A video of Hollywood actor Bill Hader turning into Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan while doing impressions of the two stars on a Saturday Night Live episode is both amazing and terrifying – because of the implications.
Created by YouTuber Ctrl Shift Face, the video is a deepfake of an October 2008 David letterman interview with Bill Hader. Deepfakes are edits enabled by artificial intelligence in which each frame of a video can be artificially altered or synthesised to look like something completely different.
In the interview, the comedian and ace impressionist recounts a conversation with the actor Tom Cruise, changing his voice to match the Mission Impossible actor’s. He also talks about doing a Seth Rogan impression for Tom Cruise that the latter was awed by.
In the Ctrl Shift Face edit, Hader’s seamlessly blends into Tom Cruise, back into Hader and then back to Cruise for every time. The edit is so fine that even the most obvious tell-tale sign – a stubble – is hardly noticeable.
With over three million views in a week, Ctrl Shift Face’s video has gone viral. Stunned users commented, “Okay, so video evidence in a court of law just lost all credibility,” and “This is exactly how I’d imagine a shapeshifter to look.”
The Guardian tracked down the video’s creator – a Slovakian citizen named Tom, resident in the Czech Republic – who said his unsettling face-swapping videos are an attempt to raise awareness in the age of fake news and footage.
Tom told The Guardian that he is self-taught, and works as a 3D artist in the film and games industry. He said each video took between three and five days to make using an open-source program, and needed high-resolution footage. “I started by faking myself into shows and movies to entertain me, my friends, family, and experimenting,” he told The Guardian. “I always mention that it’s a deepfake in the title and description – I don’t want to mislead anyone.”
Tom’s two-year-old channel features around 21 videos and describes itself as “Windows to parallel universes.” The channel’s About section also holds a disclaimer, “Do not believe everything that you see on the internet ok?”
The edits of Sylvestor Stallone in The Terminator, Jim Carrey in The Shining, and Bruce Lee in The Matrix Tom’s repertoire are relatively harmless reminders of advancements in technology enabling doctored videos.
Already, fakes of politicians like US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have done the rounds and proved that most often the onus of being vigilant remains with the consumer.