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January/February 2020

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Page 32 of 43 31 POST JAN/FEB 2020 A digital fountain of youth poured onto the big screen in 2019 gave several leading actors the opportunity to play characters at extremely younger ages. In three films, The Irishman, Gemini Man and Captain Marvel, lead actors Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Will Smith and Samuel Jackson appeared younger during their entire films. Artists at three studios — Industrial Light & Magic, Weta Digital and Lola — took the lead in "youtheniz- ing" — and sometimes aging — actors for these fea- ture films. De-aging is a two-part process: capturing and applying the actor's performance and changing the physical appearance. Each studio took a different approach. T h e Ir i s h m a n : In d u s t r i a l L i g h t & Ma g i c In this film, the aging former truck driver and self-confessed hit man Frank Sheeran reminisces about his life and relationship with Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa and mobster boss Russell Bufalino. Martin Scorsese directed the film adaption of the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. Netflix released The Irishman in November. It pow- ered out of the gate with film festival awards and a 96 percent approval rating from critics compiled by Rotten Tomatoes. Three septuagenarian megastars led the cast and played characters at various younger ages. Robert DeNiro, who was 76 when filming, plays Sheeran from ages 20 to 80. Al Pacino, 78, plays Jimmy Hoffa from 37 to his disappearance in 1975, and Joe Pesci, 76, played Bufalino from 47 to 72. Industrial Light & Magic created the youthful characters. Pablo Helman was visual effects super- visor, with Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda and Ivan Busquets as associate visual effects supervisors. Artists in San Francisco and Vancouver worked on the show. This is not the first time ILM has created a digital lead actor — the studio won an Oscar for turning Bill Nighy into a half-dead pirate for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in 2006. Ten years later, they brought actor Peter Cushing back to life through a digital character that plays Tarkin for a few shots in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Now, for The Irishman, the crew created younger versions of the characters played by DeNiro, Pacino and Pesci, who appear throughout the entire film. To do so, the studio developed a new system called Flux. Stephane Grabli led the R&D Flux team. "We could have captured them using head cameras and dots on their faces," Helman says. "But when I met with Martin, he said, "No head cams. No volume. I want them to be on set with theatrical lighting. You figure it out.'" They did just that. And more. No head cams. No volume. No special lighting. And, no keyframe animation. No He a d C a m s , No Ma rke rs "The idea was to capture the most amount of information we could without markers," Helman says. "And, if there were no markers, the software we would develop would need to derive everything from the light and textures captured on set. So, we came up with a rig that used infrared cameras and didn't stop Marty [Scorsese] from doing anything. We worked closely with director of photography Rodrigo Prieto and Arri Los Angeles." The rig has three cameras placed side by side on a 30-inch bar, narrow enough to fit through a door. In the center is the RGB camera, and on either side are two infrared film-grade Arri Alexa Minis. "We needed to neutralize the light without changing the lighting on the set," Helman says, explaining the need for the infrared cameras. "In effect, rather than taking the actor into a controlled environment, we created a controlled environment on the set." No other "witness" cameras were needed. The infrared light didn't interfere with the theatrical lighting on set, and produced images without shad- ows. The actors and director didn't see it. The actors could sit at a table in a crowded, busy restaurant and lean toward each other to talk. Scorsese could film them in close-ups, and as he did, ILM captured their facial expressions using the three cameras on that one rig. Two camera operators controlled the cameras remotely. One operator managed the main camera. Another operator controlled the infrared cameras, which have a different depth of field. No Key f ra m e A n i m a t i o n Then, the magic happened. Helman describes the process used to create DeNiro's more youthful Sheeran from footage and data captured from the three cameras. "Once I got the take, I brought the footage from the three cameras here to ILM," Helman says. "We also had the data gathered on set: HDRIs for light and density, and Lidar data to know where all the lights were. The footage went through layout to solve the camera [determine the camera view], and we did matchimation for the bodies and heads. All that data — the layout, roto, HDRI, Lidar — went into Flux with information from the three cameras. The software made a cocktail of it. Flux figures out where the actor is in 3D space and derives geome- try from the three cameras to create a digital double of the actor." Flux produces an albedo model showing a repre- sentation of light and textures and a plastic shad- ed render. The software then compares its digital double to a model built of the actor and deforms Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa Robert DeNiro's character ranged from 20 to 80 years of age.

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