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Digital Skin Grafting
June 26, 2007 10:06 AM   Subscribe

"In this film, director Shanker wanted to change Rajini's wheatish complexion to a white European complexion. It has taken 25 dedicated CG technicians almost a year to achieve this 6 ½ min. feat."
posted by tighttrousers (42 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
{NOT WHEATISHIST}
posted by spicynuts at 10:09 AM on June 26, 2007


Finally, an answer to this question.

and its related MeTa.
posted by dersins at 10:14 AM on June 26, 2007


You've come a long way, Raj.
posted by phaedon at 10:16 AM on June 26, 2007


I find this utterly depressing.
posted by Lucy2Times at 10:20 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Impressive? Yeah, sure.
But do they have a clever catch-phrase for him, like "birdy num-nums"?
posted by Tbola at 10:22 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


That's... weird and strange and took way too long.
posted by blacklite at 10:22 AM on June 26, 2007


I am still amazed at how popular Rajinikanth is.
posted by chunking express at 10:26 AM on June 26, 2007


MetaFilter: We shit on your people's life work so you don't have to.
posted by phaedon at 10:28 AM on June 26, 2007


What a waste of time.
posted by mr. strange at 10:30 AM on June 26, 2007


I like how they used a hot white blonde girl as the stand-in.
posted by smackfu at 10:30 AM on June 26, 2007


To begin with, we (Indian artists) did an in-depth study of the European complexion. We found that white skin reflects more light and has less shadow when compared to dark skin and is translucent in some areas. Therefore a simple color correction of the hero's skin would not achieve the desired effect.

What's weird about this is that these guys are obviously talented professionals, but... that's Light and Color 101. They had to do an in-depth study to find that out?

Secondly, they'd have saved time if they'd found a guy of about Rajini's proportions to stand in for him instead of the girl. Sure, they might have had difficulty finding that, but 6 additional months of casting would have cost a LOT less than the 6 months they likely spent in post making a skinny girl look proportional to a fat guy.
posted by shmegegge at 10:33 AM on June 26, 2007


Which of these links explains why they would want to do this?
posted by DU at 10:33 AM on June 26, 2007


Did the in-depth study involve the stand-in?
posted by phaedon at 10:34 AM on June 26, 2007


I don't get the reasoning here. Perhaps it would have been cheaper to hire Jon Lovitz, give him a bad blonde wig, and then dub in Rajini's voice?
posted by caution live frogs at 10:41 AM on June 26, 2007


Secondly, they'd have saved time if they'd found a guy of about Rajini's proportions to stand in for him instead of the girl. Sure, they might have had difficulty finding that, but 6 additional months of casting would have cost a LOT less than the 6 months they likely spent in post making a skinny girl look proportional to a fat guy.

to paraphrase, I should think the reason is plain...

Without context I would be forced to assume that Rajini was a star in the "Adult" film world...
posted by geos at 10:42 AM on June 26, 2007


Which of these links explains why they would want to do this?

Click on the gallery in the second link. It should become clear that the year is 1974, that attitudes to skin color have yet to achieve postmodern enlightenment, and that this digital post production was done on a PDP-11, which also explains why it took nearly a year to finish.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 10:48 AM on June 26, 2007 [5 favorites]


It should become clear that the year is 1974...

I don't know if that was true or brilliantly snarked, but +'d either way.
posted by DU at 11:03 AM on June 26, 2007


for real.

also, is + going to be our little slashdot/ebay/digg thing we drop in threads when we do or don't like something, now?
posted by shmegegge at 11:23 AM on June 26, 2007


shmegegge:

[this is good]

or, if you prefer,

[+]
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:31 AM on June 26, 2007


Have these people heard of makeup?
posted by delmoi at 11:31 AM on June 26, 2007


I was watching a Hindi movie the other day that had a sub-plot about a Tamil movie star. She was cartoonishly bodacious, and featured in cheesy, low-budget, un-special effect dance numbers. See her robotic dancing -- in a field of neon-painted wagon wheels! Mouthing lyrics of the moon-June-spoon variety! With an overweight, middle-aged actor! Bollywood thinks of the Tamil film industry exactly as many Westerners think of Bollywood. Cheap, crass, nonsensical entertainment for the masses.

