See How Industrial Light & Magic Made Harrison Ford 40 Years Younger

The real magic behind Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Image credit: Lucasfilm

The Indiana Jones movies have been around for over 40 years, and all this time we've had Harrison Ford to thank for the adventures. Naturally, the actor isn't getting younger, and to bring him from 80 to 42 in the latest Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny was not an easy task, but the VFX artists from Industrial Light & Magic did it extremely well.

In an interview with befores & afters, the studio's visual effects supervisor Robert Weaver shared how they de-aged the famous adventurer using a suite of tools called ILM FaceSwap.

"ILM FaceSwap can constitute anything from traditionally shooting a separate plate and then tracking and putting that in, down to fully replacing the face with a CG asset," said Weaver.

Ford acted with tracking dots on his face, which aided in capturing his expressions using ILM's proprietary Flux system "comprised of a couple of infrared cameras that ride on either side of the main camera." The team also had witness cameras to help reconstruct the scenes. After, they moved on to rigid tracking.

Next in the process was building a CG copy of Ford's head using Medusa, ILM and DisneyResearch|Studios' proprietary facial capture system containing a mobile rig of cameras, lights, and software that can reconstruct the face in full motion.

"It involved going through all the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) for facial expressions to hit all the main expressions," said Weaver. "We built a library with those main expressions and then that material is used as a base to build off of by our ILM artists."

The studio had a scan of Ford's face from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but it had to be adjusted to bring the character to the right age. Then, the FACS shapes were applied to the younger version of the actor as well. So ILM solved the shot with the present-day version first and then put in the younger version and worked on it.

Then there was some machine learning magic, which looked through past Harrison Ford performances:

“We would find frames from past Indiana Jones movies and match the orientation of the current shot,” shared Weaver. “It gives us a good target reference to understand how Harrison looked back in the 80s, frame by frame, with various expressions.”

The team made low-res renders of the performances and "delivered them with a bounding box around them," helping ILM make "more informed decisions." Machine learning "alleviates some of the more painful steps of having to iterate to capture the nuances of the performance," according to Weaver, but it doesn't just magically solve all problems, so the studio had to do various blends between different performances and different techniques to achieve the final result.

Image credit: Lucasfilm

Ford's face was not the only one to "feel" the de-aging heat. ILM has to work on his hands, too, making them less veiny, along with other body parts, although the actor is fit, as Weaver mentioned, so it was less time-consuming than it could have been.

While technology had an impact on the result, the supervisors also noted that Ford himself was a huge part of the success with his convincing portrayal of his own younger self. He brought the right posture and attitude to the set, which made the work much easier.

"We were fortunate to have Harrison driving the performance because he gives the performance that you want. It was also perfect reference for our artists, to know you have a ‘feeling’ that’s evoked from watching this right now when we make him 42 years old. You’ve got to feel that same thing without question."

Learn all about it in the original article by befores & afters and join our 80 Level Talent platform and our Telegram channel, follow us on InstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn, where we share breakdowns, the latest news, awesome artworks, and more.

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Comments 1

  • Anonymous user

    It was a definite improvement on star wars rouge one with Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher.


    Anonymous user

    ·3 months ago·

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