Welcome to the age of digital models and actors. As technology continues to grow we are seeing more, perhaps creepy trends in it’s use. This is especially true when it comes to replicating humans to bring back actors that have passed on or create completely different characters that do not even exist. A recent and very controversial move by Hollywood to reproduce the late actor Paul Walker in the movie Furious 7. Walker was killed in a car accident in 2013. His untimely death took place halfway through the making of Furious 7.
It was Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital was asked to complete the sensitive and arduous task of reanimating Walker for Furious 7, and its cutting-edge work points toward a future where most actors can be re-created seamlessly if needed. While the details and specifics on how they did this remain a secret (The company declined to comment on its specific contributions), the results are clear.. It appears that we are truly entering a time in which models and actors can be reproduced at anytime, dead or alive. This practice is not entirely new however. For years, filmmakers have developed sophisticated techniques for replacing missing actors. Robin Shenfield, CEO of London-headquartered The Mill, which led the Oscar-winning visual effects on 2000’s Gladiator, explains how that film coped when Oliver Reed suffered a fatal heart attack during filming. Footage from outtakes was used to create a digital mask that was added to shots of a body double. “He also had dialogue, so we changed his mouth movement,” says Shenfield.
However unlike techniques of the past the latest technology now allows for a virtual character that is indistinguishable from a real person. And this leads to a lot of questions. In the near future will ‘real’ actors even be needed? Will fashion models, teen models and child models be replaced with digital creations? We have already become accustomed to the unrealistic and near perfect images that can be created and manipulated through Photoshop and it is likely that digital created characters will also share similar qualities. What does this mean for the fashion and entertainment industry?
Another important aspect of a storyline is to truly identify with the character. In order for this to happen the character must be relatable. Could you have genuine feelings for a character if you knew the character was created using high tech digital software? Also how would the families of past actors feel to see their dearly departed loved ones appearing in upcoming blockbuster movies? These are all interesting questions and as our technology continues to progress we will see even more potentially creepy use of digital models and actors.