To Depict the Legendary Quarterback as he Appeared in the 80s, Digital Domain Utilized “Charlatan,” its Face-Swapping Platform Powered by Machine Learning
Nearly 30 years after leaving the air, the classic series Quantum Leap returns with an all-new cast, and all-new adventures. To help promote the return of the series, NBCUniversal commissioned several original trailers highlighting the time travel/body-swapping nature of the story, including one that features Hall of Fame quarterback and 80s icon Joe Montana in his prime. To help de-age the legendary football star, Academy Award-winning VFX studio Digital Domain deployed its proprietary tool “Charlatan,” one of the most advanced visual effects systems on the planet.
“One of Digital Domain’s most powerful advantages is that our technology can be deployed across multiple industries, regardless of the size of the screen or method of distribution,” said Matt Dougan, Digital Domain VFX supervisor for the project. “For Quantum Leap, we were able to utilize the same tools – even the same talented artists – from our features and episodics groups, to create the most impressive results for any platform quickly.”
The spot featuring Montana was created exclusively as a standalone teaser, and begins with the revival’s lead, Raymond Lee, heading toward a football field in San Francisco 1984. Lee then looks into a mirror and is thrilled to see Montana – as he looked in the 1980s – staring back at him. To depict Montana in his heyday, Digital Domain worked with the production company Moving Parts and the spot’s director Steven Wagner to cast an actor with a roughly similar facial structure to the NFL superstar. They then used a classic visual trick, one that fans of the original series will be familiar with, where Lee and Montana’s stand-in mimicked each other from opposite sides of an open frame. To further enhance that effect, Digital Domain added a layer of dirt and grime in post-production to break up the illusion and further sell the effect of a real mirror.
With the foundation of the scene set, Digital Domain and the director headed to San Francisco to meet with Montana and film him making the same facial mannerisms and movements as his stand-in. The VFX team went on to capture several reference photographs that enabled a photogrammetric reconstruction of his head, which Digital Domain then used for both head tracking and 2.5D projections.