June 19, 2006

Personality Mapping

Over at Ain't It Cool News there's a video showing how technicians at Rhythm and Hues, a special effects firm, created "new" footage of Marlon Brando from the old Superman movie, so it could show up in the new Superman movie.

I don't particularly care for the Superman films, but what this video (and the comments that follow) brings up is where things are headed. I've long expected the application of the concept of "texture mapping" to be taken to the extreme: "personality mapping" onto CG avatar characters, enabling entirely new episodes of Star Trek, say, with Kirk and Spock and all your favorite characters -- as if they were long-lost original episodes filmed in the 60s!

Think about it: take enough audio samples from the plentiful archival material, as well as facial and body sampling from all the archival footage, and create new characters with superrealism -- not only do they look, walk, behave like the original characters acted by the original stars, but they SPEAK like them too! Entirely new dialogue, entirely new scripts -- all done by enthusiasts on their personal computers.

Imagine mashups of Peter O'Toole playing Lawrence of Arabia, but embedded in a scifi movie about time travel? Or take newsreel footage of John F. Kennedy and create a new JFK movie -- told from JFK's perspective, as if the actor were a clone of JFK! Or take Gandalf and Bilbo out of LOTR and make a FAN version of The Hobbit -- because you just can't wait for Peter Jackson to do it.

Stuff like this is going to happen.

And if you thought "photoshopping" was bad, wait until you see completely realistic footage, including spoken audio, that never existed. The courts are going to have a field day with that sort of "evidence."

Posted by brian at June 19, 2006 08:16 PM


They've been on this track for a little while now (not to this degree, but the same idea). Forrest Gump did a little bit of that.

Posted by: TheJollyLlama875 at June 19, 2006 09:59 PM

The big difference is, soon it won't be just studios -- anyone will be able to make such content, and disseminate it on the Net. Who's gonna stop 'em once it starts?

Posted by: Brian Dear at June 19, 2006 10:34 PM

There's a Connie Willis scifi novel about this called _Remake_. She presents a Hollywood where directors concentrate entirely on remakes with digital actors ("Did you see George Clooney and Audrey Hepburn in Casablanca?"), and the studios spend all their time and money in litigation over the rights to likenesses and characters. I won't spoil the rest, but new actors find interesting routes to acting.

It's a fantastic read. I can loan you a copy if you're interested. (Do you have time to read these days?)

Posted by: Chris at June 21, 2006 08:03 AM

Cool! Must. read. Remake.

Posted by: Brian at June 22, 2006 05:03 PM

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