The Secrets Behind Hollywood’s Digital De-Aging

Getting old is unavoidable, it’s happening to all of us right now and there is nothing we can do about it. Plenty of actors will do their best to fight it off with botox; but they’re fighting a losing battle. It will all catch up with them eventually; it’s only natural. But Hollywood film buffs aren’t going to let a silly thing like nature stand in the way of their cinematic ideas.

Enter digital de-aging. The process of using CGI to make a person appear much younger than their years.

It’s something that has slowly been creeping it’s way onto the scene over the years. We firstly really saw it used in X-Men: The Last Stand back in 2006, but not everyone was convinved. Arguably, the first time it really blew people away was in the 2015 Marvel film; Antman. In this we see a flashback of a fresh-faced Michael Douglas angrily resigning from S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s now spreading out to other films and becoming a much more commonly used tool.

There’s also news that it will be used in an upcoming Netflix film called The Irishman. Where Martin Scorsese plans to bring back the youthful looks of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

“Hollywood isn’t letting a silly thing like nature get in the way of great films.”

But how is this actually done? Well according to Trent Claus of Lola VFX (who handled Douglas’ de-aging in Antman) says that the actual tools haven’t changed, it’s more that the artists are getting more experienced in doing it.

Lola VFX also did the digital de-aging for films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and also put Chris Evan’s head on a small, skinny body in Captain America: The First Avenger”.

They were brought in early doors to give their insight and expertise on how to make Michael Douglas look 30 years younger. The most important thing they said was to ensure that no anti-aging makeup was used on the actor because it changes the way the light affects the face.

Trent Claus also stated that this was a particularly challenging job because the audience already knew what Michael Douglas would have looked like in his 40s. So the VFX team watched a whole load of old Michael Douglas films to match his appearance as much as possible.

Claus stated that “what’s really important is the way his face moves as he speaks. The way the muscles in the face have changed over time, the way the skin reacts to those muscles. To sell the effect you have to look at the way the face looks in motion.”

The VFX team also gave Michael Douglas a digital facelift, which helped to remove any sagging skin, whilst also shrinking his nose and ears.

It’s a really astonishing effect and is something that will only get better and more realistic over time. Who knows, perhaps in 10 years time it could be something that will make its way into the corporate video scene. We’re sure plenty of CEO’s would be up for shaving a few years off their appearance!

Article Topics:
Film Production / Video Tech