Surrogates: Definitely Not More Human Than Human
Surrogates, directed by Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), offers another dystopian sci-fi thriller, in which the line between human and machine becomes blurred. In this film, people live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, and Bruce Willis plays a cop forced to leave his home for the first time in years to investigate the murder of surrogates. Mark Stetson, the overall visual effects supervisor, who worked on the landmark Blade Runner, discusses how they tried to keep it fresh and believable.
"Vfx were really in a supporting role on this and we focused a lot on Bruce Willis' surrogate character and finding his look and making him consistent through the movie, which took a long time," Stetson concedes.
That look was partly driven by the techniques at their disposal. They assigned the work to Synthespian Studios, Jeff Kleiser's company. They scanned a digital double of Willis and Synthespian built a CG model from Eyetronics' scan and original cleanup work. But most of the work was done in 2D in Shake. "There's a lot of matchmoving and roto patching," Stetson continues. "A lot of it was simply to make him look 20 years younger or so. Beyond that, there's a certain level of perfection that we were dancing with. If we had done everything that Jonathan had asked us to do, we would've ended up with something that looks like bad visual effects work. But when you think about it, that look is actually what the movie was asking for. We just couldn't go all the way with it in the visual environment that we're in."
There was some development work during production, according to Stetson, including a challenging shot, but as the movie was cut and seeing it in context, it made them change their minds. There were subtle changes that they were trying to bring to Willis' look.
"We divided his look amongst different portions of the film," Stetson explains. "We dirtied him up a bit for the helicopter crash. It was quite a bit easier to do and so the look evolved through timeline of the film. When he's riding the helicopter, he's a little bit older than after he crashes the helicopter, and then he looks pretty beat up.