Ah, deepfakes. The controversial practice of making fake videos that look so lifelike, they could be real. You can take anyone’s visage, stick it in a program, then, voila! You’ve got a convincing video that looks like the receipts, or the tea, but it’s complete BS.
While these powers are usually associated with wrongdoing, the Dark Side of the Force where you want to make your enemies look bad, someone on YouTube used those powers for good. This Light Side YouTuber by the name of Shamook used deepfake technology to improve the CGI in one particular scene of The Mandalorian.
For their efforts improving the character on the popular Star Wars series, they got a bigger reward than most of us expect. What did the House of Mouse grant Shamook for their efforts? Let’s jump to lightspeed and travel to a galaxy far, far away to get the scoop!
Last Christmas, The Mandalorian dropped a marvelous season finale present for its viewers. Spoiler alert: Luke Skywalker appears to take Grogu, the character formerly known as Baby Yoda, away for training.
After the cheers died down and the fandom was done rejoicing, some fans noticed that Luke Skywalker’s character in The Mandalorian didn’t look like his former self. His features were darkened and a little blurrier than they should’ve been.
So, hot on the heels of The Mandalorian’s season finale, Shamook gave this iconic character a glow-up and released it on the web for the world to see. Already, the improvement was noticeable. Luke’s eyes were brighter, and watching this deepfake, we felt like they plopped Young Skywalker straight from the end of Return of the Jedi and into The Mandalorian.
Saving the day
The Mandalorian takes place a few years after the last installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi, so Luke isn’t supposed to be much older in the series. However, it’s been a few decades since Return hit theaters, so the character’s original actor Mark Hamill has become . . . a victim of time to put it nicely, like all us are or will be.
The cruelty of time & aging left Disney with some choices. They could re-cast the character of Luke Skywalker completely, or they could do some CGI magic using Mark Hamill. They went with a combination, using a body double and dubbing his voice with Hamill’s.
Is Shamook happy?
They should be! Shamook has been on the internet for a while, creating deepfakes for beloved (or not-so-beloved) movies, sequels, and reboots. He deepfaked Harrison Ford as Han Solo in Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. He also deepfaked Will Smith in the Matrix, giving fans a glimpse of what it would look like if Smith played the character Neo instead of Keanu Reeves.
It also looked like his hard work paid off. Not only did Shamook improve a character in The Mandalorian, but Lucasfilm also came knocking to recruit him for technical work.
“Over the past several years ILM has been investing in both machine learning and A.I. as a means to produce compelling visual effects work and it’s been terrific to see momentum building in this space as the technology advances,” a statement from Lucasfilm to Indiewire read.
While Shamook is stoked that their character improvements in The Mandalorian paid off, they admitted they could’ve done a better job, especially with the mouth movements. “Unfortunately there isn’t much I can do to improve the animation/mouth syncing. If I had access to the body double footage before they applied the CGI, deep fake would be a definite improvement. Hopefully, they release some behind-the-scenes footage eventually so I can give that.”
What do you think of Shamook’s deepfakes? Although Shamook’s character design on The Mandalorian was marked improvement, do you think his place at Lucasfilm is because of talent or internet notoriety? Let us know in the comments below!