Technologies that can change an actor's age are becoming increasingly popular in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Over the past five years many actors, including Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Bruce Willis and others, have used digital effects to look younger or older in movies and TV series.
In some cases, these attempts to trick the public into thinking that movie stars are significantly younger or older have proved unconvincing. In one case (you saw The Mandalorian?) decidedly embarrassing. However, many indications suggest that progress is being made.
Harrison Ford's upcoming breakthrough that he will be 30 again in the next Indiana Jones could represent a turning point for the development of "re-aging" technology in the entertainment sector: and Disney, in particular, seems to be leading the charge. Coincidentally, the folks at Disney's visual effects division announced a major breakthrough in this field just a day before Lucasfilm rolled out its first trailer for Indiana Jones 5.
In a new research paper (that I link to you here), the entertainment giant announces its proprietary technology called FRAN (Face Re-aging Network). It's being described as "the first practical, fully automatic, production-ready method for age-changing faces," and it sounds mightily impressive.
How? Using a program called StyleGAN2 (by the way: you know what are GANs?), which generates thousands of artificial faces. This allows him to more accurately predict the changing appearance of the human face over long periods of time. FRAN eliminates the costly and time consuming need to manually collect data on these changes.
The entertainment industry will be transformed
In other words, Disney's visual effects division developed an algorithm that virtually tracks the aging process to more effectively apply authentic physical alterations to real-life subjects.
Get an idea of how this system works from the demo video, released by DisneyResearchHub on November 30th. Impressive, right?
What will this technology mean for the entertainment industry? What impact will it have on filmmakers, film studios and film enthusiasts? If movie studios can use re-aging technology of the kind made possible by FRAN we could see more and more Hollywood heroes "rejuvenate." Or films with "young" versions of our favorites much more faithful than they are today.
A trend that, placed next to that of "resurrecting" digitally even already deceased actors to get them to star in new films it can be completely disruptive (for better or for worse) to entertainment.