Not an Actor, Just a Face: The Future of the Entertainment Industry

Original article can be found here (source): Artificial Intelligence on Medium

Not an Actor, Just a Face: The Future of the Entertainment Industry

By 2030, over 90% of movies will not be filming with human actors; directors will simply scan or create the faces they need and work with the animation team to create the rest. The movie industry is about to see a major transformation as a result of converging technologies in motion capture, animation, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.

We often see the entertainment industry as the earliest adopters of new technologies, from the now prevalent use of drones for filming to the digital presence of Carrie Fisher in the recent Star Wars film. However, despite this willingness to adopt new advances, the industry has remained steadfast its belief of the inherent importance of human actors, reserving replacement technologies for cases of untimely deaths or other extreme circumstances. Ranging from voice acting for animation movies to stunt performances that do not use any CGI, almost every movie so far has had some level of human performance present.

A big reason for this choice is simply cost: human actors are often cheaper than getting expensive replacement voice and environment scenes, and generally lead to better final products — let’s not forget the Cats fiasco.

Source: Business Insider, The 6 most cringeworthy things about the ‘Cats’ movie, ranked

However, we’ve seen this pattern before, in both set design and special effects. When visual effects (effects done in post-production, digitally) were still in their nascent stage, they were cost prohibitive for most movies to implement. Thus, complicated set designs and extravagant special effects were the name of the game, until the tech behind visual effects began to converge. Now, for many movies, set designs are simply a green screen box, and special effects are created for the sake of the actors — providing them some spatial orientation for their acting.

We are about to see the same economies of scale kick in for complete human digitization, from artificial voices to artificial faces and bodies. The dependent technologies, ranging from motion capture to AI/ML, are finally about to reach widespread commercial use, which means advances will start improving exponentially. When it finally becomes cheaper to make a virtual human than to hire a human actor, we will begin to see a faster than expected shift as movie production houses fight to stay economically competitive.

Will we have no actors in the future? No, I don’t believe that — but I think our definition of acting will change significantly, and actors will have to adapt accordingly. In big movie blockbusters, where audiences want to see larger-than-life romance, action, and adventure, I think we are going to see few to none actors present. However, in mediums that depend on human interaction and connection, such as reality TV, Youtube vlogs, and even stage performances, actors will be present as always — as viewers are engaged with the human element. Therefore, we will see the transition of the celebrity actor to the celebrity personality.

Youtube star Lilly Singh is an example of the “celebrity personality” which will only increase in the next decade. Source:

This transition of the role of actors will bring many positive benefits to the entertainment industry, from decreasing the need for dangerous stunts to no longer requiring actors and actresses to adhere to unrealistic body standards. However, as the industry focuses more on the personality than the person, content creators will be encouraged to break more and more walls between themselves and the viewer. A trend that we can already see with celebrities on social media, celebrities will have to go to farther and farther lengths to stay relevant, which leaves them more subject to online bullying and paparazzi/fan stalking. This path has already led to many disastrous consequences, most recently with the death of Love Island host, Caroline Flack, which is large attributed to online, public shaming of her personal life.

The entertainment is about to see a major shift in the role of actors over the next decade, which will have huge consequences to the roles of public celebrity as we know it. Movie actors, in particular, must be prepared to transition their medium appropriately to adapt to the changing technologies and times.