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David Beckham Aged Without Scans in ‘Malaria Must Die – So Millions Can Live’ PSA

Digital Domain added decades to the soccer star’s face without producing any geometry using their non-invasive face-swapping technology, Charlatan.

Digital Domain reveals how they added decades to soccer star David Beckham’s face for the new Malaria Must Die – So Millions Can Live short, produced by RSA Films Amsterdam. Using a combination of traditional VFX techniques and its proprietary face-swapping technology, “Charlatan,” Digital Domain was able to take Beckham deep into the future without a 3D scan.

This technique represents a new way to do age blending. In this case, Charlatan blended the performance footage of Beckham and an older stand-in using machine learning. This let the artists dial in different attributes like laugh lines, wrinkles, etc. without creating a 3D scan or producing any geometry. It also reduced the creation time from months to weeks, opening a new way to achieve photorealistic digital doubles. Because the technology is non-invasive, the system could be completely trained through principal photography, allowing Beckham to film his scenes without an intensive data capture shoot.

Check out behind-the-scenes look at this project, including a discussion between David Beckham and Digital Domain:

In the short, an older Beckham is making a speech on the day malaria has ended, sending a message of hope from years down the line. As he speaks, the years fall away, leaving the Beckham of today to make this final plea – a malaria-free future is possible in our lifetimes, but only if we keep up the fight.

“As an artist, what you are really looking for is control,” commented Digital Domain VFX supervisor Dan Bartolucci. “Details matter when it comes to faces, especially when your subject is known all over the world. It became clear that blending attributes from an older face was going to give our team the nuances they needed. To facilitate this, we looked to Digital Domain’s in-house R&D team, Digital Humans Group, who have a long history of creating tools that push the boundaries of facial realism. They came through yet again, inventing a process that is the perfect blend of technology and artistry.”

With a high-res base to work from, artists began applying a human touch to the face, defining key parts of the aging process with the help of traditional techniques, like matte painting and compositing. As aging cues are highly subjective, artists needed full rein over the hair, skin, and beard to create a believable transformation. Unlike most methods, though, the team did not have to create a single bit of 3D geometry to do it, helping them turn out a final asset in under eight weeks.

“We all knew this was an ambitious project,” added Ridley Scott Creative Group managing director Ross Plummer. “Nailing the inimitable detail for David Beckham’s older look was critical. What Digital Domain has created is world class and captivating. We needed that ‘wow’ factor to break through the noise.”

This film marks the next phase of the “Malaria Must Die” campaign to drive global awareness around the iconic mission of ending the world’s oldest and deadliest disease. The campaign has already received worldwide attention and reached over two billion people with previous campaigns featuring Beckham, using video synthesis technology to speak nine languages and a glass box surrounded by thousands of mosquitoes. 

“I’ve worked with ‘Malaria No More UK’ for over a decade and their campaigns always use great innovation and creativity to attract attention to the issue of this disease,” explained Malaria No More UK Council founding member Beckham. “It was really interesting working with the teams at Digital Domain and Ridley Scott Creative Group, using tech in a meaningful way to highlight and raise awareness for such an important cause.”

The global coalition campaign is asking everyone to share the film on social media to persuade leaders to remain committed to delivering a safer, malaria-free world.

“In visual effects, we often get to create remarkable, memorable images, but we rarely get to apply our craft to such a noteworthy cause,” noted John Fragomeni, global VFX president at Digital Domain. “We feel honored we were able to contribute to this project and help advance a story that needs to be told.”

“This year’s message needed to cut through more than ever, as we face the prospect of losing so much hard-won progress in the fight against malaria,” remarked Kate Wills, global communications & partnerships, Malaria No More UK. “’The Malaria Must Die’ campaign has a tradition of blending world-leading technology with iconic storytelling. Bringing together the creative talent of Ridley Scott Creative Group and Digital Domain, we hope we will help save millions of lives and deliver a message of hope, reminding the world of what we are capable of achieving when we unite to fight diseases.”

Source: Digital Domain