VFX – Skin Replacement

We were introduced to a new visual effect technique for skin alteration/replacement. This was inspired by Extremis in the Iron Man 3 movie and the Iron Fist trailer (where his fists alight before he punches). However, the effect doesn’t have to stop at that – there are many other alterations that can be done to people using the same steps. One person in our class did a really excellent skull/face morph that just proved the fact you’re only limited by your own imagination!

Having been provided a handful of videos to choose from, I ended up doing two skin replacements. Actually, I’d done three, but the first one didn’t turn out at all how I wanted so I went back to the drawing board. Sometimes it’s better to follow the steps first before trying to make any alterations!

First, I needed to bring the video into a new composition and the track it in Mocha using the bezier tool. That would be the third one from the left in the picture here! bezier The important thing to keep in mind while doing this, even though you might be tracking a cheek or eye, you don’t need to stay exact to the location you’ll be replacing. You just need to be close and have a very good sampling so the tracking is accurate.

After doing that and copying the tracking data, I created a new black solid to use as the Track Data layer. I could then paste my data and add a grid to the layer over top my footage.

I now needed to add in my fractal noise and some veins! I created another black solid and added a fractal noise effect to it, then played around with the settings.



What I ended up with worked well to look like under the skin is almost… glimmering. Once I’d masked and feathered the area I wanted the skin replacement to happen. I added an expression as well rather than animated the fractal to make it look like it was moving. I think this made it appear much more fluid. The veins were added next, placed above the noise layer; once they were where I wanted, I could pre-comp all the veins together.


Adding a white solid to the background of that, then going back into the main comp and setting it as a luma matte, I then pre-comped the veins with the noise layer – this would get a pasted version of the track data as well, so it follows the video properly. This layer should be set to screen back in the main comp, so I could get that bright, clear colour coming through.


I played around a little more with the colour corrections and added an adjustment layer. It seemed like this was a better attempt than my first failed one! I think it would be nice to add some very slight movement to the veins, as well, so it looks a little more realistic.


After that, I decided to experiment with one of the other videos. I chose one where the person was looking straight on into the camera, but he actually blinks twice throughout. This felt like a bit of a challenge for replacing the eyes with something a little more bizarre. I followed all the same steps, the only different being I had to transform the masks to match the blinking – this took a little experimentation and keying, but I think it turned out all right for a first attempt.


It all feels like something out of an episode of Doctor Who! I really do love this skin replacement effect, though, and I might end up incorporating it into my final project for VFX. However, I believe we’re learning new effects next week which may include faking magic (I’m hoping for magic projectiles), so that might take top trumps instead. We’ll see!

Posted in VFX

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