ByOlivia van der Will, writer at

When actors are cast as drastically older or younger characters in movies there is an incredible method in put in place to make it believable. The astonishing age change is not just created by coating the actors in copious amounts of makeup and prosthetics but is achieved through Digital Cosmetics.

Join me now on a journey through some of the most incredible age swaps from the movies!

This video shows how Digital Cosmetics work!

This is so freaky yet so cool all at the same time. This video does get me wondering how much of what we see is actually real. Amazing work by Rousselos Aravantinos.

Let's take a look at some awesome onscreen moments:

During American Horror Story: Asylum, the stunning actress Jessica Lange had to look heaps younger for a scene. Of course the digital department was on hand to take her back in time.



One of the most memorable make-overs for me has got to be from X-Men: The Last Stand

In X-men the team took digitalized makeup to a whole new extreme and went further than anyone had dared to go before. The movie kicks off with a digitally de-aged Charles (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Sir Ian Mckellen).



Some more digital goodness:



Fx guide revealed how it was done:

These anti-aging shots are not achieved by the use of custom software or sparks, rather the team at Lola relied on standard inferno and flame software. The team cleverly uses a huge combination of discreet tools such as extended bicubic patches meticulously tracked in a technique the team calls "digital skin grafts." But every trick in the book is used, from advanced color correct to 3D tracking inside action.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

It may amaze you to hear that for the first 52 minutes of the film you are not looking at Brad Pitt but a total CGI creation replacing his entire head. Amazingly, this was all created by tracking his facial expressions through something called Mova.

Here is how it works:

The Mova Contour Capture rig is designed to hold 28 cameras in an array around the actor. They are mounted on a speed rail-like structure that surrounds about 150 degrees of the actor. The cameras are all aimed at the actor’s face which is covered with phosphorescent make-up. This allows for frame by frame tracking of patterns and each point can be tracked in 3D space. This is the first system to truly capture someone's face moving in realtime and provide a moving mesh that can be subdivided and rebuilt then retargeted to another mesh to drive a CGI performance.
To capture Brad’s performance we shot him performing the role on a soundstage with four HD cameras and used image analysis technology to get animation curves and timings that drove our proprietary deformation rig. - DD VFX Supervisor Eric Barba

How much of Benjamin Button is "real"?

Eric Barba, the meticulous Visual Effects supervisor behind Benjamin Button, explains:

"The baby was a mixture of a live action robotic maquette which was enhanced by Hydraulx I believe. But for the first 52 minutes of the film it’s a full 3D head, there were 325 individual shots. There's no projection, there's no 2D techniques. Once our work stops about 52 minutes in, Brad takes over in makeup. Ultimately as he gets younger he wears less and less makeup until it’s just Brad. As he gets very young Lola did touchup work on his physical makeup then when he gets back to the Dance Studio Lola takes over doing the younger version of Brad. Ultimately there are a couple of child actors and a baby at the end. The bulk of the work in head replacement happens in the first 52 minutes."
"The first "digital head" shot is the one we did for the test, where there's a long dolly and pan until the audience sees Benjamin sitting at the table banging his spoon. That's the first body actor for Ben in his 80s, as he grows younger we have another body actor take over for him in his 70s, when he goes out on the tugboat with Cap'n Mike and goes to the bar. The bulk of our work is the "Ben 70" character, and "Ben 60" when he leaves home. One of our last shots is when he is reading the letter from Daisy on the back of the tugboat. The line where he tells the Captain, "Well you do drink a lot", that's where the real Brad takes over."

The Digital Artists Working on Ant-Man De-Aged Michael Douglass

Check out Michael Douglass' digital face-lift revealed at the beginning of the film!

Transforming an actor through Digital Makeup is built on extensive research; alongside this, the digital department takes on board both medical advice, cosmetic surgery advice, and visual references. Getting the lighting right is also extremely important to pull this off. This once secretive world is now surprising audiences' as more is revealed about it. The technique is used on everything from post-production to slimming down subjects, to enhancing actors' faces and bodies, making subjects larger, and so much more.

Sources: FX-Guide, Secret Hollywood, FX Benjamin Button


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