One of the standout presentations I saw at Collision Conference here in Toronto yesterday was a presentation called "The Rise of the Digital Humans" given by Darren Hendler of Digital Domain. It was described as "Driven by new deep learning techniques realistic digital humans and characters will soon be around us in a wide variety of forms, from virtual assistants to deep fakes. The way we interact with technology and what we believe to be real will never be the same."
Darren started out the presentation with “It’s my job to trick you that an artificial, digital human or character is really real."
He then elaborated on the process needed to bring Thanos from AVENGERS to life.
“When we built Thanos, we needed to understand Josh’s face… we take a whole series of scans of Josh’s face and body, certain regions like his eyes and subtle facial proportions, onto Thanos. If he puppeteers Thanos, it’s that much more believable.”
“Before we can make Thanos’ face move, we have to study Josh Brolin’s face. We put him in a 4-D facial scanner. We scan him doing different dialogues, ranges of motion, a database of all the ways his face can move. When Josh is onset he has his motion capture suit on set, he’s interacting with all the other cast members, and he’s also wearing a motion capture helmet and markers. Using these markers along with a database of how his face moves, now we have a realistic Josh face, which we needed to put on Thanos. So we built a machine learning system that understands Josh’s face movements and anatomy, and we teach the system how to transfer Josh to Thanos’ face. And in the end, it’s almost as if Josh is wearing a digital Thanos mask.”
But, as Darren explained, it's so much more. “This technology is not just digital creatures, it’s digital humans too.” Some examples that Digital Domain has created included the Coachella Hologram of Tupac, or aging Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button.
So what's next?