So the real story here is that the Tamils are out for some respect, and can make a technically accomplished film. If you watch the trailer, Rajinikanth is not appearing in whiteface the whole movie -- he is a huge star; his real complexion is highly approved. Nor is anyone trying to appeal to Westerners from the look of it -- it is the rare Tamil movie that even attempts to appeal to the rest of India. (Tamil movies are sometimes completely remade in Hindi.)

No, I think no one is making a statement of white being right or something. It's just -- look what we can do! Seems like we have a Mefite or two in Chennai, though -- I'd love to hear their opinions.
posted by Methylviolet at 11:41 AM on June 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


Can anyone with digital effects experience comment on the seemingly excessive effort? 25 person-years seems absurd for state-of-the-art technology.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:56 AM on June 26, 2007


I don't get the reasoning here. Perhaps it would have been cheaper to hire Jon Lovitz, give him a bad blonde wig, and then dub in Rajini's voice?

I guess they've never heard of outsourcing in India.
posted by Dave Faris at 12:02 PM on June 26, 2007


the results on the skin are really amusing, however he is betrayed by his hands, that in this photo don't look very whitey to me
posted by darkripper at 12:09 PM on June 26, 2007


The sunglasses are a monster cop-out.
posted by phaedon at 12:34 PM on June 26, 2007


As someone with at least some digital effects experience, 25 person-years seems very excessive. I'd say it would probably take a couple of good CGI artists a few months, half a year at the most, to do something like this.

Their approach is interesting, though. They're using that pale girl as something inbetween a lightprobe and a sample texture, placing her in roughly the same position, and then wrapping her skin texture on him.

It's not the approach I'd think would be most obvious, but it seems to work well for them. And yes, the sunglasses are a huge cop-out, but given that they spent a year on this, I can see why they did that.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:52 PM on June 26, 2007


Seriously, can somebody just explain WHY they did this? I know I might sound like an idiot asking that question, but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask it.
posted by humblepigeon at 1:01 PM on June 26, 2007


After watching the trailer, I would love to see an English-subtitled version of this film.
posted by mrbill at 1:07 PM on June 26, 2007


(anyway this sounds similar to the keyframing technique used to made Stewart and McKellen younger in X-Men 3)
posted by darkripper at 1:14 PM on June 26, 2007


Humblepigeon, did you watch the trailer? Did you see the (more prosaic) transformation of our hero into a dreadlocked black man? Our hero is an International Man of Mystery.

Besides, Indian movies seek to capture the beautiful and unexpected as the truest form of realism. Not very many people have suddenly had to outwit a gang of armed thugs to save their families, but most people have probably felt so full of joy that they felt like singing, and as though the whole street would sing with them. Not very many people lead lives that move from plot point to plot point with the regularity of a ticking clock, but most people get shaken up periodically with some development in their lives as surprising to them as a man changing color before their eyes. Tamil movies seem to bridge the gap between Western guns 'n' drugs escapism and Hindi realism.

Plus, these guys at the Hitec Center think it's cool. And here is a link to another Tamil movie for no reason but awesomeness.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:45 PM on June 26, 2007


I'll throw a pro's $.02 in.

25 man-years is certainly misleading. I'm willing to bet it was a company with 25 employees that was assigned the job nearly a year ago, which is a very standard timetable. Probably 5-10 people working on it at its peak. Plus you have a lot of downtime in there, and other projects being worked on simultaneously.

I will say first hand that the effects industry in india is coming up hardcore, it will be a place to watch in the next few years (it is not as robust an industry over there as development and support, yet.) This is pretty cool work, and it is neat to see a growing talent base there.
posted by milinar at 3:03 PM on June 26, 2007


Maybe it's the shades, but he reminds me of Tony Clifton.
posted by Tube at 5:10 PM on June 26, 2007


In other related news - Keanu Reeves to play Lord Rama.
posted by tellurian at 6:46 PM on June 26, 2007


I think Keanu can pass as blue. Might take a bit of makeup work.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:48 PM on June 26, 2007


I, too, think Keanu can pass as a wooden idol.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:28 PM on June 26, 2007


You guys totally miss the context here. It's not about European skin being 'better', or the Tamil industry wanting to be taken seriously or anything.

