Updated: Jun 23
How AI and something called LIDAR Image Capture will help celebrities live forever
Wish you could look younger? For most of us over the age of 40 or so, the answer is an unqualified “yes.”
Let’s imagine that you’re the actor Harrison Ford. You know, Box Office Star of the 20th Century? Yeah, that guy. Spielberg comes to you and offers you one more chance to play your iconic character Indiana Jones in the final chapter of the series.
But you’re 80. And they need you to fill in missing gaps from Indy’s life 40 years prior. How do you handle that? Facelifts? Cremes? Magnets? Leaches? There’s not a personal trainer and make-up artist on the planet that can solve this issue for you, and that’s okay.
There’s technology that can make the miracle of digital de-aging happen. Let’s talk about the technology that can not only make you appear amazingly young again but allow you to live forever… Lidar.
In the coming years, movie studios will be moving past texture mapping and advance to snapping up three-dimensional images of their young stars in an effort to own those images and use them in perpetuity. The goal: As the star ages, his or her face can stay young by applying the digital image over their – or someone else’s – head and body.
Imagine Sean Connery playing James Bond forever. Imagine getting to see Chadwick Boseman in the new Black Panther. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton reunite for a new rom com! The possibilities could have been endless if the technology to capture those legends existed decades ago.
So why is this important and why are we having this discussion now? There are several concerns that this new AI-assisted tech raise:
1. Ownership. If a studio captures the 3-D Lidar image of an up-and-coming actor and owns that image, does that mean that the actor can no longer participate in their own performance? Agents and managers and unions may not be prepared to deal with what I call a “Face Fee” where the studio must pay the actor for use of their own image, like a stock photo house, guaranteeing that actor will be included in their own performance.
2. Content Control. Let’s say that same hungry actor agrees to a Face Fee and allow their image to be Lidar-captured, but the studio decides to use that Actor’s likeness in a soft-core adult film. If the image is plucked from a stock house, then that actor might not have a say in how it’s used.
3. Phasing Out Actors All Together. We’ve seen how ChatGPT is already shaking up the writing world, threatening to replace writers. Myself, personally, I’m not too afraid of that (see previous blog post: To AI or not AI: Chat is the Question), as I don’t see how AI can write better than a seasoned craftsman. However, with the increasing ability to create realistic fake actors with motion capture, a studio could use a good physical actor and a simulated voice of a celebrity to produce any film they want. If GPT writes it, generates the visuals and voice and the final piece – the Lidar image is applied, there may be no stopping budget-saving producers who don’t feel writers, directors or actors matter from putting out their own C+ dreck-fest utilizing the now famous face of a once-starving actor desperate for celluloid immortality.
How concerned should we all be with this emerging technology? Streaming producer Andrew Balek (The Last Thing He Told Me), says not too much.
“We’re not looking at the end of Hollywood,” he advised me over coffee recently, “producers need the human touch of writers, directors, and actors to accomplish something good, something really worth watching. Anyone can make something terrible, but is that the goal of producers? I doubt it.”
Balek makes a good point, but for every producer with talent and integrity, unwilling to sacrifice quality for a lower bottom line and fewer egos, there are a dozen out there who may not be burdened by the consciousness of exceptionalism.
Studios are gonna … studio. It’s true. And technology never moves backward. So, right now, the goal will be for unions representing talent in Hollywood to get ahead of this technology like an archeologist scrambling to outrun a giant bolder. You’re going to need to put guardrails in place that protect your interests long after they themselves are gone.
We still have choices in spite of feeling like AI is going to take over our lives. But, as the Grail Knight said to Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, “…choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.”
Here's a cool article on how many movies Disney has used de-aging in: