Last weekend, my wife and I went to see “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button“, the movie that received the highest number of Oscar nominations this year. Frankly, I wasn’t too thrilled about the movie itself, although it was obviously done very well from a technical standpoint (which is what you would expect from a David Fincher movie).
However, when I later read more about the digital special effects that were used in that movie, I was simply amazed. Since I’m pretty interested in movie technology myself, I can usually spot digital effects. They still tend to look artificial in most cases, particularly when humans are generated digitally.
I therefore was very surprised to find out that the “old” Benjamin Button in the first part of the movie was not played by Brad Pitt under a lot of make-up, but was actually generated digitally. I did not suspect that for a single second during the movie. Some scenes that played at sea very obviously used digital backgrounds, but I never recognized the actual main character as a digital object.
The clip on this page here explains how this was done. Amazing technology!
The scary thing about this is not only that apparently technology has advanced so far that entirely artifical actors seem possible. It’s also that even relative experts don’t recognize these effects as the illusions that they are. And I don’t mean myself, but the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures that will soon vote about who will receive the Oscars. Actually, “Benjamin Button” might be in danger to embarassingly win an Oscar for make-up, but maybe not for special effects, because even people in the movie business don’t recognize this as a digital effect. The movie studios behind “Benjamin Button” have therefore produced a closed website for Academy members that explains everything, in the hope to get the nod in the right category.
And they clearly should receive the SFX Oscar. This is really a breakthrough.