The context here is that, simply, this is about Rajnikanth, the last of the great cine-demi-gods who once ruled India, but with globalization, urbanization, global-warming and the onset of Kali Yuga, are fast becoming extinct. Cultural equivalence is always tricky, but if you're trying to 'understand' the Rajni phenomenon, think Elvis Presley after he died; like Elvis, he was a commoner, who, through a series of appealing movies, had transcended above everything else.

Put simply, Rajnikanth is god. In a different world and avatar, there was once a mortal called Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, a Maratha (that's someone who speaks Marathi) bus-conductor in Kannada-speaking Bangalore. First dabbling in a few stage-plays and later, upon finding the Fountain of Youth and Tamil tinseltown and a series of events that are beyond our grasp, had morphed himself into that divine celestial entity, Rajnikanth.

Rajni's movies, you see, are religious events; even outside India, in Singapore, Japan, and an Indian cineplex near you in the US, you'd expect rapturous fans to ritually break coconuts, perform haaratis ('fire purification') and ksheerabhisheekam ('bathing in milk') in front of Rajni's pictures (or busts).

Everyone loves him, nobody can hate him. Rajni can do no wrong, Rajni _will_ save. Rajni does not have a list of facts like Chuck Norris or Bruce Schneier does, because his actions are beyond mere mortal imagination or belief; you may know that Chuck Norris dictates evolution or that he doesn't sleep, he waits, but you wouldn't know what Rajni can do. He can do anything, he is everything.

In that sense, he's beyond even normal modes of religious worship because asking yourself 'What would Rajni do?' isn't merely a rhetorical question, it is simply useless: why would you want to spend the rest of life contemplating questions which you can never answer?

Rajni, therefore, changes colours not because he dislikes his own brown skin in favour of pale European skin, but because he can. He can put on any skin, brown, black, white, yellow, pink or mauve and can still whip your ass and get his girl. It is as simple as that.

(That said, the special 'effects' totally sucked; I've been seeing Sivaji posters for two weeks now, and hadn't noticed that Rajni changed skin colours till now. The director in question, Shankar, is a known to regularly abuse CGI, especially in his song-sequences.)
posted by the cydonian at 8:23 PM on June 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


(Update: Just saw that HiTec city video to which Methylviolet had linked earlier. The white/black/brown skin-colour thing is apparently some elaborate comedy routine in the film. Gathered that from the bits they showed in that one.

No, NOT going to watch the movie.)
posted by the cydonian at 3:05 AM on June 27, 2007


Have these people heard of makeup?
posted by delmoi


This strikes me as the ultimate example of using the wrong tool for the job. Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 3:23 AM on June 27, 2007


I wish I could fave the cydonian's comment more. I think he pretty much sums up just how popular Rajinikanth is. I really can't imagine Tamil cinema without him.

And mr_roboto, blue skin in Indian art is used to indicate dark skin, not to indicate someone is literally blue. Also, I think you're mixing up Rama and Krishna.
posted by chunking express at 6:27 AM on June 27, 2007


chunking express writes "Also, I think you're mixing up Rama and Krishna."

Nope.

And if Rama is represented as having blue skin in pictorial art, why not represent him as having blue skin in moving pictorial art?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:58 AM on June 27, 2007


blue skin in Indian art is used to indicate dark skin

I was under the impression that Vishnu is regularly depicted as blue in hindu art, and as Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu, he's also depicted as blue.

But this is coming from a cursory reading of a bad translation of the ramayana years ago...
posted by sixtoes at 11:25 PM on June 27, 2007


I had forgotten Rama is also drawn as blue, which is why I thought mr_roboto was mixed up. That said, I'm quite sure blue/grey/purple, etc, are used to indicate dark skin, not to indicate literal blue skin. (I know with Krishna his name means black or dark or something like that in Sanskrit.)
posted by chunking express at 7:28 AM on June 28, 2007


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