If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That classic piece of advice is so accurate that apparently not even major Hollywood studios are too good to follow it. Case in point: Lucasfilm just hired Shamook, the digital artist responsible for several Star Wars deepfakes that went viral on YouTube for being significantly more believable than the studio’s own CGI efforts.
The two videos that most likely caught Lucasfilm’s attention are deepfakes of Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian and of Tarkin and Princess Leia in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The former is just shy of 3 million views in under six months, making it Shamook’s second most popular video behind the one with Harrison Ford in Solo: A Star Wars Story. The Rogue One edits are the most noticeably improved by Shamook’s work, as they rid Tarkin of his nearly emaciated look and jolt a bit more life into him.
The differences between the original scenes and Shamook’s deepfaked scenes are pretty minimal, but, as is the case with intense fandoms such as Star Wars’, devoted fans can always spot a recreation from the real thing. Most of Shamook’s work maintains the original natural lighting, the textured look of skin, and the liveliness of the human spirit within each actor’s eyes, as Shamook is essentially copy and pasting a real clip of Luke Skywalker from previous films and adjusting the facial movements to match those of the newer scene.
In other words, the digital actors go from looking like great CGI replications in a video game cutscene to real-life people starring in the film.
However, it takes major skills to create a truly trippy deepfake, and Lucasfilm definitely knows that. If it were as simple as inserting an old frame onto a new scene, their renowned team would have done it by now. By combining the studio’s CGI talent with Shamook’s time-consuming deepfake skills, any future prospects for time-bending cast appearances in the Star Wars universe will likely be a lot more believable.
In a YouTube comment, Shamook confirmed that they’re now a Senior Facial Capture Artist at Lucasfilm. It sounds like both parties are equally excited about the acquisition, too. In a statement to IndieWire, a Lucasfilm representative said, “[Industrial Light and Magic is] always on the lookout for talented artists and have in fact hired the artist that goes by the online persona ‘Shamook.’ 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.”
Longtime fans of Shamook’s work will be pleased to know that the deepfakes won’t suddenly end now that they have a job at Lucasfilm. After sharing a new video of Robert Pattinson as Christian Bale in Batman, Shamook shared a brief update: “As some of you may already know, I joined ILM/Lucasfilms a few months ago and haven’t had the time to work on any new YouTube content. Now I’ve settled into my job, uploads should start increasing again. They’ll still be slow, but hopefully not months apart. Enjoy!”
Check out some of Shamook’s videos, including the eye-catching Star Wars side-by-sides, below.
Based on Disney’s stacked Star Wars schedule, it looks like Shamook will have plenty of work to stay busy. They recently announced the cast for their Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series and outlined plans for the aptly titled Lando, a new show set to follow Lando Calrissian. Then there’s the Rogue One prequel focused on Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, and a swath of animated series like A Droid Story. They’re also developing an untitled project by Taika Waititi and a film directed by Patty Jenkins dubbed Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. Oh yeah, and Jon Favreau is working on The Mandalorian offshoot The Book of Boba Fett, too.