June 30, 2010

After Effects in face replacement for McVeigh doc

Mechanism Digital posted a press release about their use of face replacement in fictionalized "reenactments" (journalism itself can be a contradiction in terms) for an MSNBC documentary on Timothy McVeigh:

"On the set, Peacock shot thousands of high resolution photographs of recreated scenes, visual elements and a stand-in actor depicting McVeigh in action. Mechanism then built a CG 3D model of Timothy McVeigh’s face and replaced every frame of the actor’s face with it.

Mechanism’s unique approach to facial replacement had never been used in documentary filmmaking before which gave the compositor every possible frame of final rendered CGI in advance. In developing and refining this technique, multiple 3D models of McVeigh’s head were pre-rendered every two degrees of rotation on two axes. Two sequences of frames were a combination of 11 expressions and 11 eye positions. The number of images was then doubled by rendering two camera focal lengths to match the lenses used on set; totaling over half a million images and layers. These images were brought into After Effects with Mechanism’s custom expressions allowing the compositing artists to rotate McVeigh’s photo realistic head in real time within the program."

See also Todd Kopriva's Face replacement with mocha from David Torno on tutorials on how Torno did tracking, compositing, and other post-production work for a music video. The cmiVFX training Nuke Facial Replacement Techniques looks interesting too.

Here's a little "making of" for the McVeigh piece (the embed code is buggy, but there's a fullscreen option):

Update: Put Your Face Onto An Inanimate Object at AEtuts by Alexander Dohr shows simple "face replacement" done quickly.

And for an example of a different kind, check out this Spanish man, “Oscar,” the recipient of the first 100 percent face transplant. Previous transplants in France and the United States were only partial, but on the increase due to war wounds.

Update October 2010: Fxguide has info in Twice The Social Network,

"Lola are arguably the world's leaders in human face and body manipulation. In The Social Network Lola completed a hundred or so shots, but a key 20 of those involved delicate face replacement to allow one actor to play two roles - the Winklevoss twins. We spoke in-depth with Lola's VFX supervisor Edson Williams about the technical process."


Unknown said...

Or you could have just used the look-alike actor.

A lot of work without much to look at. Someone knows how to waste a lot of money on unnecessary work.

Rich said...

Maybe they think it makes the story seem more factual; they did a lot of multiplane stuff too.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree. No offense to Mechanism Digital, but it seems like an awful lot of expensive work just to make someone look like McVeigh. And it still looks digital to me. It doesn't look like a real face.

Nick said...

This was kinda of a stupid use of the technology. The Curious Case of Benjiman Button, however, used it flawlessly. I would like to point out that Mechinisim is just a contracted digital arts studio. It was up to the production studio whether or not to use this method. Kudos for the try not really that bad considering the budget they were given to work with was probably a small one.