Definition December 2022 - Web


BUILDING AN IMAGE In the end, some good, old-fashioned hair and make-up complemented the deepfake tech

like if he were pulling the exact same facial expressions as our body double,” says Field. “In computational terms, every frame would be brand new, created as an independent image with no reference to what the previous frame looked like – or what the next frame might look like. It’s not like rotoscoping Gerry’s face from existing material, each frame is made from scratch.” Jamie Anderson and Field decided early on that the success (or failure) of the project was likely to rely on the casting of the ‘Gerry double’. The duo trawled through Spotlight for an afternoon and discovered that only six actors registered there had enough of a physical similarity to Gerry. Of those six, only three were interested in auditioning. “We asked them to film themselves lip-syncing to a 60-second section of audio, which we would then ask our VFX producer, Christian Darkin, to attempt a rough deepfake of in order to ascertain their appropriateness for the role,” says

Jamie Anderson, Field and his team were given access to over 25 hours of unheard archival audio that had been recorded by Gerry Anderson’s two biographers. “This material was like gold dust – Gerry was a private man, he never gave anything of his personal life away in public. But, with the estate’s permission, Gerry’s story could be told in his own words,” explains Field. “My challenge was how to present this in a visually engaging way. Initially, we discussed dramatic reconstruction, but that proved too expensive. Then, during a morning of procrastination and work avoidance, I stumbled across Tom Cruise on TikTok. Or so I thought.” However, it wasn’t Tom Cruise at all – instead, it was a clever deepfake of the Hollywood star. Field was so impressed by the ingenuity that it gave him the idea to ‘interview’ Gerry Anderson and use his pre-existing audio to form answers. “We could create new visuals to present historical audio,” he continues. “A new approach and a new angle. We spoke to (then head of editorial, Britbox) Craig Morris to see if this would fly. He took very little convincing. Whether it was the passion with which we pitched the concept or the incredibly poor initial version of the deepfake we created that persuaded him, I’ll probably never know – but the chances are it was the former.” Even with a major online digital video subscription service backing it, the producers were still significantly below the target budget, so needed to secure

investment from a distributor to make the numbers work. “This was trickier,” Field recalls. “We were pitching an idea that had never been tried and tested, but in the end Abacus Media Rights took the risk and joined us. On signing, one condition surprised us: the contract was dependent upon us delivering at least ten minutes of high- quality deepfake.” Having started discussions about the film in April 2021, by the beginning of July the co-producers had raised a budget of approximately £175k. HOW FAKERY WORKS The deepfake process is centred around filming a body double who can successfully lip-sync to the original audio. The face and parts of the head would then be swapped out using artificial intelligence after a lengthy period of cloud-based machine learning. “During that time, the program learns what Gerry Anderson would have looked

“In computational terms, every frame would be brand new, created as an independent image”

PERFECT MATCH Finding a body double for Anderson was no mean feat, with only two actors in the running for the part

33. DECEMBER 2022

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