VFX, CGI Pros Move Forward in Creating Digital Characters, But Still Have a Ways to Go

Blade Runner Rachel

The practitioners of the fine arts of visual effects and CGI have always had a Holy Grail: the creation of digital characters who seem so real that audiences will be fooled into believing they’re being played by real human beings.

But that goal has not yet been reached. People have an innate knowledge of how human faces and bodies move and react. Artists who fail to include in their work even the almost imperceptible qualities of a real person won’t fool anyone.

But progress is being made. Visual effects supervisor Richard Clegg of effects house the Moving Picture Co. — who created a digital Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting his real-world self in 2015’s Terminator Genisys — staged somewhat of a breakthrough with his work on the VFX character Rachel in last year’s Blade Runner 2049.

She was animated to look like actress Sean Young as she appeared in the original “Blade Runner” in 1982. “We might spend all day changing a pixel value by 0.2%,” says Clegg. “A small change to a highlight in the eye makes a huge difference. That’s where you have to get it right.

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