I recently saw the TED talk about ” The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, where I learned that for the first hour of the movie, Benjamin, i.e. Brad Pitt’s, face is completely computer rendered, using short people to play his body. The team from Digital Domain created a complete digital version of Brad Pitts face for this, no masks, no make-up, the face of the short actor was simply replaced by the computer rendered version. Now this is very cool in and by itself, but it got me thinking about what this means for the movie industry and what the consequences might be.
- So, it is a fact that Digital Domain now has a “construct” of Brad Pitt (his face anyway) that can be rendered to play him well enough in a movie to fool any living human.
This raised a few questions in my head:
- What will happen a year from now, when Brad Pitt gets a call from Digital Domain saying that they actually want to use that construct for another movie, in which Brad doesn’t act at all? In fact, they will pay him 20% of what he normally charges to be in a movie, without him even having to get out of bed. Better yet, he can be recording another movie at full price at the same time!
- Will Brad at least allow the contsruct to be used when dubbing movies into foreign languages to fix the lipsync for the German version?
- How should Brad charge for this? How can he keep his integrity as an actor now that he can star in an unlimited amount of movies simultaneously? Liensing his construct to too many movies will obviously dilute his brand and how much he can charge per movie.
- You may think that Brad stays away from this and stars in movies himself instead. I don’t. Maybe he will next year, but what about ten years from now, when Brad the actor, then aged 55, can only play men aged 50+, while his construct can still play a handsome 35 – 45 year old man? Then it is not an alternative to cast Brad himself at all anymore? Why not live off of royalties at old age? – the ABBA model – it’s a nice retirement plan!
- What happens a few years from now, when this technology is dirt cheap and when Brad’s construct leaked and ended up on Pirate Bay? Will we start seeing “pirated” Hong Kong movies starring Brad Pitt speaking perfect Cantonese? Movies that we in the west (including Brad Pitt) have never even heard of?
- Will there be an open source version of Brad Pitt?
- Will Brad Pitt the construct eventually get diluted from overuse, and rather than be the lead character, just be used as a cheap alternative to casting real actors for those small roles where you just need a good looking guy for one or two lines? You know, the guy at the gas station, the shop keeper?
- Finally. I wonder if it is Digital Domain or Brad Pitt who actually own the copyright for Brad’s construct?……………….