For ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’, the most recent film in the ‘Ghostbusters’ series, MPC was entrusted with bringing the character of Dr Egon Spengler, played by the late Harold Ramis in the earlier films, back to movie screens for fans.
MPC’s global teams, led by VFX Supervisor Pier Lefebvre and DFX Supervisor Sebastien Raets, collaborated with the filmmakers on all of the Egon Spengler scenes. To get started on the ghostly challenge, the team studied his life's work. MPC Film’s Character Lab built a library of reference material from the 1984 and 1989 Ghostbusters films and were given access to digital scans of earlier footage that had never been used before. By studying the footage, the artists were able to select key angles and facial expressions and began to put together an accurate likeness.
“The next stage was to explore the ageing process to reflect concept art supplied by the filmmakers,” said Sebastien. The Character Lab team was supplied with scans and photographs of a stand-in actor performing on set with the cast.
“Studying our reference material from the earlier Ghostbusters footage and scans, we made selections of key angles and facial expressions and began the process of matching the young actor, focusing on the head structure, hairstyle and facial expressions.” The project involved several MPC departments working together.
Once the team was confident with the matching of 1984 Egon and could show a convincing match to 1984 shots, MPC’s VFX artists could then move on to ageing Egon to match the client’s expectations. The target here was an accurate, authentically aged Egon, who would also be immediately recognized by the audience, as opposed to a straight recreation of the way Harold Ramis looked at this age. Alongside the artwork for the aged Egon, the artists were supplied with scans and photographs of the double who performed on set, and an actor cast for the similarity of his features to those seen in the artwork.
The artists then supplemented this information with MPC's own library of skin maps and photography of an appropriately aged life model. The asset team worked alongside the Shots team to develop the features most important in achieving a convincing likeness. A subtle, detailed facial model and rig were developed to help the animation team create a convincing, emotional performance. Photoreal hair, skin and eyes were developed to help the lighting and compositing teams assemble a photoreal recreation.
“Respectfully bringing Harold Ramis back to the screen was a project we were honoured to take on, and we were humbled and overjoyed with the positive response from the client, the audience and Harold's family,” Sebastien said. www.mpcfilm.com
For a fuller explanation of MPC's process of ageing Dr Egon Spengler, as well as more details about MPC's work on this film, please see THIS ARTICLE on Digital Media World.