Sep 3, 2008

Fred Thompson's speech a perfect computer animation

In a stunning triumph for computer generated animation, a special effects team was able to create a completely believable, life-like replica of Fred Thompson that appeared to give a speech at the Republican convention yesterday.

Special effects artist Don Spire said presenting a realistic Thompson for the TV audience was easy, but the greater challenge was creating Thompson for the live audience in the stadium.

"We've had the technology to do it on TV since Max Headroom," Spire said, referring to the creepy 1980's MTV talking head.

"For the live audience, we tried using multiple screens, holographic projecters, and even screens created with a fine mist to create a screen to capture the image. Ultimately, we just found an old guy who looked sort of like Thompson, had him walk out on stage and lip-sync Thompson's lines while our animation was projected onto the screen. Only the people in the first few rows would notice it wasn't Fred, and party officials assured us they spill the beans about the effect."

Special effects technicians visited Thompson in the Virginia suburb of Washington, DC at the Home for Elder Statesmen & Lobbyist. They placed digital markers on his face and use computers to capture the way his face moved, which they later used to create the speech.

Spire said Thompson was not harmed by the process and even his wife was pleased with the effect.

"She called after the speech and said Fred watched it and said, 'That feller looks like me.''' He was unaware that it actually was him, giving the speech of his life.

"He enjoyed it more than having a full diaper on tapioca day at the home," his wife said.

Spires special effects team expects a steady stream of work doing the same process for McCain if he is actually elected.

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