Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park and various other media outlets over the years, have raised $20 million to continue their professional deepfake creator studio, Deep Voodoo.
The company started during the 2020 media shutdown, when the pandemic prevented most travel and productions on set. Parker and Stone had already started assembling an AI artist team for a film they were developing, and when COVID intervened, they focused on creating the tools for later use.
“We came across this amazing technology and ended up recruiting the best deepfake artists in the world,” Stone said in an announcement on the Deep Voodoo site. I’ve reached out for more information and will update this post if I hear back.
Parker/Stone’s cachet showed when the company made its public debut alongside none other than Kendrick Lamar. The video for “The Heart Part 5” seemingly shows the musician his lyrics in one take, but when he addresses the camera directly, his face takes on the aspects of others: OJ Simpson, Nipsey Hussle, Kobe Bryant and Kanye West :
Of course, it is clear that deepfake technology was used for this, just as it is clear that the dragons in Game of Thrones are not real. It’s still dramatically effective, even if the replacement is definitely not perfect.
Since then, and with the help of $20 million from Connect Ventures, Deep Voodoo has “started offering” its technology to others in the company.
It is of course not the only one who does this by a long shot. Digital aging and “re-facing,” as it’s sometimes called, has become a staple of Disney media, though early attempts (a waxy Grand Moff Tarkin and the unconvincing young Luke Skywalker) were poorly received by audiences.
The technology is clearly here to stay, but how it will be used creatively – and ethically – is still an open question. Stone and Parker, despite their notoriety for their offbeat humor and controversies, seem to be good thinkers when it comes to fundamental questions of fairness and storytelling. That’s a start.