The Capture

‘The Capture’ Crystallizes Deepfake Fears on TV

Synthetic media and deepfakes are appearing in pop culture at an accelerating rate as these technologies evolves. BBC thriller television show The Capture distills a lot of the anxiety and fear engendered by its potential misuse. After an initial season about doctoring CCTV footage with some fake elements, but the show’s second season really explores how deepfakes and synthetic media can radically transform people’s lives for the worse, though its existence may prevent the same thing from happening in real life.

The Capture

The Capture season two follows British security minister Isaac Turner, played by Paapa Essiedu, as his burgeoning career and happy home life fall apart when his planned on-screen rejection of a Chinese facial recognition technology is replaced by a deepfake video showing him endorsing the technology instead. This seeming self-sabotage launches a wave of reaction against him, with scandals and social media crusades going after him for things he never said. The labyrinthine layers of conspiracy seem set to tear apart the whole country. The series culminates in Turner confronting his fake digital self and (spoilers ahead) having his reputation salvaged by the same deepfake when it controllers reveal it to be a synthetic recreation and not the real politician. As the show’s tagline states, “Seeing is deceiving.” And it certainly drew that kind of reaction from some viewers.

There are plenty of companies now using AI to create synthetic media, whether text, visuals, audio, or video. One example that grabbed a lot of attention lately appeared on America’s Got Talent (AGT), where synthetic media developer Metaphysic showed off a series of deepfake performances, culminating with Elvis Presley taking the stage. The finale performance went beyond visuals and included an audio performance enhanced by synthetic voice startup Respeecher, best known for de-aging and synthesizing the voices of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker for recent Star Wars TV shows. It’s certainly a more positive example of the technology and one that at least some fans of The Capture noted.

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