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From a recent (and quite fascinating) Variety article about how the recent Furious 7 was completed successfully without one of its main stars being alive...
http://variety.com/2015/film/awards/fur ... 201618224/
Unlike the motion-capture work that Weta had done on earlier films, there were no scans of Walker to create a digital double. So the team went through old footage, building a reference library of Walker as Brian O’Conner by using outtakes from “Furious 7” and previous films in the franchise. But those moments had been filmed in one lighting environment and the Weta team “essentially had to relight his performance” digitally for each new scene, said Letteri.
Weta visual effects supervisor Martin Hill says the bus sequence got a lot of media attention, but it “paled in comparison to scenes such as Paul sitting still, or delivering dialog in closeup, because you don’t have the action and the kinetic cutting to help distract from the effects.”
For example, Walker is digital and full frame in a sequence of driving in the desert. Hill said, “Paul is trying to get to Los Angeles quickly, and is also reacting in a subtle way to the injured Kurt Russell in the backseat. The performance was very nuanced.”
The filmmakers scanned Walker’s brothers Cody and Caleb, as well as actor John Brotherton (who has a role in the film and whose build and coloring are similar to Walker’s). The three men tried to capture the timing and direction that director Wan wanted. Weta essentially motion-captured the work of the three men, and then reapplied that to Walker digital models they had created.
Here's the thing, though. Those shots are invisible
. And by "invisible" I mean it never occurred to me I was looking at a digital creation. I had assumed when watching the movie in the theater that some of what I was seeing was a body double or Paul's brothers who apparently look almost exactly like him (particularly during a fight scene that took place in the dark), but the scenes where they actually used the digital effects were ones that I had believed he had actually filmed before his untimely death.
Apart from the obvious bitter-sweetness here, this does get me wondering what could be next. Are the tools now there to bring other actors "back from the dead" in the way that Bob Z always seemed to wish were possible? Could we potentially be seeing a fully convincing Gene Kelly done in CGI? Because after seeing what they did with a "digital body double" here without me even realizing it, I find myself thinking about whether or not there's anything
they can't do.
Last edited by Dacey
on October 25th, 2015, 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift--that is why it's called the present."
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It's inevitable. Filmmakers will need permission of the estate of the deceased, but once they have that we will likely see a film with long-gone actors. You just know someone wants to pair Marilyn Monroe and James Dean in a film.
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Although it wasn't quite so 'invisible', we also saw current-day Arnold Swarzenegger face-off against his 'younger' self in Terminator: Genisys earlier this year.
There are a ton of 'invisible' VFX in just about everything produced for film & television, these days, though. Everything from background cars and digital crowd creation (no 'extras' to pay!) to 'hiding' an actress' pregnancy via CGI masking is already fairly routine .. and CG-enhanced 'makeup' is employed regularly in shows like NBC's Grimm (which, granted, is less 'invisible' -- but still, inconceivable on a TV budget, until only recently).
Last edited by droosan
on October 25th, 2015, 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Technically, this technique isn't new. It's just been vastly improved.
I believe the first time this form of editing and special effects was brought to mainstream attention was for The Crow in 1994. Though Lee only had three days worth of shooting left when he was killed in an on-set accident, they nonetheless had to do some numerous rewrites, particularly regarding the flashbacks and narrations, and digitally imposed Lee's face from footage already shot onto stunt doubles whenever such scenes were needed.
Speaking of Zemeckis, remember that he used such techniques for Forrest Gump in 1994 and Contact in 1997 where characters would interact with historical figures past and present (though he and Warner Bros. got warned by the White House that the use of the Clinton footage in Contact was inappropriate, especially since he was still in office at the time, just no legal action was made).
Gladiator in 2000 had to use these techniques to cover for the untimely passing of Oliver Reed, though this only ended up covering for about two minutes worth of footage and director Ridley Scott was able to pick out moments where the Proximo character could be covered in shadows and the audience wouldn't think twice about whether or not that's a body double bring used.
Perhaps the more intriguing use of the techniques prior to Furious 7 was for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in 2004, utilizing digital manipulation of old footage of Laurence Olivier, who had been dead since 1989, as the film's mysterious villain Dr. Totenkopf. This was also utilized for Superman Returns in 2006, taking old and unused Marlon Brando footage.
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To an extent, though, those examples were more about manipulating existing footage to have versions of real people feature in a new story, much like as was done by Woody Allen in Zelig and Steve Martin/Carl Reiner in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (Charles Laughton to Martin: "Don't you know who I am, Mr Reardon"", to which Martin flippantly replies, "Huh, the Hunchbback of Notre Dame?" - gets me chucking every time), in the early 80s.
I also remember seeing "Monroe" walking through a modern (early 90s) Hollywood landscape, courtesy of an ILM test shoot. It wasn't in close-up and she didn't speak but you could see where this was going. Since then we've had Kelly hip-hopping to Singin' In The Rain (by way of face replacement) but it's only really in the last year that the uncanny valley dead eyes have started to come alive for things such as Walker, Terminator and some shots of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philipe Petit in The Walk (some of the twin towers high-wire is mo-capped), an absolutely warm and wonderful movie that is a real shame isn't played my better. Along with Mad Max and Inside Out, it ranks as best of year for me.