*Warning: This article contains significant spoilers for Logan.*
The advancement of special effects in cinema has burst open creativity, allowing filmmakers to transfer almost any idea from the mind's eye to the big screen. As the technology used to create computer generated awesomeness improves on a daily basis, so does the range of uses such effects can have.
In many ways, we're now entering another era of CGI; now audiences are no longer awestruck by larger than life monsters or death defying stunts, the next stage is to create computer generated imagery so lifelike that it can go unnoticed. Take Logan, for example. The biggest compliment you could pay Imagine Engine, the Vancouver based VFX company, is that their work on the film was so incredibly detailed, the naked eye can barely detect it.
Most people who enjoyed the ultra-violent gore-fest of #HughJackman's last appearance as #Wolverine were probably completely oblivious to what was real and what wasn't. Using the latest technology — built "from scratch" to meet the requirements of the film — both Jackman and #X23's Dafne Keen had, in true #XMen style, complete digital clones of themselves.
Raising the stakes of authenticity, unlike Rogue One — which received a lot of attention for creating a full, walking, talking CGI Grand Moff Tarkin and young Princess Leia — the digital doubles of Wolverine and X-23 in Logan caused an even different challenge by being used side-by-side with the live-action actors.
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How CGI Enabled Wolverine's And X-24's Bloody Battle
It's one of the most chilling and brutal moments from a superhero film, period. While in the cosy residence of a local farmer and his family, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is brutally murdered by Wolverine. But this isn't the aged, scarred and weary Logan; it's a rebooted, energised and all-out lethally destructive clone, X-24, who also slays the innocent family.
What better way to highlight the vulnerability of Wolverine than to have him battle a younger version of himself, Wolverine at his peak, bred for evil. This raises challenges on the CGI front, where both a digital Jackman and CGI Jackman duel. In order to prepare for the fight, an animated construction of the scene was made, to allow Imagine Engine to analyse and depict when the CGI replicas would be required.
At the beginning of the scene, Jackman plays #Logan, who is stood at the bottom of a staircase. His formidable opponent is replaced by a stunt double, who fills in for the role of X-24. After the scenes are filmed, Jackman's digital (and de-aged) head are added to the stuntman's body.
Both Keen and Jackman (who shaved his hair and mutton chops for clearer results) had their heads scanned at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, while performing a range of facial motions. Those raw photographs were then picked up by the effects studio, who recreated a digital version of the head, ready to be copy and pasted into the film (that's how the technology works, right?).
This same technique was used to knock the years off of Jackman, much in the manner of Tony Stark in Captain America Civil War. Imagine Engine's compositing supervisor Daniel Elophe told Cartoon Brew:
"We used it also for the X-24 de-ageing work. We would smooth out the skin, remove all the wrinkles and complexion stuff, and then we would actually take the model of Hugh’s head which had all the pore details and basically multiply it back into his face to get all that detail back."
The Subtle Use Of CGI For X-23 And Wolverine
Not all of the CGI was used for such obvious challenges, though. Understandably, Keen, who was only 12-years-old when filming was taking place, was replaced by a trained stunt double for some of the high-velocity fight scenes. Rather than find ways to obscure the double's face, the entire scenes were shot as they'd be seen in the final cut, with Keen's digital replica added on to the stunt double's body in post-production.
As well as his battle with X-23, there were also more subtle scenes where Jackman digitally replaced a stunt double, such as the scene where Wolverine is attempting to flee the Transigen henchmen, after they discover his remote hiding place.
Even the more low-key scenes took a lot of careful crafting to bring to life. Once the head was replaced, it was a case of making sure the lighting was realistic, the eyes looked alive and vibrant, and the motion didn't seem robotic. Image Engine visual effects supervisor Martyn Culpitt said of the challenge:
"When you go in between the poses, sometimes from different camera angles, it just didn’t look like Hugh or Dafne. So we were literally changing, sculpting, and adjusting animation to make it look like him on every shot."
While the CGI grandiose is impressive and scary in equal measure — with ethical concerns digitally resurrecting actors following Peter Cushing's digital image in Rogue One — Image Engine's subtle work in Logan shows the ever-increasing application of digital counterparts. Much like AI robots in Westworld, the most impressive CGI is that which is so authentic, it goes unnoticed.
Did you notice the CGI additions to Logan?
(Source: Cartoon Brew)