You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘I, Tonya’ VFX Team Had to Transplant Margot Robbie’s Face on a Skating Double’s Body

The look, movement and subtle signals from a human face are things we all know on a deep, even subconscious level. The face of someone we know personally or the face of a famous person is even more ingrained in our memories. And this is exactly what made the visual effects on “I, Tonya” such a huge challenge.

Eight VFX, which worked on the film with helmer Craig Gillespie, needed to find a way to get the best possible scans of Margot Robbie so that her face could be rebuilt in 3D and matched to the body of a skating double who would do the most complicated and dangerous skating moves in the Tonya Harding drama.

“When you’ve got a real person in the movie and you’ve got to do a face replacement that looks perfect, that’s quite a challenge,” says Juliet Tierney, head of production at Eight VFX and VFX producer on “I, Tonya.” “There was one really long shot toward the end of the movie that’s made up of three different shots.

There’s the first one that’s Margot skating for real and the middle one is the body double where the tricks get more complicated and the last take is Margot again. So, having Margot and then face replacing Margot into one seamless shot is a lot of pressure to make it look perfect.”

Tierney brought in French company Eisko, which had scanning rigs that were especially powerful and accurate, during the shooting. This laid the groundwork for the post process down the pipeline. Eight VFX used 2D and 3D techniques to craft the face replacements and its post crew used Maya, Flame and Nuke on the film.

“There were a number of shots close to camera so if they were shooting something with the body double we would green screen shoot the side of the ice rink and get Margot to replicate the facial expressions that she might make if she were skating that piece,” says Tierney. “We used tracking devices on the skating double — black marks on her face and an orange ball on the top of her head — to aid with tracking the face of the body double while she was skating so we could match them later.”

The company also set up six witness cameras around ice rink so they could pinpoint the movements of the skating double, rebuilt all the stadiums in CG and repopulated stadiums with CG people so they could match exact backgrounds from shot to shot.

With a tight turnaround of about six months to complete work on the film, Tierney and her crew were happy to come to set with a special advantage.

“We’ve been working with Craig [Gillespie] a long time on commercials before this, and it helped to have a shorthand with him because we had a sense of what he’d want, and we all wanted these face replacements to be perfect,” says Tierney.

More Film

  • Atlantics

    Netflix Snags Worldwide Rights to Cannes Winners 'Atlantics,' 'I Lost My Body'

    Mati Diop’s feature directorial debut “Atlantics” and Jérémy Clapin’s animated favorite “I Lost My Body” have both been acquired by Netflix following wins at Cannes Film Festival. “Atlantics” was awarded the grand prix while “I Lost My Body” was voted the best film at the independent International Critics Week. The deals are for worldwide rights [...]

  • Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan

    Stan Lee's Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

    Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, [...]

  • Moby attends the LA premiere of

    Moby Apologizes to Natalie Portman Over Book Controversy

    Moby has issued an apology of sorts after writing in his recently published memoir “Then It Fell Apart” that he dated Natalie Portman when she was 20 — a claim the actress refuted. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then [...]

  • Bong Joon-ho reacts after winning the

    Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' Wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes

    CANNES — The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival wrapped with jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu announcing the group’s unanimous decision to award the Palme d’Or to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho for his sly, politically charged “Parasite.” Following last year’s win for humanistic Japanese drama “Shoplifters,” the well-reviewed Asian thriller represents the yin [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão'

    A “tropical melodrama” is how the marketing materials bill “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão.” If that sounds about the most high-camp subgenre ever devised, Karim Aïnouz’s ravishing period saga lives up to the description — high emotion articulated with utmost sincerity and heady stylistic excess, all in the perspiring environs of midcentury Rio de [...]

  • Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The 10 Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The Cannes Film Festival is too rich an event to truly have an “off” year, but by the end of the 72nd edition, it was more or less universally acknowledged that the festival had regained a full-on, holy-moutaintop-of-art luster that was a bit lacking the year before. It helps, of course, to have headline-making movies [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Soaring to $100 Million-Plus Memorial Day Weekend Debut

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” remake is on its way to a commendable Memorial Day weekend debut with an estimated $109 million over the four-day period. The musical fantasy starring Will Smith and Mena Massoud should uncover about $87 million in its first three days from 4,476 North American theaters after taking in $31 million on Friday. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content