Are Robots coming for your Acting Job?

A recent USC experiment gives us hope the answer is no. Can an audience be moved by computer images? Did I cry at Frozen? Yes. And very much Yes. Because there was no violation. I knew it was a cartoon. Disney wasn't trying to make Elsa be human, just relateable. If we smell a rat, we can't suspend our disbelief. We need to settle into something authentic in order to relax and have a connecting experience. The USC experiment found that people were able to open up to a computer image of a woman in a therapy session. But the experimenters intentionally made the "therapist" not that life like.   

courtesy  LATimes

courtesy LATimes

She has to be human enough but also look like a machine. If she was just like us, it wouldn’t work.
— Gale Lucas, USC's Institute for Creative Technologies

But if someone is trying to pretend an actor is real when they are not, we are out. In an interview with HuffPo Live, Director Francis Lawrence understood this dilemma when deciding how to edit Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance after his death for Hunger Games: Mockingjay. 

He had two scenes with dialogue that were left and we decided we didn’t want to try any digital trickery with him, so we rewrote his scenes and gave the dialogue to other actors...”

The choice to forgo CGI was an easy one, Lawrence continued.

“I just think to try to fake a Philip Seymour Hoffman performance would have been catastrophic and I would never want to do that,”

Cuz... for real...