Whether everyone likes it, big properties like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe aren’t afraid to use technology to de-age actors for flashback scenes and prequels. So it makes sense that Disney Research Studios has a team working on better processes. The newest breakthrough can digitally re-age faces to be either younger or older. It works in various lighting conditions and when the actor isn’t facing directly at the camera, whereas previous versions glitch out under those circumstances. It’s also production ready, so we could start seeing this better version of re-aging technology soon.
Similar to the system used in The Irishman, which Netflix and ILM developed, this system doesn’t require an actor’s face to be covered in tracking dots. It also doesn’t require visual effects artists to spend weeks erasing (or adding) wrinkles in every frame. The video above shows off the simple interface, where all you have to do is enter the actor’s age and how old you want them to look.
The research paper, which we first learned about on Gizmodo, introduces FRAN, which stands for Face Re-Aging Network. The peer-reviewed journal ACM Transactions on Graphics published the study. More insights about Disney Research’s behind the scenes tech is available on the YouTube channel. The facial recognition and modeling videos that show the leaps forward in animation and machine learning are particularly cool.
Recent Star Wars shows also use voice de-aging technology. Artificial intelligence program Respeecher made Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian sound like Mark Hamill in the original trilogy. James Earl Jones recently retired, but his iconic Darth Vader performance lives on using the same AI in Obi-Wan Kenobi and future Star Wars properties.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.