The Art of Dig­i­tal Make-up

MPC, Mr X Inc, Out­post VFX and Mastersfx on their make-up mas­tery

3D Artist - - CONTENTS -

Our idea was that ev­ery­thing added onto Kuze could be prac­ti­cal and we would use CG when we had to sub­tract vol­ume to his body

Be­fore the ad­vent of dig­i­tal vis­ual ef­fects, prac­ti­cal make-up ef­fects were al­most the only method avail­able to bring a fan­tas­ti­cal crea­ture to the screen, or to age and de-age ac­tors. Now, of course, mon­sters, hy­brid­hu­mans and a whole cast of char­ac­ters can be achieved com­pletely with com­puter graph­ics.

But a grow­ing trend has been to ac­tu­ally com­bine prac­ti­cal and dig­i­tal make-up, of­ten aug­ment­ing an ex­ist­ing make-up ap­pli­ance or even re­mov­ing part of a char­ac­ter’s face, to craft even more com­pelling char­ac­ters. Some­times this is done to pre­serve the essence of the orig­i­nal ac­tor, some­times it’s for aes­thetic rea­sons, and some­times it’s sim­ply down to lo­gis­tics. 3d artist asked sev­eral vis­ual ef­fects stu­dios, in­clud­ing MPC, Mr. X Inc, Out­post VFX and Mastersfx how they’ve each been han­dling dig­i­tal make-up ef­fects on re­cent pro­duc­tions.

mpc masters The art of dig­i­tal make-up

A slew of re­cent films – Ghost In The Shell, The Mummy and Pi­rates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – show­cased vis­ual ef­fects stu­dio MPC’S ap­proach to the art and craft of dig­i­tal make-up work.

Each film, in gen­eral, fea­tured ac­tors with at least par­tial prac­ti­cal make-up and pros­thet­ics that were then aug­mented in some way.

For Kuze (Michael Pitt) in Ghost In The Shell, MPC worked to add ro­botic and dam­age el­e­ments to the char­ac­ter’s face. “Our idea was that ev­ery­thing added onto Kuze could be prac­ti­cal and we would use CG when we had to sub­tract vol­ume to his body,” out­lines MPC vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor Guil­laume Rocheron. “For the face, we used pros­thet­ics to cre­ate the cheek plates and used track­ing mark­ers to add the panel lines in­den­ta­tion in CG. The de­sign of

Kuze changed as we were in post and we ended up re­plac­ing his body and most of his face in CG to give him a lot more neg­a­tive space than orig­i­nally an­tic­i­pated, but the pros­thet­ics and ap­pli­ances re­ally helped Michael to por­tray the phys­i­cal stiff­ness of his dam­aged ro­botic body.”

The Kuze work high­lights the im­por­tance of be­ing able to metic­u­lously track the ex­ist­ing live-ac­tion per­for­mance when any dig­i­tal make-up is go­ing to be added. It’s some­thing MPC also had to do for The Mummy, in which Sofia Boutella played ti­tle char­ac­ter Ah­manet. The track­ing of her on-set per­for­mance to add in mummy-like wounds and mark­ings was aided by the use of Nuke’s Smart Vec­tor toolset.

“This en­abled us to gen­er­ate bet­ter vec­tor data that we could use to drive our ge­om­e­try in Maya though a new MPC in-house cus­tom de­former,” says MPC CG su­per­vi­sor Francesco Pinto. “This al­lowed us to store the 2D screenspace co­or­di­nates into the ver­tices po­si­tion of any de­sired mesh.”

“The first step was match­mov­ing her skull,” adds Pinto, “which in­cluded lock­ing down the bridge of her nose and her eye sock­ets, at the same time vec­tors would be gen­er­ated in Nuke us­ing the orig­i­nal high-res­o­lu­tion plate which some­time re­quired spe­cific colour cor­rec­tion and ad­di­tional mask cre­ation to achieve cleaner re­sults. Once the match­move and the vec­tor were ready for pro­duc­tion, MPC’S techanim team used the Op­ti­calflow de­former in Maya and some artis­tic fixes to trans­fer Sofia’s ex­pres­sive per­for­mance to a match­ing model of the ac­tress’s face, with­out CG aug­men­ta­tion. This would then drive the fi­nal Mummy face rig that gave us con­trol of ad­di­tional sub­tle move­ments such as mus­cle ten­sion/re­lease and skin de­for­ma­tion.”

