Drastically gaining or losing body weight for a coveted film role has been the ultimate challenge for method actors.
Robert De Niro piled on the pounds for his Oscar-winning role in Raging Bull, and Christian Bale starved himself to the point of emaciation for The Machinist.
But such extreme bodily transformations may now be a thing of the past.
A new kind of image manipulation software is under development that promises to allow filmmakers to alter the appearance of their actors without resorting to time-consuming frame-by-frame digital touch-ups.
What has until now taken either the most dedicated of actors, or a painstakingly slow process of computer editing, can be done in a relatively short period of time. The new software, called MovieReShape, has been developed by Christian Theobalt and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, Germany.
The researchers generated 3D scans of 120 men and women of varying shapes and sizes all in various poses. They then fed these scans into a computer, merging them together to create a single model that can be morphed into any desired pose. Programmers can then use existing software to track an actor’s silhouette throughout a sequence of frames, and then map the silhouette onto the 3-D model. The software can be manipulated to simultaneously adjust an actor’s height, weight and muscle tone – even bust size, without having to resort to the painfully slow process of digital touch-ups, one frame at a time.
Can it transform Rosie O’Donnell into Christina Hendricks on film? Not quite but I’m sure there will soon be an app for even that.