Proprietary “Shapeshifter” Tool Helps Studio Produce an Entire Episode’s Worth of Film-Quality CGI in Only Six Weeks
Today, Gradient Effects reveals how they de-aged John Goodman for HBO’s original series The Righteous Gemstones, using an AI-assisted tool that can turn back the time on any video footage. In what might be the most intensive de-aging ever seen on television, Gradient sidestepped the Uncanny Valley to shave decades off Goodman for an entire episode, delivering nearly 30 minutes of film-quality VFX in only six weeks.
In the show’s fifth episode, “Interlude,” viewers journey back to 1989, to a time when the Gemstone empire was still growing and Eli’s wife, Aimee-Leigh was still alive. But going back also meant de-aging Goodman for an entire episode, a feat that had never been attempted before on television. For this, Gradient turned to Shapeshifter, a proprietary tool that allows them to “reshape” an individual frame and the performers in it, and then extend those results across the rest of a shot.
Shapeshifter started by analyzing the underlying shape of Goodman’s face. It then extracted important anatomical characteristics, like skin details, stretching and muscle movements. With the extracted elements saved out as layers to be reapplied at the end of the process, artists could start reshaping his face without breaking the original performance or footage. Artists could tweak additional frames in 3D down the line as needed, but they often didn’t need to, making the de-aging process nearly automated.