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‘Button’ VFX Made Impossible Possible

Digital Domain

up to challenge of ‘Curious Case.’

Even more than most vfx-heavy movies,

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

required a series of “Eureka!” moments.

started Benjamin Button in the mid-’90s with Ron Howard, but back
then we considered it impossible,” says Digital Domain’s Ed Ulbrich, who was vfx executive producer on the picture. “The technology was like science fiction.”

they got to work on the picture for real about four years ago, Digital
Domain’s vfx team discovered there were no off-the-shelf technologies
that could do what they needed. Only a series of improvisations and
discoveries let them cobble together a pipeline that somehow made it
all work.

A key creative challenge, says Ulbrich, was “When the
star of the movie is going to be a global, iconic actor, and you’re
telling the story of the character’s life, it’s really disruptive to
the story handing off to a series of different actors.” So it would be
up to the visual effects team to turn the star into a wizened young boy
who’d youthen through the picture.

In 2004, after the project returned to DD with David Fincher
attached as director, they were able to do a test that satisfied Warner
Bros. and Paramount, but the process showed DD something ominous,
Ulbrich says: Existing performance-capture systems weren’t up to what
they needed. They could capture an actor’s facial movements, but not a
close likeness.

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