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 1, 2019 Seminars & Workshops

 

Friday, 1 March
3pm-4pm

Honours Welcome

Level 6, Michie Building (#9)

 

Friday, 8 March
3pm-4pm

The Media, Populism, and Polarization in the German Context

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

Dr Bernhard Goodwin (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) 

Friday, 22 March
4:30pm

Roundtable: On New Dramaturgy

Terrace Room, Sir Llew Edwards Building (#14)

Katalin Trencsényi (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art)
Bernadette Cochrane
Kathryn Kelly (QUT)
Stephen Carleton

Friday, 29 March
3-4 pm

Storifying Science: Translating Environment through Ecobiography

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

Dr Jessica White
Friday, 12 April
12noon-1:00pm

CSC Exchange

Participatory methods to understand decision-making processes of Filipino rice farmers in the face of climate change

Room 208
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Jaime A. Manalo IV 
Research specialist at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)

Centre for Communication and Social Change
https://www.uq.edu.au/ccsc/

Friday, 12 April
3-4pm

Streaming, disruption and the evolving cultures of use

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

Emeritus Professor Graeme Turner

Friday, 26 April
3-4pm

Journalism by Numbers: What the Census Tells us about Journalists and Journalism since the 1960s

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

Prof Tom O'Regan and Catherine Young

Friday, 3 May
3-4pm

The Pedagogy of Listening / Listening to people in the age of investment thinking

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

Dr Linje Manyozo (RMIT)

Friday, 10 May
3-4pm

The Sweden of the South: Australia's Eurovision Love Affair

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

Dr Chris Hay
Friday, 17 May
3-4pm

Workshop: non-ARC grant writing workshop

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

A/Prof Kelly Fielding
Friday, 24 May
3-4pm

Transferring Below-the-line Skillsets Across Creative Indisutries in Early Television

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

Dr Alex Bevan