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Framestore Uses Deep Fake Tech for Kiyan Prince Anti-Knife Campaign

Leading VFX studio provides cutting-edge AI and art support that brings back to life a young football prodigy tragically killed in a 2006 stabbing, showing him 15 years later at age 30.

Framestore has shared with AWN their work on a ground-breaking anti-knife campaign. Kiyan Prince, a football prodigy, tragically died after being stabbed at the age of 15 in May 2006 while trying to prevent another child from being bullied. Now, fifteen years later, Framestore, in collaboration with marketing agency ENGINE Creative, has provided cutting-edge art and AI support to bring Prince back to life virtually, and help raise awareness of knife-crime.

The campaign, called “Long Live the Prince” will see Prince sign for his former football club, Queens Park Rangers where he will wear the squad number “30” to reflect the age he would have been today. In a world-first, Prince will also be introduced as a non-playable character in EA Sports FIFA21 – one of the world’s biggest video game franchises. Together with this, Prince is one of the collectable footballers within the Match Attax card trading game just released by Topps. Brands such as Adidas and JD Sports will be sponsoring Prince as a pro footballer, and proceeds will raise money for the Kiyan Prince Foundation.

Watch the spot now:

Working pro bono, Framestore’s co-founder and chief creative officer, Mike McGee; project lead, Karl Woolley; creative technologist, Johannes Saam; global head of creatures, Markus Schmidt; and senior designer, David Lochhead collaborated with ENGINE Creative and expert likeness artist Chris Scalf to lead the asset development. To show the 30-year-old likeness of Prince, the creative team had access to a leading expert on human ageing - Professor Hassan Ugail of the University of Bradford - who used state-of-the art aging-projection software to create a scientifically accurate image of how the young man would look today. Once completed, Framestore set about creating the suite of images to accompany the campaign.

“We've created many humans, digi-doubles, and superheroes in the past, but Kiyan was on a different level,” said Woolley. “Creating Kiyan as the 30-year-old man he would have been today, was a sensitive and delicate process and we took our responsibility seriously. Making sure we did Kiyan and his family justice by realizing him as he would have been today, was the biggest challenge of this project and quite possibly, of all my projects to date.”

As the end sequence for the film wasn’t conceived until after the planning for Prince’s likeness had been completed, the creative team was left with no time to produce the traditional and laborious digi-double route. There also were no source images of Prince at 30 on which to train the Deep Fake.

To pull off the promo’s end sequence, Framestore’s creative technologist, Johannes Saam, partnered with Sydney-based Matt Hermans, founder of the creative company Electric Lens Co., to work on the promo video assets and began the challenging task of bringing life and movement to 30-year-old Prince. Using a mixture of cutting-edge development and some secret sauce, the team was able to incorporate Scalf’s stills into the process to create synthetic data on which they could train the Deep Fake.

“Deep Fakes are often seen as gimmicks, to service a trend, but when we heard about the project and the potential to use Deep Fake for good, we knew we had to find a solution, employing new neural rendering-based techniques,” said Saam.

Based on a first pass of the geometry and painted reference frames, a virtual dataset was assembled with an automated pipeline rendering 6000 pictures as a base layer, which was then iteratively refined.

According to Saam, “The first pass added facial animations to the training material. After that, the pipeline was fed a detailed lookdev pass with facial hair and additional texture detail to keep the machine in line with our 2D likeness. Based on this dataset, we used a pre-trained neural network and the Kiyan specific images to focus the deep fake network on translating the human facial performance into a digital representation of Kiyan.”

This network replaced the entire head frame by frame, which was then composited over the photography; sponsor logos were removed from the shirt using Nuke’s brand-new CopyCat node.

All proceeds raised will go directly to Kiyan Prince Foundation, a charity run by Kiyan’s father, Dr Mark Prince OBE, who’s been tirelessly campaigning to prevent knife-crime since his son’s tragic death. To find out more visit The Kiyan Prince Foundation.


Client: Kiyan Prince Foundation

Creative Agency: ENGINE Creative
Creative Director: Richard Nott & David Dearlove
Head of Project Management: Katie Farmer
Project Director: Seb Roskell
Producer: Debbie Impett
Editor: Sam Hopkins
Motion Graphics Designer: Jamie Thodesen


Chief Creative Officer: Mike McGee
Global Real-Time Director: Karl Woolley
Creative Technologist: Johannes Saam
Global Head of Creatures: Markus Schmidt
Senior Designer: David Lochhead
Artist: Chris Scalf
Matt Hermans: Electric Lens Co

Source: Framestore