Bringing someone back from the past is not an easy task as, unfortunately, people age in the real world. Rachael returns in Blade Runner 2049 looking as she did in the original movie in 1982, over 30 years ago. Obviously the actress does not look the same as she did, otherwise we would all want her skin care routine immediately! Rachael is the latest high-profile ‘digital double’, which means that a CG-enhanced version of the actress from the previous film was brought into the modern production of the current film. Let’s see how this ‘digital double’ was created, step by step.
VFX house MPC had to do some modelling, texturing and animation to get the ‘digital double’ perfect. First, MPC had to scan in the actress’s head which may have aged over the 30 years, but her bone structure has remained the same, which gave the MPC modellers an accurate skull to be able to work on. To be able to get similar textures on the head, the modellers and artists had to reference frames from the original Blade Runner in 1982 which proved to be tricky.
MPC recreated scenes from the original Blade Runner to test the ‘digital double’ which helped the modellers spot the differences and make the head as accurate as possible. The ‘digital double’ succeeded which meant time to film the scenes that the head would be used in. A body double was used to act out the scenes with Harrison Ford, Jared Leto and Sylvia Hoeks where multiple cameras captured footage and lighting from a variety of different angles. But it didn’t stop there. The stuntwomen and the original actress had to recreate each scene using Dimensional Imaging’s DI4D capture rig and FACS capture kit to get the facial poses and expressions as accurate as possible.
Finally, in Blade Runner 2049 Rachael was actually the hand-animated ‘digital double’ as it gave animators more flexibility and the director more control. To see the step by step creation of how Rachael was created, see the video below.
Bennett, Neil. “How MPC Recreated Rachael for BAFTA & Oscar-Nominated Blade Runner 2049.” Digital Arts, IDG UK, 9 Jan. 2018, www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/news/motion-graphics/how-mpc-recreated-rachael-for-bafta-oscar-nominated-blade-runner-2049/#1.