[Editor's note: Spoilers ahead!]
In an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at Rogue One conducted by ABC's Nightline earlier this week, ILM Chief Creative Officer John Knoll boasted that "Star Wars has always pushed the technological envelope." Many would argue, however, that this methodology hasn't always turned out for the best.
George Lucas' constant tinkering with the original trilogy has inspired the irk of diehard fans across the galaxy who long to see the untouched films they grew up with. Some of the myriad reasons the prequels are so shat upon are the creation of CGI characters like Jar Jar Binks and the abandonment of terrestrial worlds for digital ones. Last month we argued that a return to practical effects would be Disney's saving grace with the franchise (not that they really need one), and while we expected to see a lot of said VFX in Rogue One, there were a couple massive surprises that have left audiences divided in their reactions to say the least.
"Creating aliens and spaceships with CGI is one thing, but making digital humans is one of the hardest things you can do," Digital Character Model Supervisor Paul Giacoppo is quick to point out, and we'd have to agree with him. For most eyes, recognizing a real human being vs. one that has been digitally replicated on a computer should not be a challenging task. In fact, one could say such digital reproductions are glaringly obvious (not that this has deterred studios in the past). So how did Industrial Light & Magic reckon with this seemingly impossible problem? Check out the full behind-the-scenes look below.
Whether you agree with the decision or not, you have to admit that the effort that went into re-creating these characters is pretty impressive. The first step for the team was binge- watching every Tarkin scene from A New Hope repeatedly for reference. They paid very close attention to the smallest details in how he looked, how he moved, even how he smiled.
Underneath the digital Tarkin is a real actor. They first shot this live actor with a head-mounted camera rig to capture solely his head performance. The easiest way to think of the process from there is that the team took that actor's motion, transferred it onto the actor's model, and then put that model onto Tarkin’s likeness. The result is probably the most realistic digital representation of a human being we've seen in cinema to this point.
Were you fooled by the magic? Do you agree with their decision that including these characters were entirely necessary to the story? Write your response to the big reveal in the comments below.