Computer Graphics World

November / December 2017

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26 cgw n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 7 F E A T U R E uring recent years, the CG industry has overcome many daunting hurdles, but one that still remains is the Uncanny Valley. Indeed, we are inching closer and closer to achiev- ing a computer-generated human that is indistinguishable from a real person. And MPC's work for Blade Runner 2049 gained us even more ground. How ironic it is that Blade Runner 2049 focuses on bioengineered humans made to pass as the real thing, while one of the supposed engineered characters in the movie was not an actress, but indeed a photorealistic digital model. In the 1982 Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a so-called blade runner, an agent who hunts down and terminates replicants, which are androids that look like real human beings. In the course of his mission, he meets Rachael (Sean Young), a replicant who evokes human emotion, blurring the line between what's human and what's not. Blade Runner 2049 picks up the story 30 years in the future, where bioengi- neered replicants have been integrated into society as servants and slaves. A replicant named K is hired as a blade runner, an agent who now hunts down and terminates rogue replicants. During his pursuit, he finds the remains of Ra- chael, who appears to have died during an emergency C-section, indicating that replicants are capable of giving birth. K must now hunt down the replicant child, fathered by Deckard. In this sequel, Ford reprises his role, but a CG human takes Young's place. In the film, archival footage and stills of Young from the original Blade Runner are used to represent Rachael. Additionally, Young's likeness was digitally superimposed onto a stand-in, to briefly portray Rachael in Deckard's hallucination. It is also used to portray a replicant that is physically iden- tical to the original version of Rachael with the exception of eye color. The Digital Process Replicating Rachael for Blade Runner 2049 was both a technical and creative challenge for the team at MPC, led by VFX Supervisor Richard Clegg, who worked closely with Director Denis Villeneuve and Production VFX Supervisor John Nelson. One of the major challenges was how to approach the CG sculpt of Rachael's head. Blade Runner was filmed more than 30 years ago, and actress Sean Young was younger at the time, with different features. MPC's team started off with a detailed present-day scan of Sean Young's head, captured on the ICT Light Stage. This scan was used as a reference for MPC's artists to hand model an anatomically accurate 3D skull. Because the skull is something that changes very little over time, it was a good foundation for MPC to build its 20-year-old digital Rachael from. The digital sculpt gave the team a clear idea of the proportions of her head, including the bridge of her nose, cheekbones, and jawline. Aer the CG skull was accurately re-cre- ated, it was lined up against scenes from the original 1982 movie. The available footage of Rachael wasn't always ideal due to the dark and contrast lighting, with a shallow depth of field that regularly put her in so focus. As a result, a great deal of guesswork was required. MPC's 3D modeling artists then spent many hours sculpting the rest of the head over these images until they had created an identical match. D Digital DNA How MPC is leading the race to digital humans with a photoreal character for Blade Runner 2049

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