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October 2014
Issue: March 1, 2007

THE DIGITAL FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

By: Randi Altman

So the other night, I'm watching TV, and a familiar actress appears in front of me. I know her voice, but I can't place the face. The words she's speaking are sad but her face is in this odd limbo between a smirk and a grimace. Am I supposed to be sad? I think the writers want me to be sad, and I know the actress wants me to be reacting emotionally, but the only emotion I feel is anger. Ladies in Hollywood, listen up: stop mutilating yourselves for your art. It's not necessary and it's getting in the way of your performance.

It's becoming harder and harder to suspend disbelief because all of my time is spent trying to figure out, "who the hell is that? Was she in a terrible car accident, thrown through the windshield and sewn back together?"

Lola VFX in Santa Monica has the right idea.  They specialize in "Digital Cosmetic Enhancement." You might remember their work from X-Men: The Last Stand where in a flashback sequence, they digitally shaved off years from Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.

"We do cosmetic fixes," says Lola's Guy Botham, adding that they worked on seven of the top 10 movies last year. "We do puffy faces, crow's feet, we've changed women's figures."

Lola uses Flame and Inferno, so their technology isn't proprietary, but their technique is. They actually retain a plastic surgeon, who tells them what the aging process is like and how it affects the face. Botham says "their digital process is more natural than surgery" and reports that they are often called on to digitally fix bad cosmetic surgery.

Ok, I think we've found a way to keep these actors from going under the knife, so I ask excitedly if their process is in any way automated because it seems to me the industry can do some good here. Sadly, Botham reports that it's "absolutely not an automated process. We do a facelift and that would be impossible to do automatically." He says the amount of time it takes "depends on the fix." To help speed the process they use a library of digital skin.

He believes that if actors built digital fixes into their contracts, "we can extend their careers. They wouldn't have to go under the knife."

Lola is definitely doing its bit for the better good, but what we need is an easy-to-use and fast digital solution. As simple as hitting a button and letting the 0s and 1s do their job automatically. No blood, no fat being shot from someone's buttocks into the cheeks, no pride being lost, just digits!

So I'm using this space as a call to action! You, post production industry, can stop these 35-year-olds from disfiguring themselves. Get to work, so we can all grow older gracefully!