Method Studios Turns Back the Clock

NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill shares advice with his younger self in a new promo for Bleacher Report co-directed by Peter Siaggas of Spots Films and Dan Worthington.

To bring the 46-year-old Grant face to face with his college-aged self in the two-minute spot, Siaggas enlisted Method Studios creatives, which helped quickly and unobtrusively capture Hill’s facial performance, then digitally de-aged him, bringing the two Grants together for a chat.

“It took us a few weeks to nail down the approach for this project. We knew that we’d have a limited amount of time with Grant on set and wanted to make sure that we were as efficient as possible, but also for the technology to be inconspicuous and flexible enough as to not impact the performance,” explained Brett Glover, Method Studios creative director.

After an extensive research and development process, Method VFX supervisor and head of 3D for Method’s Atlanta office, Joe Pistono, transformed off-the-shelf hardware into a proprietary set up that leveraged an infrared camera for facial motion tracking and an LED array. Placement of the tracking markers on Hill’s face was crucial for capturing the accurate and comprehensive data needed to successfully drive the software used to translate his performance to his digitally de-aged double. On set, Hill was 3D scanned, which provided a valuable reference for his skin texture and facial movements.

“In 2019 Grant Hill wears a beard, whereas throwback Grant Hill does not, so that was a bit of challenge, but fortunately for us, he’s aged really well so we didn’t have heavy lifting in that respect. Still, we were mindful to include micro skin details for a believable likeness,” noted Pistono. “We referenced old footage to make sure we were encapsulating his essence at that era, but video from the early 90s is super grainy and not very helpful from a details standpoint, so we used stills as a guide for eyebrow and mustache placement. The skin texture was done based on what felt right.”

Once the animation and look of Hill’s younger CG face were complete, Autodesk Flame artists seamlessly blended the live action and digitally enhanced performances, for a tongue-in-cheek trip down memory lane. The creative editorial was done by Beast, and Company 3 handled audio and color grading for the spot.