Christian Long

Ed Ulbrich: How Benjamin Button Got his Face

In TED Talks on April 12, 2010 at 9:08 am

Reflection by SHANNON L.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Ed Ulbrich: How Benjamin Button Got his Face

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s imagination could have never imagined how future technology could make his story into a true to life visual presentation. Today’s hard work and technology allowed the creation of a computer generated Benjamin Button. The master’s behind the aged Benjamin Button were Ed Uldrich and his technical team of visual affects artists. Upon acceptance of this challenge Mr. Uldrich and his team quickly determined that they would have to create new technology if they were to succeed in creating a natural behaving character. To do this they reached outside their knowledge of technology to utilize knowledge from other science fields.

One of their main sources was Dr. Paul Ekman who discovered what was known as F.A.C.S. which stands for Facial Acting Coding System. He determined that facial movement was composed of seventy different poses. These seventy poses could be combined to create any facial expression. In other words by combining different poses Uldrich and his team could create a natural movement of a computer generated face. This made it possible to create an image that could be viewed up close and under many different lighting conditions.

By capturing Brad Pitt’s facial expressions the visual affects team was able to make a computer generated face. However now they needed to be able to age his face by about forty years. This was done by bringing in top makeup artists, such as Rick Baker and others to make a maquette of Brad at age sixty, seventy, and eighty. Once these maquettes were made Uldrich’s team scanned each one in to the computer. With this knowledge now captured into the computer they were able to join the different aged heads to a series of real bodies. These bodies belonged to several different actors who portrayed Benjamin at different ages.

Once the body was complete Brad was brought into the studio where he acted out the scenes. His expressions were then transposed into the computer generated images.The result was a fantastic natural looking character, known as Benjamin Button. Through much trial and error Uldrich and his team of technological wizards were able to create a never before seen computer generated head.

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