Technology and film have an uneasy partnership. Sometimes it works (Sin City, Renaissance), sometimes, not so much (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Polar Express). Since the beginning of the CGI revolution, critics have heralded the end of the flesh-and-blood-actor (those creepy commercials with Fred Astaire and the vacuum cleaner didn't help either), but there has always been one major roadblock. The people just didn't seem like real people -- in the words of Gertrude Stein "There's no there, there".

IMAGE Metrics, a British company started by three post-doctoral students from the University of Manchester who were initially researching image analysis for medical applications, may have finally cracked it. The company has developed software that can map a complex image onto any model. What was originally designed for spinal x-rays is being used to create a virtual Jack Bauer for 24 - The Game. The applications are endless, and the industry is buzzing. With IMAGE Metrics' software you can map any actor's performance onto well, anything. Even the most advanced animation can still require the animating of individual elements (eyes, mouth, etc.), but IMAGE Metrics gets the computer to mathematically map the whole image and transfer it anywhere. The effect is impressive, and it's only the beginning.

Right now, this technology is being shopped around Hollywood -- bizarre pairings of Bette Davis and Orlando Bloom dancing in studio executives' heads. The hope is to integrate the technology into not only animated films, but live-action as well. The first real test will be Foodfight! (2007), starring Charlie Sheen and Hillary Duff. But until it moves from animated vegetables to "real" people, it might be a little early to start burning SAG cards in the streets. I will leave you with one unsettling vision of our movie-going future though: "If we want John Wayne to act alongside Angelina Jolie, we can do that."

John Wayne and Angelina? You see what I mean now about an uneasy partnership? Still, it could be interesting. What long-gone stars would you like to see brought back to life using this technology?

(a thanks to Eugene for the tip!)

[via The New York Times]
categories Movies, Cinematical