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CAPTAIN MARVEL VFX Supervisor Discusses The Digital De-Aging Process


A new trend in big blockbusters is to have the same actor play a younger version of themselves in the past. Before technology allowed such feats, there would just a be a different actor to play a younger version of a character. Lucasfilm took the technology to another level, recreating a deceased actor for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But Marvel does it frequently, for quick flashback scenes.

It happened in Captain America: Civil War with Robert Downey, Jr. Marvel also did to Kurt Russell in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2, and the Ant-Man movies. But in all of those instances, they were quick flashback scenes. For Captain Marvel, they had to do it throughout the entire movie for Samuel L. Jackson, whose Nick Fury circa 1995 was a major supporting role.

The Wrap talked to VFX Supervisor Christopher Townsend, who oversaw the effects for Captain Marvel. He says that the process had to be a bit different this time around. Usually, you film scenes with a younger body double. Then film them again with the older actor, and you can use CGI to merge the two. They did some tests with Lola Visual Effects to see if they could forgo the body double process with Jackson.

“That process works if you’ve got five, eight, maybe 10 shots. But in a movie like this where we’ve got about 500 shots, there was no way from a production point of view we could do that. One of the big gains was Lola coming back to us and saying, ‘we don’t need the body double.’ That was huge for us because it cut down our shooting time by at least half.”

The technology is basically the same as it has been the last 10 years, so the reason they were able to do something different is because of Jackson himself. The 70 year old actor is in incredible shape. He certainly doesn’t look 70, and doesn’t need all that much work to make him look younger. In fact, Townsend sort of points to the fact that it would be easier if Jackson did look 70.

“If we simply just wipe off the wrinkles from someone, that can immediately take 10, 15 years off them. But if you’re working with someone like Sam, who really doesn’t have a whole lot of wrinkles, you really have to rely on physiological changes, changes in structure of musculature, textures of skin, the way the weight hangs on your neck and your jaw, things over time like that we’ve studied for so many years now.”

The process is more involved than some people think. It isn’t just “photoshopping” like a model on a magazine cover that removes all imperfections.

“We don’t want to remove all the imperfections. We don’t want to make them look more perfect than an actual human does. We want to keep all of that pore texture, whiskers, and all of those things that it would be easier for us to just eliminate. It would be far easier for us to just obliterate all the detail on someone’s face. But then you end up with that mannequin, uncanny valley thing that we all try to avoid.”

Whatever his process, it worked. Young Fury was Marvel’s most convincing “Youthening” (a term they use for digital de-aging) yet. Even Clark Gregg’s Coulson, who was done by the same team for the same movie wasn’t as good.

It may never be perfect, but it will be as good as it can be on Jackson, because if you didn’t know by now: He’s a baaaaaad motherf*cker.

Source: The Wrap


Matt Vernier

Lifelong geek who is passionate about movies. I review things on my blog: Find me on Twitter! @MattV525 - Inquiries:

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