Wednesday, January 31st, 2024 Posted by Jim Thacker

See how Big Picture Studio de-aged Chow Yun-Fat for One More Chance

Hong Kong and UK-based VFX facility Big Picture Studio has posted an interesting breakdown of its facial de-ageing work for comedy drama One More Chance (別叫我“賭神”).

The movie – the story of a gambler searching for a way to communicate with his autistic son – saw the studio create multiple facial replacements for actors Chow Yun-Fat and Anita Yuen.

The work was completed by a small team of artists – just eight at peak – using traditional digital sculpting and animation in ZBrush and Maya, with limited use of AI to refine facial keyframes.

Creating facial de-ageing effects for over 100 shots in the movie
Although Hollywood studios now often use AI-based technologies to de-age actors, usually for short sequences featuring a younger version of a character, Big Picture Studio’s work on One More Chance was rather different.

Firstly, the work had to be done on a much larger scale: the flashback sequences featuring the younger versions of the Chow Yun-Fat and Anita Yuen’s characters totalled 102 individual shots.

And secondly, the work was done largely by hand, with limited use of AI.

“In 2018, when we first received the script for the movie, AI technology was not as prevalent as it is today,” Big Picture Studio co-founder and Executive Producer Benson Poon told CG Channel.

“At that time, we could only refer to the results of a few Marvel movies.”

Based on facial data captured on a handheld scanner and a DSLR camera
The reference data available was also much more limited than for a typical Hollywood movie.

“We were limited by the equipment available to us in Hong Kong, as well as [what we could do] on set,” says Poon.

Rather than working from LightStage data, the studio captured 3D scans of the actors’ faces using a handheld Artec Eva scanner, with a Sony α7 DSLR for texture reference.

Creating younger 3D facial replacements by hand
Using the 3D scans as a base, and working from archive reference images, Big Picture Studio sculpted younger versions’ of the actors’ faces by hand in ZBrush, creating FACS-based animation set-ups in Maya.

The resulting animated 3D faces were rendered in Redshift and composited back onto the live footage in Nuke.

For 3D tracking, Big Picture Studio used PFTrack, working from witness camera footage recorded on a standard GoPro.

As well as the facial de-ageing effects, the studio also provided CG environments for some shots, using photogrammetry tool RealityCapture to reconstruct the live sets.

“Our VFX process [on the movie] was not much different from the usual process, except that each step required more precision and attention to detail!” says Poon.

Completed by a tiny team of artists in an 18-month period
Although One More Chance didn’t get a theatrical release until June 2023, Big Picture Studio completed its work between 2018 and 2019, in just 18 months of production time.

It’s an impressive work rate for a firm that had previously specialized in advertising work, and began work on the movie with a team of just four artists, reaching eight at peak.

The studio has since gone on to work on sci-fi thriller Warriors of Future (明日戰記), at the time, Hong Kong’s highest-grossing domestically produced film.

Poon describes One More Chance as “a stunning breakthrough”, commenting: “As a small team, we were happy to accept the challenge”.

Read more about the facial de-ageing for One More Chance on Big Picture Studio’s website

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