Video screenshot via Hour One
Unlike other reputable model agencies, Hour One doesn’t care if its talents don’t have a lot of skills. In fact, they don’t even need to know how to model.
The driving force behind the startup is its deepfake AI, which allows it to produce marketing and educational videos for companies around the world without too much time and effort expended by talents, or “characters,” as Hour One calls them.
As reported by MIT Technology Review, the company recruits people to appear as the faces of promotional, commercial, or internal corporate videos—and we say that in the most literal sense—since characters are just lending their faces. The only “acting” involved is talking in front of a high-resolution 4K camera and making a series of facial expressions, with a green screen as the backdrop.
Clients simply pick a face to be their “immediate spokespeople” and enter a script for the deepfaked character to repeat. With Hour One’s software, it’s able to create a virtually endless amount of footage featuring the character—in various languages.
There are also various audio options that a client could select based on their budget and time. The most convenient service is a text-to-speech setting that reads out text in artificial voices and matches the script with mouth movements and facial expressions, while a premium option gets professional voice actors to record the script.
Hour One told MIT Technology Review that it currently has over 40 clients spanning real estate, entertainment, digital health, and e-commerce industries, and about 100 characters, with fresh faces added every week.
“We’ve got a queue of people that are dying to become these characters,” Natalie Monbiot, the company’s head of strategy, told the magazine.
While anyone can sign up to be a model for Hour One, they’ll still have to go through a screening process. The company is looking to enlist diverse faces representing all ages, genders, and racial backgrounds; at present, about 80% belong to people under the age of 50, 70% are female, and a quarter of characters are white.
The implications for a service such as this are dramatic, as one can imagine. Now that the world has shifted into remote work as a default, actors can “freelance” in numerous roles far away from home—without ever leaving the door. There’s also no need to read a brief, nor will there be any risk of a client not liking the work, since they’ll be controlling the entire process.
“We’re replacing the studio,” explained Monbiot. “A human being doesn’t need to waste their time filming.”
On the other side of the coin, models must be wary of their faces ending up in the wrong hands. Luckily, Hour One acknowledges that talents need to be protected.
“We’re pretty conservative about the types of businesses that we work with,” said Monbiot. The firm has an ethics policy that prohibits characters from being used in certain contexts, like those involving sex, politics, and gambling.