Re-aging technology is all the rage in Hollywood right now. In the last five years alone, actors including Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Chris Evans, Keanu Reeves, Mark Hamill, and Ewan McGregor have all been subjected to various forms of age-altering digital magic in numerous big-budget movies and TV series.
For the most part, these attempts to trick viewers into thinking that movie stars are much younger or older than their off-screen counterparts have come off as less than convincing at best, and downright embarrassing at worst (looking at you, The Mandalorian), but the evidence shows that progress has been made.
Harrison Ford’s upcoming turn as the 30-year-old Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones 5 looks at least as a watershed moment for re-aging technology – and Disney, in particular, seems to be leading the way in improving the quality of age-altered content.
Whether by accident or design, the good folks at Disney’s visual effects department announced a major breakthrough in digital re-aging technology just one day before Lucasfilm pulled a pin in its first trailer for Indiana Jones 5.
In new scientific article (opens in a new tab)The entertainment giant is touting its proprietary Face Re-aging Network (FRAN) as “the first practical, fully automatic and production-ready facial re-aging method” – and what we’ve seen so far looks impressive.
Using a program called StyleGAN2 that generates thousands of artificial faces 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 about these changes.
In other words, Disney’s visual effects department has developed an algorithm that virtually tracks the aging process to more effectively apply authentic physical changes to real objects.
Take a look at FRAN in action via the demo video below, which was shared on the DisneyResearchHub YouTube channel on November 30.
Pretty amazing, right? Disney’s report claims that FRAN “provides artists with local control and creative freedom to direct and fine-tune the re-aging effect,” and House of Mouse clearly believes the technology is good enough for mainstream film and television production.
At least in our opinion, FRAN’s results represent an improvement over almost all of the rejuvenating effects we’ve seen in movies over the last few years – and it’s likely that the software behind it comes at a much, much lower cost, too.
This should be great news for filmmakers, film studios, and film fans alike. For example, Scorsese used rejuvenating effects in his 2019 gangster epic The Irishman, supposedly (opens in a new tab) consumed a huge chunk of the film’s $159 million budget – a move that most felt was a waste of money, given how inauthentic those on-screen effects turned out to be.
But if the movie studios can apply the re-ageing technology that FRAN has made possible – as Lucasfilm seems to have done with Indiana Jones 5 – then we could see more and more aging Hollywood heroes turning back time, well time.
Sure, nothing can last forever – but who wouldn’t want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger return as the Terminator in prime time for one last hurrah?