Masks, Simulations, and Elusive Sparks: Four Decades of the Digital Human Face in Cinema​

Presented by Dr Lisa Bode

Date: Friday 1 June, 2018
Time: 3pm-4pm
Location: Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2), Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37) 

Abstract:

The digitally constructed faces of an eternally youthful Sean Young as Rachael in Blade Runner 2049 (Villeneuve, 2017) and a resurrected Peter Cushing as Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Edwards, 2016) have stirred both wonder and unease in viewers. They are just the most recent attempts by visual effects artists to create photorealistic animated human characters who might pass for actual actors on screen – a quest that can be traced back to the 1970s. Much has been written on such figures over the past fifteen years, focusing on questions of their ontology, uncanniness, posthumanity, and their implications for the future of screen labor (see for instance Creed, 2003; Sobchack 2006; North 2008; Bode, 2011; Prince, 2012; Whissell, 2014). However, we know little of its history beyond the usual “milestone” accounts of the visual effects industry.

This paper examines how the idea, creation, screen manifestation and cultural reception of digital human faces has evolved over the past four decades. It is the first in a series of micro-histories of different categories of digital visual effects. While, the capabilities of technology (such as the relationship of processing power to various kinds of simulation, texture-mapping, and motion-capture software) are an important spine to this evolution, this paper traces some of the factors that have shaped, and continue to shape, the human-like designs such technologies serve. These factors include: science visualization and developments in knowledge of anatomy, facial expression, and human facial perception; science fictional frames around the simulation of human life; evolving debates around what it is about human screen performers that can or can’t be replicated; the stylistic demands of various kinds of filmmaking; and the ways in which these forms of knowledge all circulate and influence the cultural reception of digital actors and the designs of future ones. This paper asks: how have these things changed over time, and what kinds of understandings about technology, scientific knowledge, acting, and humanness have emerged through the digital actor’s evolution?

 

Presenter:

Lisa Bode is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of Queensland. She is the author of Making Believe: Screen Performance and Special Effects in Popular Cinema (Rutgers, 2017) and several book chapters and journal articles on digital actors, motion capture, screen acting, and celebrity. She is currently working with Lisa Purse (University of Reading, UK) and others to develop an international research project on micro-histories of digital visual effects in film and television.

Dr Lisa Bode

 

About Research Seminar and Workshop Series

The research seminar and workshop series' occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

Unless otherwise advertised, the seminars occur on a Friday afternoon from 3-4 pm in the Digital Learning Space (Room 224) in the Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37).

Semester 2, 2018 Seminars & Workshops

 

Monday, 23 July
3pm-4:30pm

Strategic communication in the age of global information warfare: How it works

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Prof Konstantin Pantserev

Friday, 3 August
3-4pm

Algorithmic cultural recommendation: the coded gaze and Google’s face match up

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Caro Wilson-Barnao

Friday, 10 August
9:30am-11:00am

Researching Media Platforms: A Research Methods Conversation

Seminar Room, Level 4, Forgan Smith Tower, UQ St Lucia

Dr Angela Wu (New York University)
Friday, 10 August
3-4 pm

LNR ethics information session

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

A/Prof Liz Mackinlay

Friday, 17 August
3-4pm

Host community acculturation orientations, ethnic minority communication, and perceptions toward ethnic minorities: Studies of Chinese Hongkongers

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Prof Ling Chen
(Hong Kong Baptist University)

Friday, 24 August
3-4pm

Hey Siri! How should I title my talk?

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Dan Angus

Friday, 31 August
3-4pm

Tastemaking in Post-digital Literary Culture: The Role of Book Blogs

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Beth Driscoll
(University of Melbourne)

Friday, 7 September
3-4pm

Can We Separate the Art from the Artist? Should We? Moral Character, Artistic Creation, and Ethical Criticism

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Ted Nannicelli
Friday, 14 September
TBC
HDR forum; Research Data Management workshop; Postgraduate Student Welcome  
Friday, 21 September
3-4pm

Young Adult Fantasy: Policing Genre Boundaries

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

A/Prof Kim Wilkins
Friday, 5 October
3-4pm

Rethinking Postfeminism (and maybe even recent Australian literary history): Australian Chick Lit as the Novel of Feminine Economies of Signs and Spaces

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Marg Henderson