CGI De-Aging in Hollywood

November 5, 2019


       CGI, or Computer Generated Imagery, has changed the way that movies are made since 1973 when the first movie to use CGI, Westworld, was released into theaters. From there, CGI went from 2D to 3D effects, and then continued on to creating full-sized characters and even worlds. In 2006, X-men: the Last Stand, used CGI to make actors Ian Mckellen and Sir Patrick Stewart appear more youthful. Since then, the technique called “de-aging” has been used in movies such as Ant-man, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. 

     De-aging is a long and tedious task that can take anywhere from weeks to months depending on how long the scene with the actor is. The de-aging effect is done mostly using deepfakes. This is a technique that allows CGI Artists to put one person’s face onto another, making it appear as though they are that person. 

      According to the Youtubers on the popular channel “Corridor Crew,” the computer runs facial recognition on the video of the original actor and uses footage of the face they want to put on the actor so the computer recognizes the different positions of the face, the eyes, and everything that makes one face work like the other. 

      De-aging is not the only time that CGI is used to create faces. CGI artists can create whole characters from scratch and even bring actors back from the dead for cameos or full scenes. In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) were both played by actors who passed away before the filming. 

      The difficulty of making those effects look real stems from all of the complications of the human face. The soul delivered through the eyes of actors is difficult to replicate through a computer program, and even simple motions like moving the mouth to say a word stretches so many muscles and changes so many things that it becomes nearly impossible to perfectly replicate a human face through CGI. Wren Weichman, one of the members of the Corridor Crew, says that “our brain, after millions of years of evolving to identify faces, can identify when something is off.” This is why it’s so easy to identify when a character is CGI.

     CGI is ground breaking technology. It is constantly evolving and mesmerizing to watch.

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