Marvel VFX Supervisor Reveals Secrets to De-Aging Characters

Time stops for no man, which when it comes to making movies can be a little bit of a challenge particularly when it comes to the aging process. Sometimes stories call for younger versions of characters, though not so much so that a recast is required. That’s where de-aging technology comes in, but while it may seem like just the application of a few filters is employed to shave off a few years, it turns out that the VFX involved is a bit more complicated than that. According to Digital Domain VFX supervisor Kelly Port, there are actually a lot of different processes involved in digital de-aging – and any number of them can be used, depending on the needs of the project or scene.

“It’s a bunch of different techniques. Some studios have sort of a deep fake type of technique. There’s a lot of proprietary facial tracking that goes into it, and then they essentially just track that one and have to relight it,” Port said during an appearance on Corridor Crew. “It’s also kind of pushing, tucking, and pulling.”

Spider-Man: No Way Home saw Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus get a bit of the de-aging treatment, as the Tom Holland film brought the character back 20 years after his death in 2004’s Spider-Man 2. For Molina, it was 17 years between playing the character, so it required just a little bit of tweaking, something that Port spoke a bit about as well.

“There’s all these characteristics that happen as a human being ages and those are the things that you just basically have to now correct for, and you can overcorrect for it, and they start to look too young or too different,” he said. “And so, we tried to do our best to keep it pretty subtle, but just have it ring more towards what he looked like in the previous film.”

Last April, Molina himself opened up about an early conversation he had with No Way Home director Jon Watts about his character’s de-aging in the film, referencing Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and how that film de-aged Robert De Niro, though it was not entirely seamless.

“He just looked at me and said, ‘Did you see what we did to Bob Downey Jr. and Sam Jackson?'” Molina said, before referencing The Irishman. “They made Robert De Niro’s face younger, but when he was fighting, he looked like an older guy. He looked like an old guy! That’s what worried me about doing it again.”

He added, “I do not have the same physicality that I had 17 years ago. That’s a fact.”

Spider-Man: No Way Home is now available for home purchase. The next Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madnessopens in theaters May 5th.


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