Stanford engineers make editing video as easy as editing text

Stanford engineers make editing video as easy as editing text

In television and film, actors often flub small bits of otherwise flawless performances. Other times they leave out a critical word. For editors, the only solution so far is to accept the flaws or fix them with expensive reshoots.

A new algorithm makes it possible to perform text-based editing of videos of “talking heads”; that is, speakers from the shoulders up.

Imagine, however, if that editor could modify video using a text transcript. Much like word processing, the editor could easily add new words, delete unwanted ones or completely rearrange the pieces by dragging and dropping them as needed to assemble a finished video that looks almost flawless to the untrained eye.

A team of researchers from Stanford University, Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Princeton University and Adobe Research created such an algorithm for editing talking-head videos – videos showing speakers from the shoulders up.

The work could be a boon for video editors and producers but does raise concerns as people increasingly question the validity of images and videos online, the authors said. However, they propose some guidelines for using these tools that would alert viewers and performers that the video has been manipulated.

“Unfortunately, technologies like this will always attract bad actors,” said Ohad Fried, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford. “But the struggle is worth it given the many creative video editing and content creation applications this enables.”

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