Blur the line between practical makeup and CGI

Challenge: Make the line between practical makeup and CG aging effects as seamless as possible

To present Brad Pitt as a 6-year-old pipsqueak with the wrinkled skin of a septuagenarian, age makeups creator Greg Cannom and his team sculpted a series of head casts from young to old, which were then scanned for digital rendering.

Technically, much of Benjamin Button’s appearance is handled as a special effect, not makeup, though Cannom’s team did use practical techniques to age the character from 62 down to 47, employing innovative new transfers made from a paper-thin, water-based plastic for a greater naturalism than foam or silicone appliances, which are bulky and can cause unrealistic creases or fake-looking eyebrows. “I used to be able to age people 10, 12 years. Now with these tiny transfer pieces I use on crow’s-feet and little areas in the forehead, I can age people 15, 20 years,” Cannom says.

CG manipulation has disqualified makeup achievements before, but Cannom isn’t worried. “If it was just Brad’s makeup, there would be a problem with who did what and how much of it is digital,” he says. “But I also did all the other characters, like Taraji, Tilda and Cate, who ages to 85. She’s the hardest to make up because she has these incredible cheekbones I had to work around.”

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