Disney’s obsession with “rejuvenation” technology is growing, and now it has developed an AI tool that can automatically change the age of actors.
The tool, called the Face Re-aging Network, or FRAN, is capable of changing actors’ ages to make them look younger or older, and promises to drastically speed up visual effects processes that take weeks when done manually.
Some of these manual processes require painstakingly painting each 2D frame of an actor’s face or replacing an actor with a digital puppet.
The age of the actors could be changed much more easily
But using FRAN, artificial intelligence does most of the work and crucially “complements traditional age-altering techniques that already work well in film production,” the Disney researchers wrote in a work.
FRAN looks much more convincing than previous AI models, which had problems with movement. With too much movement or at too odd an angle, artifacts would start creeping in and disappear jarringly, and a face could lose its identity by becoming too generic.
The Disney-designed AI tool works by overlaying changes, such as wrinkles, on certain parts of the face that it detects should be older or younger, while leaving the remaining parts unchanged.
The tool does this on separate layers, allowing artists to modify and add to the results manually. To that end, Disney claims that FRAN is “production ready,” notes Futurism.
An imperfect tool, but with great potential
But for FRAN to be so effective, the researchers first had to create their own database of thousands of randomly generated faces, which they then altered using existing age-altering tools. The sheer volume of generated and then modified faces that resulted provided plenty of training material for FRAN.
Impressive as it may be, FRAN is not perfect. Aging, after all, isn’t just about the accumulation of wrinkles, and FRAN seems to struggle to capture the incredible nuance of the process. FRAN also seems to largely address de-aging by simply making its subjects’ skin smoother, which can easily veer into the realm of excess.
But FRAN doesn’t have to be perfect either. It could give VFX artists a massive head start, saving weeks, if not months, of work and millions of dollars.