinaire NextFace told Digital Trends. “Back then, I didn’t have the knowledge and graphics card to make high quality deepfakes. I started doing them a few months ago after I updated my graphics card. [I began putting them up] on Reddit, since it’s easier there to get one post to blow up.”
Aside from Ryan Reynolds as Willy Wonka, NextFace’s favorite deepfake is a room filled with Keanu Reeves (Keanu Reeveses?). It’s pretty awesome. “When you create a realistic deepfake, it’s very fulfilling,” NextFace said. “Quite a lot of time goes into making one, and a seamless result is all you could wish for.”
DrFakenstein started developing deepfakes using a computer bought to mine cryptocurrency. “In 2018, the Bitcoin price took a nosedive and it was no longer profitable to mine with the computer equipment I had,” DrFakenstein told Digital Trends. “I read an article about deepfake technology and had seen a couple of amusing Nicolas Cage deepfakes. I thought it might be interesting to learn how to do them for a laugh, and figured I could use the crypto mining hardware for deepfakes as it was gathering dust doing nothing.”
The internet is pretty glad he did as the results are glorious. Among the best is this video of Mike Tyson and Snoop Dogg as Oprah Winfrey and fellow TV personality Gayle King.
“I’ve always been big Mike Tyson and Snoop Dogg fan and I was happy they both shared the video on their Instagram accounts,” DrFakenstein continued. “That’s when I realized that there is more than just swapping faces to making a really entertaining video. Deepfakes, along with editing and context, can have more of an impact than just a simple face-swap.”
As a billionaire tech genius prone to using his world-changing brainpower to create flamethrowers and troll the world with RIP Harambe rap songs, Elon Musk could be described as young at heart. But perhaps not quite as young as he’s depicted in TheFakening‘s most famous deepfake.
“I still giggle a little when I watch the video where I put Elon Musk’s face on a baby,” TheFakening told Digital Trends. “It was my most popular video and also what I use as an avatar on social media now.”
TheFakening got into deepfakes as a way to learn about machine learning. The results of his/her efforts show that all the hard work is paying off. As explained on their YouTube profle, “I use some of the most powerful computer graphics equipment on the planet, combined with A.I., to make goofy memes.”
You can keep your Kim Kardashian magazine covers; true net-savvy users know the real way to break the internet is through Nicolas Cage.
“I think my overall favourite is Nic Cage as Lois Lane from Man of Steel,” YouTuber Derpfakes told Digital Trends. “It was one of my early successes and still holds up even a year-and-a half on.”
Cage is, of course, no stranger to deepfakes — as even the most cursory of YouTube searches will attest. In fact, given the number of face-swaps he has been involved with (going all the way back to John Woo’s 1997 movie Face/off) he may as well be the reason the technology was invented. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, it’s the perfect blend of medium and message.
“There is some small technical benefit to a face shape like his, but I don’t think this had a major part to play in his adoption into the deepfaking scene,” Derpfakes explained. “I think the ‘meme factor’ is the reason Nic Cage gets used so often. He’s quite a character anyway — but by seeing him in iconic movie scenes, the silliness is raised to a totally new level.”
Right now, most of the deepfake face-swaps that pop up online are intended for humorous effect. Not all of them, though. As the technology has gotten better, and the results a bit less weirdly floaty and distracting, creators are using it as a more serious tool.
YouTuber Deep Homage demonstrates this approach with a recent deepfake in which he had William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy reprise their iconic Star Trek roles from half a century ago. The finished product is pretty darn impressive.
“My personal favorite [deepfake] is also one of the most popular deepfakes I made,” Deep Homage told Digital Trends. “I used an episode from the excellent fan web series, Star Trek Continues, and swapped the faces of Vic Mignogna and Todd Haberkorn with the faces of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, the original Captain Kirk and Spock. I’m a lifelong Star Trek fan, and got some gratifying feedback from the writers and producers of Star Trek Continues.”
You want more serious face-swaps? You’ve got it! This impressive effort from YouTuber Ctrl Shift Face (whose work Digital Trends has profiled before) places the face of Jim Carrey on the body of Jack Nicholson’s character from The Shining.
“I had the idea to put a comedic actor into a serious dark scene,” Ctrl Shift Face told Digital Trends. “Jim on Jack seemed like a good match.”
By my reckoning, this would have fit perfectly into Jim Carrey’s filmography somewhere around the late 1990s or early 2000s, when Carrey was starring in darker, less overtly comedic movies like The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. While we never got a shot-for-shot Kubrick remake during that period (probably not entirely a bad thing), thanks to deepfakes we can get a sense of what this casting might have looked like.
“Chop down to a door to brutally murder my own family? Alrighty then!”
In the age of internet mob public shaming pile-ons, public apologies don’t really work. But there’s still something cathartic about hearing Jon Snow, one of Game of Thrones’ best characters, apologize for the show’s truncated and generally shoddy final season.
That’s exactly what happens in this highly creative deepfake reimagining from YouTube deepfake collective Eating Things. Unlike the other creators on this list, Eating Things is the work of three people, instead of just one. There’s Chris Umé, who creates the videos; Bockie De Repper, who writes the jokes and acts in them where necessary; and “camera guy” and technical assistant Simon Deckers.
“We saw lots of negative articles in the news about the use of [deepfakes],” the team told Digital Trends. “Instead, we started thinking about how it could be used in a good way, to create funny content.”
Mission accomplished! For the first time, it seems that this script-burning Jon Snow really does know something.
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