I’m going to go ahead and file that under “headlines I never imagined I’d be writing in 2020.”
For his newest music video, rapper Snoop Dogg commissioned the production studio Corridor Digital to bring Tupac Shakur back to life through the wonders of technology. His vision: Splicing a deepfake Tupac into the rapper’s final interview with MTV in 1996, which featured the both of them, and having the AI creation lipsync a portion of his lyrics.
Corridor Digital’s crew of visual effects artists went viral on YouTube last year for their disturbingly convincing deepfake videos of celebrities like Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise, but achieving that same success with Pac proved particularly challenging, as studio founder Niko Pueringer explains in a step-by-step video uploaded this week.
That’s because, typically, creating a believable deepfake requires training an AI neural network by feeding it tons of—preferably high-quality—photos and video clips. But given that Tupac died in the ‘90s, these kinds of images were understandably difficult for the team to come by. Pueringer eventually found just three videos that were of a high enough quality to start building the rapper’s deepfake.
Video taken of 2Pac impersonator Josh Harraway, who also worked on Coachella’s not-quite-a-hologram rendition of the prolific rapper, helped to sync the deepfake’s facial expressions and mannerisms seamlessly. The entire project took a little less than a week to complete.
“It was definitely a fun process because it was a bit more focused than our Tom Cruise or Keanu Reeves pieces,” Pueringer told Gizmodo via email Saturday. “We also had to match the look of television from the 90s, which was a process in and of itself.”
And the results are, again, disturbingly convincing, as you can see in the video below.
As for Snoop Dogg’s verdict, he appears to give Corridor Digital’s efforts a big thumb’s up during his initial reaction, which is shared in the team’s video.
There’s still no word yet on when Snoop Dogg plans to release the full music video. And though he hasn’t personally reached out to the crew since seeing Tupac brought back to life via deepfake, according to Pueringer, “in the world of media that probably means he’s happy with the final product.”