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MPC Marks ‘Ghostbusters Day’ With Dr. Spengler VFX Breakdown

Tasked with recreating the late Harold Ramis in ‘Ghost Busters: Afterlife,’ the VFX studio referenced earlier movies, concept art, and libraries of skin maps and photos, to deliver a digital character that was satisfying to both audiences and the actor’s family.

Since 2016, fans have celebrated “Ghostbusters Day” on June 8, the anniversary of the release date of the original 1984 hit film Ghostbusters. So, in the tradition of marking this occasion, Technicolor Creative Studio brand, Moving Picture Company (MPC), has jumped on board to share a VFX breakdown (see below) of its notable contribution to the most recent film in the franchise, Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

Read AWN/VFXWorld's article on how MPC Film Creates S’More Great VFX for ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

MPC Film created an array of VFX for the film that reunited much of the original cast. However, one key actor, Harold Ramis, who played the character of Dr. Egon Spengler passed away in 2010. So, MPC was called upon to respectfully bring Ramis’ character back to the screen by creating a convincing digital likeness.  

The MPC team was led by VFX supervisor Pier Lefebvre and DFX supervisor Sebastien Raets, who collaborated closely with filmmakers on the entirety of the Egon Spengler scenes. To bring Spengler back from the spirit realm, the team began by studying his life's work. MPC Film’s Character Lab built a library of reference material from the 1984 and 1989 Ghostbusters films and was given access to never used digital scans of earlier footage. Using these resources, the art team selected key angles and facial expressions and began to create an accurate likeness.

“The next stage was to explore the aging process to reflect concept art supplied by the filmmakers,” said Raets. “Our texture artists supplemented this with their own library of skin maps and photography of a life model of a similar age.”

“We made selections of key angles and facial expressions and began the process of matching the young actor, focusing on the head structure hairstyle, and facial expressions,” added Sebastien.

Once satisfied with the matching of Egon with the 1984 shots, MPC’s VFX artists moved on to aging the character to match the client’s concept art. The aim was for the audience to recognize the character “Egon” as opposed to a straight recreation of Harold Ramus at this age. To aid in this process, the team was provided with scans and photographs of the double who performed on set, and an actor cast for his features seen in the artwork.

Supplementing these resources, artists turned to MPC's library of skin maps and photography of an appropriately aged life model. The asset team worked closely with the shots team to develop the features most important in achieving a convincing likeness. A nuanced facial model and rig were developed to help animation create a convincing emotional performance. Photoreal hair, skin, and eyes were developed to help lighting and comp assemble the photoreal recreation.

“Respectfully bringing Harold Ramis back to the screen was a project we were honored to take on, and we were humbled and overjoyed with the positive response from the client, the audience, and Harold's family,” added Sebastien.

Check out the breakdown reel:

Source: Technicolor Creative Studio

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.