New software released to slim actors onscreen

VIDEO: Can also make stars look fatter, taller

COLOGNE, Germany -- Scientists in Germany have developed software that can make actors appear thinner, fatter, taller or more buff on screen.

The program MovieReshape, developed by researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute, could mean an end to actors risking their health by gaining or losing dangerous amounts to suit a role. Think of Robert de Niro adding 60 pounds for "Raging Bull" or Christian Bale dropping nearly 70 lbs for "The Machinist."

The software can alter an actor's muscle tone or body shape and can be used on existing video material. In one test of the program, scientists took a sequence of "Baywatch" and buffed up a lead actor, making him seem even more muscular than in real life.

Christian Theobalt, one of the scientists who developed the software, told The Hollywood Reporter the program could also be tweaked to adjust other characteristics such as an actor's age.

"You could use it to do something similar to what they did to Brad Pitt on 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,' making him younger or older but much faster and with less computing power," Theobalt said. "What would take days using conventional SFX software our model can do in a matter of hours."

Another potential cost-saver would be on commercials. Theobalt said instead of using several different actors for a spot shown around the world, a common practice for many products, an advertiser could shoot one and adjust their physical characteristics to suit local "standards of beauty."

MovieReshape is still several months from a commercial application. Researchers at Max Planck have not yet begun talks with private companies to turn their prototype into working, off-the-shelf software.

The software will be presented publicly for the first time at the computer graphics conference Siggraph Asia in Seoul, South Korea in December.
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