WARNING: Spoilers for Logan inside. Obviously.
In the third season of Bojack Horseman, the show riffs on the concept that eventually actors will be replaced entirely by CGI creations. While that is a worst-case scenario, the real world has been dipping their toes into digitizing actors for a some time. From de-aging Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War to raising Peter Cushing from the dead to once again play Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, merging an actor with special effects is becoming more commonplace. But — as with all effects — only the physically impossible or ungodly awful ones stand out. There’s barely a film created these days that isn’t augmented in post-production, but the process has become so seamless that most audiences never notice.
Case in point: The work done by Vancouver studio Image Engine on director James Mangold’s Logan. Cartoon Brew recently sat down with Image Engine’s VFX supervisor Chas Jarrett to talk about how they blended reality with digital doubles to bring the violent world Logan (Hugh Jackman) inhabits to life. You might think the conversation would revolve around having Jackman on screen at the same time as his younger self, X-24, but it turns out there were more CGI actors in Logan than first meets the eye.
Jarrett discusses the step-by-step process of feeding both Jackman and Dafne Keen — who plays the young Laura — into the computer, all the way through the final renders that required solving the age-old problem of digitally dead eyes. Humans are very apt at picking up on the Uncanny Valley when looking into the eyes of GCI actors, one of the last stumbling blocks to computerized realism in film. Image Engine had to create new software just to get the way human eyes reflect light just right. The result was the ability to digitally add the faces of the actors to their stunt doubles in a way so flawless that even now, seeing side-by-side stills of before and after the stunt actors were overwritten, it’s difficult to discern the final composites are CGI.
If you want to know more, head over to Cartoon Brew to read the entire interview.