Digitally recreating deceased celebrities

NEW YORK (CNN) – Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death last week left a number of projects hanging in limbo including the third installment of “The Hunger Games.”

Hoffman reportedly had just seven days worth of work left on the movie and that’s left producers scrambling to figure out what to do with Hoffman’s remaining scenes.

One option, digitally recreate the actor.

Philip Seymour Hoffman appears to be fighting himself in Mission Impossible 3. It was Hollywood magic, blending two of the actor’s performances into one scene.

Technology could save the final installment of the Hunger Games series. Filming was almost complete when Hoffman died. Now producers must create a performance that never happened.

With enough time and money, it can be done, digitally.

“To complete the movie using Philip Seymour Hoffman is not an impossible task. It’s kind of easy to do compared to 20 years ago, we have advanced the art so much that we can absolutely put a photorealistic, breathing human in there that you will be not able to distinguish between the original,” Jeffrey Okun of the Visual Effects Society said.

Twenty years ago, when lead actor Brandon Lee died in an on-set accident “The Crow,” was finished using a facial image of lee superimposed on a body double.

Two decades earlier, lee’s father Bruce died before “The Game of Death” was finished. A look-alike filmed his remaining scenes, the best option at that time.  Not anymore.

“The holy grail of digital effects has always been to pull off a digital human,” Eric Barba of Digital Domain said.

Eric Barba and his team at digital domain won an Oscar for the curious case of Benjamin Button. For 52 minutes, the film shows an incredibly lifelike digital image of an artificially aged Brad Pitt.

Digital domain also created a full-size digital image of the late rapper Tupac Shakur who appeared to be resurrected at the 2012 Coachella music festival, for a performance with Snoop Dogg.

Look at this French produced Dior ad featuring Charlize Theron, backstage with long dead stars such as Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe.

While characters can be brought back to life digitally, visual effects artists say the powerful emotions of a real-life actor remain difficult to duplicate, especially for one as talented as Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Watch the video below for the full report.

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