Some of you might remember the good old times ten or twenty years ago. Those were the times when all kinds of special effects in movies were so obvious you were able to count them without problems.

Well, times surely have changed.

Before I show you the proof of this remark, I present you a funny little game: try to find the effects in the following two images from the movie THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. Ready? Go:

button_3a

button_2a

Did you find it?

Are you sure?

In case you thought it’s the hat or the glasses here is the solution, shown by the original live-action footage:

button_3b

button_2b

If someone would have told me that the head of a main character in the first 58 minutes of a big budget movie is digital I wouldn’t have believed him. (And just in case you know it: although I am by far no pro, I have had my fun in the field of 3D modeling and animation, as you can see in the works section of this site.). Regarding from the ones I’ve read it seems that by far most of the critics didn’t catch this fact either.

As you surely have witnessed in many past movies, generating a purely digital 3D human head is one of the most challenging things you can do in 3D. And the danger of ending up in the so called “Uncanny Valley”, where faces simply look strange or creepy (see POLAR EXPRESS), is as high as the Mount Everest. That’s because we see faces all the time, so we know exactly how a face moves and looks. Even the slightest departure from the norm is noticed.

So, kudos to the effects team which realized this stunning work (more about the process in this article).

What do you think? How many years will it take until the first dead actor will be revived again in a movie or we will be able to create our own “live-action” movies on our standard PC? For the first, I’d say five years, perhaps sooner. For the second my guess is twenty-five years, based on the way CG effects have evolved since their big debut in TRON (1982).

Well, what else can I say? We’re not in the past anymore, Elaine. This… is the FUTURE.

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