Creating Dr. King for ‘The March’
TIME Studios launched a pioneering, immersive, 10-and-a-half minute experience called The March, recreating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the historic 1963 March on Washington in realistic virtual reality. We supplied Digital Domain with high-fidelity, 4D facial expression data captured with our DI4D PRO system as part of their process to digitally recreate Dr. King’s iconic speech. Digital Domain used their Masquerade pipeline to combine this 4D facial expression data with high-resolution static scans, and performance capture using head-mounted cameras to really bring the experience to life.
Recreating Dr. King
The first challenge faced by Digital Domain was to create a lifelike digital double of Dr. King. First, Digital Domain obtained high-fidelity facial scans of a stand-in with similar facial shape and structure to Dr. King. This gave the talented modelers at Digital Domain a highly detailed starting point to then sculpt the digital double, accurately matching reference photography and film of Dr. King from the time.
The second challenge faced by Digital Domain came when creating a highly realistic and convincing animation of Dr. King’s digital double performing the iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. The approach taken by Digital Domain was to use their Masquerade pipeline to capture the facial performance of a stand-in actor and re-target it to Dr. King’s digital double. Stephon Ferguson, the King family’s official orator, was chosen due to his incredible familiarity with delivering the speech.
DI4D PRO capture
Digital Domain turned to its trusted partner, DI4D, to deliver the high fidelity 4D facial performance data required for its Masquerade pipeline. Ferguson’s detailed facial movements were captured in 4D using a DI4D PRO system, tracked while he performed a special series of expressions that are designed to cover the full range of facial shapes. A head-mounted camera was also used to capture Ferguson while he performed the same series of expressions. These two corresponding sets of expression data were then used to train Masquerade’s powerful machine learning process.
Ferguson then performed the full speech on Digital Domain’s motion capture stage in Los Angeles, CA, while his facial performance was captured using the head-mounted camera. Digital Domain used their previously trained Masquerade pipeline to process Ferguson’s facial performance and “re-target” it onto Dr. King’s digital double. Digital Domain artists then refined the animation by adding in an extra level of nuance and detail using Maya and Houdini to ensure that the final animation was as faithful as possible to the reference of Dr. King’s actual performance.
The Full Experience
The completed experience is a ground breaking example of immersive storytelling, which is rendered in stunning full colour on a VR headset using the Unreal Engine. It presents an entirely unique opportunity to experience the 1963 March on Washington much more vividly and in much more detail than can be seen on film or television footage recorded at the time. You can find out more about The March here.