The creator of a series of deepfake Tom Cruise videos says he wants to make people more aware of what they are watching – and that it might not be real.
Viewed more than 11 million times, Chris Ume’s videos appear to show Cruise playing golf, doing a magic trick, and falling over while telling a story about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
A deepfake usually involves an image or video in which a person or object is visually or audibly manipulated to say and do something that is fabricated.
Most people realised Ume’s videos were fake – but the 31-year-old says the speed the technology is advancing could pose problems in future.
“I always try to make funny content, but at the same time, when people see these videos they realise and will learn what’s possible within the next few years,” he told Sky News.
“The tech is evolving rapidly and will get better and will become more accessible as time goes on.
“Twenty years ago you have Photoshop, you didn’t know about fake photos so they started editing photos, and now people realise – like photos – that videos can be misleading.
“So it’s important on my side to create awareness so people start thinking twice when they see similar videos.
“In a year from now people need to question what they’re looking at and it’s important for journalists to confirm their sources and where they got it.
“You will always have people misusing techniques, so you have to think twice when you look at something.”
The Cruise double, actor Miles Fisher, and Ume have worked together on a number of projects – but none as popular as this one.
Ume told Sky News: “I’ve never had videos going viral as much as these have, so we were amazed. We really like the mystery around them and how they made people smile.
“To create a deepfake as realistic as this one you need two things.
“On one side a great actor who’s great at impersonating someone – Miles Fisher has been doing Tom Cruise for a while.
“And on the other side you need someone like me who specialises in deepfake and special effects and also the hardware.”
Other manipulated videos that have gained traction in recent years include a video produced by BuzzFeed featuring actor Jordan Peele’s realistic-looking impersonation of former President Barack Obama in 2018.
And last year, a deepfake Queen delivered a warning about misinformation and fake news in Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message.