DEEPFAKE Star Trek fan films – cool, scary, or BOTH???

Do you remember that scene in the TOS episode “The Menagerie, Part 1” where Spock sends a message to the Enterprise from Starbase 11 and uses the computer to recreate Captain Kirk’s voice? Seemed pretty cool back then, didn’t it? And it was VERY futuristic…just like when Ben Finney was able to alter the ship’s visual logs in the episode “Court Martial” to show Kirk jettisoning the pod when he actually didn’t. SO futuristic!

Picture a galaxy where anyone can alter voices or recordings to make it look like someone is saying or doing something they never did or said—pretty cool, huh? Well, actually, it’s kinda SCARY to think about! Fortunately, we folks on Earth won’t need to worry about such things for at least two and a half more centuries, right?

Well, maybe not that long…

Like so much of Star Trek‘s “futuristic” technology, computer-reconstructed faces and voices seem to have arrived about 250 years earlier than anyone expected back in the 1960s…or even the 1980s or 1990s! And “deepfake” technology promises (or is that threatens?) to make the world an even more troubling place than it already is…and that’s saying something! Imagine being able to make it look and sound like a celebrity or a politician said something controversial when they never did any such thing.

On the other hand, that same kind of “troubling” technology allowed Disney to bring actor PETER CUSHING “back to life” (with arguably mixed results) in Star Wars: Rogue One…along with providing fans a young Princess Leia at the very end, digitally altered to look “almost” exactly like a young CARRIE FISHER. Fans have debated how much the film’s creators succeeded, but the fact is that the technology is only getting better and better.

And indeed, one of the most recent deepfake videos to hit YouTube on September 6, 2o2o showed how far the technology has come, as the faces of WILLIAM SHATNER, LEONARD NIMOY, DeFOREST KELLEY, and RICARDO MONTALBAN were swapped into scenes from the three J.J. ABRAMS Star Trek reboot movies to make this mind-blowing fan film (at least, I’m calling it a fan film) titled STAR TREK: THE FIRST GENERATION

The creator of this deepfake film, FUTURING MACHINE, has used the ever-improving technology to create a whole series of deepfake videos, including other Star Trek ones along with this inspired reinterpretation of a recent (pre-pandemic) Saturday Night Live sketch…

So just how does this new technology work? It involves a sort of artificial intelligence (A.I.) known as machine learning that, in the case of these new deepfake videos, can turn your home computer into a digital plastic surgeon! Here’s a brief overview of the process (feel free to skip if you don’t care about the technical stuff)…

Continue reading “DEEPFAKE Star Trek fan films – cool, scary, or BOTH???”

The story behind POGO and his DATA & PICARD music video…

The strangely surreal DATA & PICARD Star Trek fan music video has been viewed on YouTube nearly seven and a half million times…making it one of the most widely seen Trek fan productions of all time. And yet, I haven’t covered it here on Fan Film Factor up until now—somewhat on purpose.

When the musician/DJ/remix artist/film editor/YouTuber POGO (whose real name is NICK BERTKE) first uploaded this unusually hypnotic video back in late 2016, it was certainly a project I intended to cover. But less than two years later—and before I was able to blog about him—Pogo/Nick created some major controversy and trouble for himself.

In a video from 2016 which was posted to YouTube in May of 2018 (and has since been removed for reasons of hate-speech), Pogo shared some very homophobic opinions, including calling gays an “abomination” and seeming to approve of the 2016 massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse. And of course, social media sleuths quickly unearthed another controversial rant of his against feminism from 2017. Within days, public opinion had turned strongly against Pogo, and the Lamplight Lounge at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, CA, which featured some of Pogo’s Disney-related tracks on their restaurant’s playlist, quickly bowed to pressure and removed them all. (For more details on Pogo’s controversial statements and attempts to walk them back, click here.)

And so I was torn. On the one hand, Pogo had created this wildly popular Star Trek fan film music video…and his background story is quite interesting. On the other hand, hate speech and homophobia is anathema to me. I am totally repulsed by Pogo’s prejudices against gay people and women. I decided not to cover Pogo and his video…a decision I’ve stuck with for nearly two years (despite a number of readers sending me links and asking me to cover it). Eventually, I mostly forgot about the video.

A few weeks ago, however, I happened upon a new version of the Pogo video that had used a digital manipulation technique called Deepfake to replace Pogo’s image with the faces of PATRICK STEWART and BRENT SPINER. (I’ll include that new video at the end of this blog.) This new video got me thinking about maybe covering Pogo after all.

If you can’t stomach my decision, then please feel free to skip this blog. Otherwise, let’s start with showing Pogo’s original Data & Picard video (without the Deepfake) for those who haven’t seen it yet or who just want to see it again…

Continue reading “The story behind POGO and his DATA & PICARD music video…”