This creepy 'live-action' South Park deepfake is giving me nightmares

Still from an AI-generated South Park deepfake
(Image credit: Demonflyingfox on YouTube / Comedy Central)

AI image generation has advanced so much in recent months that we're actually starting to see the point of it. I mean, actual, practical uses for creative work, like testing compositions, rendering props and creating variations rather than simply realising bizarre experiments and horrifying mashups.

Nevertheless, the work that gets the most attention continues to be pieces that verge on the nightmarish. This terrifyingly unsettling 'live-action' South Park video, for example (still unsure of how this all works? See our guide to how to use DALL-E 2). 

Yes, that's right. Someone has had AI create a South Park video with realistic-looking characters. Well, when I say realistic.... Like with many pieces produced by AI there's still that uncanny valley feeling that creates a profound sense of unease. 

The video was created by YouTuber demonflyingfox using the AI text-to-image generator Midjourney and then animation software to connect frames to turn them into short videos. It's gone down a storm, with users commenting on the accuracy of the details when compared to the original animated South Park crew. The colours and quality of the video even give it a slightly aged look, making it look like it could actually have been made around the time South Park first appeared on our screens in 1997.

"At first, I thought this was a mediocre attempt at a real-life South Park intro with real actors, but then I realized this was made with AI. This is insane," one person commented on YouTube. "This was creepy and weird...Can you do some more, please!" someone else implored.

The images produced by AI image generators are now so good that it's hard to put your finger on what it is exactly that makes them look wrong. But despite the fact that Midjourney can now produce hands with the right number of fingers and faces that aren't contorted, it's often still clear that there's something off.

Part of the uncanny feeling here comes from the animation. AI-generated video is still a challenge, so rather than text-to-video, this used text-to-image AI and then animation software to animate the characters. While it creates a superficially realistic result, the animations are short and stilted, with a lot of creepy, unnatural blinking. But even still AI images still tend to have that uncanny valley feel, beyond the fact that many people are creating intentionally weird AI art.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.