Magazine article Variety

Weta Goes All-In to Double Will Smith

Magazine article Variety

Weta Goes All-In to Double Will Smith

Article excerpt

more human than human - yes, that's a "Blade Runner" reference - yet it sounds like an unattainable standard when it comes to creating believable, photorealistic, digital human characters. But the visual effects team on Ang Lee's "Gemini Man" set its sights on something even more difficult: creating a digital version of young Will Smith that was just as human as the actor, with all the quirks, visual idiosyncrasies and subtleties that make a thespian believable on the big screen.

Adding to the degree of difficulty: Lee decided to shoot the movie in a highframe-rate format - as he did for "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" - a conceit that's less forgiving than other formats for VFX because there's almost no motion blur, which can help hide some of the trickery.

Pulling off the task requires extreme attention to a wide range of variables. "It's what I call a symphony of things that work together to convince us that we're looking at a human," says Bill Westenhofer, the movie's VFX supervisor and an Oscar winner for his contributions to Lee's "The Life of Pi." "It's all the micro-expressions that someone makes when you're talking to them; it's the melanin in the skin and how the light interacts with the skin."

Smith worked on set with an actor named Victor Hugo, playing off him, and the VFX team spent a great deal of time with the footage even before the effects artists and animators came in to do their thing, says Westenhofer. Smith performed both roles, with Weta de-aging the younger character using effects and digital mapping. …

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