When fans went to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, many were surprised - some downright shocked, some maybe a bit put off - to see Grand Moff Tarkin up on their screen, looking like actor Peter Cushing - now deceased - hadn't aged a day since 1977. That was thanks to the visual effects wizardry of Industrial Light and Magic, actor Guy Henry, and the Cushing family estate.
Now the secrets of that effect will be revealed on a special episode of ABC's Nightline airing tonight, January 4, 2017. The process is broken down into three primary steps in the teaser video for the episode.
The video starts with original photography of Henry, acting in full costume with some special motion capture headgear on; that's so when they use his voice and cadence with the digital face of Cushing, they match up perfectly. From there, ILM digitally removed the head gear, as well as Henry's hair, creating a digital version of his face. From there it's the morphing into a digital Peter Cushing, who delivers the final performance on screen.
It's a revolutionary technology, and one that had fans split. Some thought it worked perfectly, or at least well enough that they hardly (if at all) noticed there was a digital actor on screen. Some were more sensitive to it and got pulled out of the film. Still, it at least demonstrates where things are going and ILM's technical prowess continues to improve. When visiting and touring the ILM facilities, they told Comicbook.com about more than one technology that didn't exist, "So we invented it," and quite nonchalantly.
Check out the preview above and watch the special episode of Nightline tonight for more on how they did this with Peter Cushing's Tarkin (and also with a young version of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia).
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now. Directed by Gareth Edwards, it's the first of the new standalone features from Lucasfilm and Disney, which take place outside the core "Skywalker Saga" of films noted by an Episode number. Rogue One tells the story of the small band of rebels that were tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star. The story spins directly off the opening crawl from the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In that crawl, it read: "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet."