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Deepfakes helped Charli XCX imitate the Spice Girls in her latest music video

When mainstream readers first became aware of deepfakes at the end of 2017, it was thanks to a creepy subculture that used the face-swapping tool to insert celebrities into pornography. More recently, experts have worried that the same AI technology could supercharge fake news. But here’s evidence that deepfakes could also be used for mainstream video editing: the latest music video from Charli XCX uses the technology as a special effect.

The “1999” video is a perfect use case for deepfakes. In it, Charli and singer Troye Sivan pay homage to various 1990s touchstones, like Steve Jobs, TLC’s “Waterfalls” music video, Titanic, the Nokia 3310, The Sims, and so on. At two points, the creators of the video used the same basic deepfakes algorithms to paste Charli and Sivan’s faces onto dancers imitating the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys.

Ryan Staake, the video’s director and head of creative studio PompClout, says the decision to use deepfakes was part artistic, part practical. Speaking to The Verge, Staake says the crew had a limited window to shoot the video, so they used deepfakes to avoid having to dress up the two singers as every single member of the bands.

A clip from the music video where AI was used to superimpose Charli XCX’s face onto the backing dancers.

“When you start to think about the complexity of getting them in and out of wardrobe and makeup for each of those characters, it would take five times longer,” says Staake. “So in a way, it was a pragmatic solution. But then, we also started playing off the bizarreness and aesthetics of it.

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