Like Kuze and Ah­manet, Cap­tain Salazar (played by Javier Bar­dem) in Dead Men Tell No Tales was de­signed with some ‘neg­a­tive space’ in the face in mind, while also fea­tur­ing sig­nif­i­cant scars. It meant MPC had to track the ac­tor’s head – which was made up with prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ances and oc­ca­sion­ally blue screen pieces – and work out which parts of the face would blend with CG.

“To do that,” ex­plains MPC CG su­per­vi­sor Mathieu Asse­mat, “we would very pre­cisely roto-an­i­mate the head, and then the tech an­i­ma­tion team ac­cu­rately 3D tracked the sec­tions of skin where we wanted to blend the orig­i­nal footage and CG.

“The roto-prep de­part­ment then re-built the back­ground when we see it through the hole in his head. It was then down to MPC’S lighters and com­pos­i­tors to nail the light­ing and blend it to the now cleaned plate.”

We would very pre­cisely roto-an­i­mate the head, and then the tech an­i­ma­tion team ac­cu­rately 3D tracked the sec­tions of skin

An ad­di­tional chal­lenge moved from just make-up ef­fects to ‘hair and make-up’, since Salazar’s hair was in­tended to ap­pear as if it was un­der­wa­ter and there­fore float­ing to and fro. MPC artists first con­sid­ered some ref­er­ence, but this proved tricky to source, as Asse­mat de­tails: “Un­der­wa­ter hair moves slowly and floats but also when you are un­der­wa­ter you move slower due to the higher den­sity of the en­vi­ron­ment.

“If you were to move at nor­mal speed, which is what hap­pens in Pi­rates, the hairs get dragged by the mo­tion and we would lose the un­der­wa­ter be­hav­iour that we wanted to re-cre­ate. We used dif­fer­ent sim­u­la­tion tech­niques to achieve the fi­nal re­sult, such as adapt­ing the speed of the char­ac­ter to have the move­ments and re­ac­tions we wanted.

“We even an­i­mated the strands of hairs to drive the sim­u­la­tion.”

We used dif­fer­ent sim­u­la­tion tech­niques to achieve the fi­nal re­sult, such as adapt­ing the speed of the char­ac­ter

shap­ing pros­thet­ics

Well-known mon­ster-maker Guillermo del Toro was al­ways go­ing to look to em­ploy a prac­ti­cal crea­ture suit for his film, The Shape Of Wa­ter. But some­times there are things that even the most ad­vanced pros­thet­ics and an­i­ma­tron­ics can­not do, and where CG can add sub­tle nu­ances to al­ready strong per­for­mances – in this case, Doug Jones in the prac­ti­cal suit for ‘Am­phib­ian Man’, which had been over­seen by de­signer Mike Hill and Legacy Ef­fects’ Shane Ma­han. Mr X Inc was then re­spon­si­ble for the dig­i­tal aug­men­ta­tions.

“We wanted the au­di­ence to ac­cept the crea­ture’s per­for­mance as en­tirely stage­craft, and we went to great pains to dis­guise the

seams be­tween the prac­ti­cal and the CG dif­fer­ently in each shot to reach that goal,” says Mr X vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor Trey Har­rell. “In­ter­est­ingly, what are com­monly re­ferred to as ‘dig­i­tal make-up’ tech­niques weren’t used di­rectly on the crea­ture’s face – they were used to feather the edges of the re­place­ment ar­eas and blend in the prac­ti­cal paint work with the an­i­mated per­for­mance.”

To en­sure that Jones’ orig­i­nal per­for­mance on the set of the film would be re­tained, and that their dig­i­tal work would match to the prac­ti­cal suit, Mr X scanned the ac­tor us­ing a be­spoke 56 DSLR cam­era pho­togram­me­try rig called X-scan. “We cap­tured Doug sev­eral times over the course of the shoot both in and out of cos­tume,” ex­plains Har­rell.

“The hero scans of the crea­ture suit and pros­thetic were used as a guide for our ide­alised hero sculpt and tex­ture pass, while we used Doug’s face out of make-up in a range of FACS poses to guide the crea­ture’s per­for­mance.”

Track­ing was, as ex­pected, a ma­jor part of mak­ing the prac­ti­cal and dig­i­tal work mix. “We

this frame above shows mr X’s an­i­ma­tion play­blast for The Shape Of Wa­ter. Close ap­prox­i­ma­tion to Jones’ and the suit’s di­men­sions were en­abled via an in-house scan­ning rig


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