Editor’s note: Watch the whole thing. With sound. Don’t skip around. Just let it play, or else you’re missing out.
Aging is fascinating thing to document in film and photography, from Noah Kalina’s 12+ year portrait a day project to Diego Goldberg’s family portrait series that began in 1976, it’s interesting to see how many different approaches there are. This new clip titled Danielle from filmmaker Anthony Cerniello tries something I’ve never seen before and packs an amazing punch.
Last Thanksgiving, Cerniello traveled to his friend Danielle’s family reunion and with still photographer Keith Sirchio shot portraits of her youngest cousins through to her oldest relatives with a Hasselblad medium format camera. Then began the process of scanning each photo with a drum scanner at the U.N. in New York, at which point he carefully edited the photos to select the family members that had the most similar bone structure. Next he brought on animators Nathan Meier and Edmund Earle who worked in After Effects and 3D Studio Max to morph and animate the still photos to make them lifelike as possible. Finally, Nuke (a kind of 3D visual effects software) artist George Cuddy was brought on to smooth out some small details like the eyes and hair.
The final result is pretty remarkable, if a little bizarre. Not quite out of the uncanny valley, and yet pause the movie at any moment and it feels like you’re looking at a plain portrait. While it plays the transitions are just slow enough that you’re only vaguely aware anything is happening. It’s amazing as it is weird. He tells me via email:
I wanted to make a person, I felt like I could tell a story with that, but it ended up feeling slightly robotic, like an android. I’m OK with that. Things never come out the exact way you plan them, but that’s the fun. The score I imagined would tell this woman’s life, with events speeding by as she aged, but in the end I thought it would be more interesting to go with an abstract piece of sound, and my friend Mark Reveley really came through because I love how it sounds.
Cerniello normally edits commercials and music videos for the likes of 30 Seconds to Mars and Kings of Leon, you can see much more of his work over on his website.