VOTD: The Evolution of CGI Faces in Movies

CGI Faces in Movies

Visual effects in movies have advanced in a spectacular way in the relatively short history of cinema. What once was thought to be impossible to create in post-production has become a mainstay in blockbuster tentpoles. More recently, visual effects companies have become quite skilled in creating human faces entirely with computer generated imagery, and a new video essay shows us how this part of movie magic has evolved in a small window of time.

Watch the evolution of CGI faces in movies after the jump.

While there have been plenty movies that have used digital doubles, or used visual effects to replace a stunt person’s face with a digital recreation of a performer’s face, this video focuses on visual effects used to bring a human face to life that’s prominently used as a character complete with a performance. That’s why they don’t include Avatar or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or other movies with motion capture performance and visual effects used to bring non-human characters to life.

Instead, the video begins with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the earliest use of extensive visual effects used to create a human face with visual effects and utilize it for performance. Then there’s bringing back young Jeff Bridges in TRON: Legacy, a visual effect that looks amazing in some shots and then like a video game in other shots.

There was an impressive leap in lifelike recreation in Furious 7, though that digital version of Paul Walker didn’t have to do nearly as much as previous CGI creations. Meanwhile, Teminator: Genisys suffers from some of the same video game quality issues as TRON: Legacy, though the double of Arnold Schwarzenegger looks identical to some shots in The Terminator from 1984.

Then we’re brought up to today with footage of the somewhat controversial recreation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Though some fans complained that it looks fake, I maintain that Industrial Light & Magic pulled off something incredible, if only because several people I know (who didn’t know Cushing was dead) had absolutely no idea the character was created with visual effects in the movie.

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