Disney researchers have developed an artificial intelligence system that seemingly makes it far easier to make an actor appear younger or older in a scene. While artists will still be able to make manual adjustments to make sure the effect looks as realistic as possible, the AI tool could take care of most of the heavy lifting. It’s said to take the AI just five seconds to apply the aging effects to a single frame.
Using the face re-aging network (FRAN), filmmakers can now make actors look as young as 20 or as old as 80 years old just by inputting the person’s headshot into the system that then predicts which parts of the face should be altered by age. It then adds effects like wrinkles or smoothed skin as a layer on the actor’s face in the film or television show without requiring a skilled artist to alter frame-by-frame manually, which typically causes facial identity loss.
Digitally altering the age of actors’ faces has become popular over the years, but current models seem to fail at convincing viewers. A recent use of de-aging technology was seen in Netflix’s “The Irishman,” which was filed by director Martin Scorsese, who spent millions of dollars on digital de-aging effects, only for the results to be criticized by viewers. The gangster film cost around $159 million, but most of the funds went to making Robert De Niro look like he was in his 20s; he was 76 years old when the movie was shot. Many viewers noted the results were unstable across the video frames.
Disney has been de-aging performers in its projects, notably with Mark Hamill in Star Wars. When Harrison Ford returns as Indiana Jones next summer, he’ll also look a little younger than you’re used to seeing him at least for the opening sequence. Disney’s new re-aging tool should make it easier for effects artists to take years off such performers’ faces in the future.