The freaky Arnold Schwarzen-Hader deepfake

To cleanse the palate, the most amazing deepfake video I’ve seen yet, allegedly created by a graphic illustrator in the Czech Republic using nothing more sophisticated than open-source software.

Deepfakes typically take one of two forms. First is when the image of a single famous person is manipulated to make it seem as though they’re mouthing words they never said. Second is when one famous face mapped onto another for a pure gonzo Frankenstein effect. This one is a variation of the latter, but with a twist: Instead of the second face (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s) replacing the first (Bill Hader’s) for the duration, it fades in and out as Hader cycles in and out of his Schwarzenegger impression. What’s freaky is that their faces are just similar enough, particularly when Hader contorts his expressions to mimic Arnold’s during the impersonation parts, that initially I didn’t notice the transition. One second I was watching Hader do Schwarzenegger, the next I was watching Schwarzenegger. The fact that Hader’s vocal impersonation is note-perfect only makes the effect freakier.

It’s easier to tell a fake from the real thing in screencaps, like the one up top, because you’re more aware of physiological mismatches. Arnold’s face sits a tad too low on Hader’s head to look perfectly normal. But it’s close to convincing even in the still image, and you don’t notice it at all during the clip itself. According to the man who made it, “With the Bill Hader video, half of the people who comment don’t know it’s modified.” I believe it. This is where we are with this technology — while it’s still in its infancy.