Lola are arguably the world’s leaders in human face and body manipulation. In The Social Network Lola completed a hundred or so shots, but a key 20 of those involved delicate face replacement to allow one actor to play two roles – the Winklevoss twins. We spoke in-depth with Lola’s VFX supervisor Edson Williams about the technical process.
“The Social Network” – Is the Winklevoss Twin Portrayal Worth an Oscar for Acting or Visual Effects?
Of course the first thing we Googled after leaving the Facebook movie was “Armie Hammer Winklevoss Twins.” And we learned the whole deal about how Hammer—great-grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer and also portrayer of Billy Graham in a 2008 biopic—played the double role by having his face digitally placed onto the head of Pence, who was primarily a body double. In interviews, Hammer gives a greater amount of credit to Pence, who contributed to the physical performances of the characters, while also celebrating the benefits of doubles for this kind of effect, since he had someone to act opposite. But I think it’s the man whose face we see who should get the majority of the accolades. Its his expressions and voice that define the physically identical twins as separate characters, personality-wise. While the digital effects made the process look seamless, Hammer is the one who ultimately made me question my memory. I even literally had the thought that I must have mis-read the guy’s name and it had been written in a form like, “Armie and ___ Hammer.”
The most specialized lighting, however, was required for the movie’s most complicated visual effect: about 15 face replacement-shots used to make two different actors appear as identical twins, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The brothers were champion rowers who crewed at Harvard and later sued Zuckerberg over Facebook’s creation. Fincher couldn’t find a set of identical twins who satisfied his requirements, so instead, he
hired one actor, Armie Hammer, to play Cameron, and another, Josh Pence, to supply the body and body movements for Tyler. The filmmakers used a combination of split-screen shots and digital face replacements whenever the brothers interacted, especially during rowing sequences. For those shots, the production turned to Lola Digital. “Armie looked the most like the real brothers, so I wanted to use his face,” says Fincher. “I realized we could use a lot of split screen, even moving split screens. As long as we had a plate I liked and enough data around the second take, we could just rack the background of the second take. As long as the actor didn’t go out of frame, we could split-screen it back in. We did that a lot; the actor would go out the A side and back in the B side, and then we would track the plate on the B side to an A plate, and rotoscope it all back in and track it to the plate. But when they were rowing, we had to do facial replacement.”
“Here’s the thing. There are two Winklevosses. Cameron and Tyler are twins and Fincher used face replacement to pull the effect off. The small group that watched the movie, myself included, were completely duped and we’re not exactly pushovers when it comes to spotting digital effects. It’s a perfect storm of flawless technique, an actor that isn’t so well known that you know right away that he doesn’t have a twin and all in a film where most aren’t going in looking for an effect”
…”I found out that I had seen an effect through the entire movie that went completely unnoticed.”