This film was an extremely special project for everyone involved in the production, especially from a visual effects standpoint, and lead by a director who's work is held in the highest regard in the industry, David Fincher. What makes Fincher's work so special is not only is he responsible for changing the way films, commercials, and music videos look and are lit, but has for his entire career been one of the leading technically brilliant directors and story tellers who uses visual effects in the most original and creative ways and constantly plants the seeds that allow never before seen imagery to support good stories through the projects he chooses to do.
Paramount has had the rights to this short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald for over 30 years and has attached different directors such has Spike Jones, Ron Howard, and Steven Speilberg to different versions of the script through the 80’s and 90’s, but literally no one was able to figure out how to pull it off successfully from a technical standpoint until Fincher. Aside from having the extremely rare mix of being incredible visually brilliant but also incredibly good with actors, a large part of Fincher’s success in always pushing the envelope in terms of the technical aspects of cinema, is his willingness to always dive back into his pastime of commercial direction for not only testing new technologies, but for using commercials as research & development for later film projects. Commercial supervisor Eric Barba and the head of DD’s commercial department, Ed Ulbrich, have become long time go-to guys for Fincher over many spots for over a decade. Mainly because collaberations with Anonymous Content and Digital Domain's commercial department have proven to output extremely high caliber work time after time. So much so, that Fincher's film projects and some of Digital Domain's highest end feature work has been done through the commercial department.
Being a member of a relatively small team of all senior and veteran artists assigned to age Brad Pitt to the ages of 60, 70, and 80 years old, this was the most sophisticated compositing show I have ever worked on. The compositing team not only flawlessly integrated a photo real human head onto three different practical bodies for the first 52 minutes of the film, but also helped drive the image based lighting process in 3D. Suffice to say, my first experience meeting and working with someone of Fincher’s caliber is an experience he will always cherish. This is one of the first films in the history of cinema where the uncanny valley had been successfully crossed by a moving computer generated character and our small team at Digital Domain created in my opinion some of the best work seen on screen since Gollum or even Jurassic Park. It was concluded with honors in the field of visual effects with awards from The Visual Effects Society, The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It will be very interesting to look back on this film 30 years from now and see how close Brad Pitt then looks to his digitally aged version of his character in this film. Photo of Digital Domain's awards for Benjamin Button here.