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Rogue One without CGI Peter Cushing test footage

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I generally like Rogue One, but I thought that the CGI recreation of a dead actor was deeply wrong. Seeing Peter Cushing’s corpse digitally puppeteered around is deeply unnerving and there’s something really weird to the idea that a CGI model is necessary at all rather than just recasting (which they already do for two characters in the film). They have a whole video where Guy Henry says he’s not an impressionist and his portrayal will be an evocation of Cushing’s and then they cut to ILM painstakingly matching Cushing’s expressions. So much of the discussion around this focuses on the uncanny valley, but for me the uncanny bit isn’t just the CG model, it’s the idea that any of this is necessary or okay.

As an experiment, I cut together a version of the film which only shows the back of Tarkin’s head during his scenes, in a similar manner to how an older Hollywood film might handle the absence of a distinctive actor. I also took the opportunity to cut out Evazan and Baba, the Darth Vader hallway scene (which I have never liked) as well as cutting around showing Leia’s face. (I have much less issues with her CGI appearance as Carrie Fisher could consent to it, but the idea that it’s necessary is again really weird to me. It’s cinema, it lives and dies on closeups! Ending your film with a shot of technology just feels hollow).

Here is a video showing the scenes I changed:
https://vimeo.com/364211470
Password: originaltrilogy.com

There’s not really any extra coverage in these scenes to work with, so this involved splicing in shots from elsewhere in the film, often with obviously off continuity. I used footage of Ben Mendelsohn found only in a trailer, as well as emulating rack focus in a shot to blur out Tarkin. To cut around Leia’s face, I added footage of the droids from the original Star Wars with some Anthony Daniels lines from the latest Battlefront game. I like the idea of ending with the droids as they are the core of the first film.

The result is very unpolished, but it turned out better than I thought it might. If anyone has any ideas on how the editing might be made smoother I’d love to hear them.

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This is an interesting idea! I don’t think it is really seamless, but I think limiting the amount we see Tarkin’s (and Leia’s) face helps add a bit more mystery to their characters. I wonder if you could possibly find some kind of middle ground. For example, it is really hard not to show Tarkin’s face in that first scene, but what if you instead you just try to limit how much you show his face? For example, I think it is more obvious when he speaks and you see the way his mouth moves, so maybe you could keep shots where he doesn’t talk, and also keep other speaking shots that maybe aren’t as noticeable.

I like the idea of seeing R2 and 3PO at the end! I think some of the shots with continuity issues could work if you were to replace their backgrounds, possibly. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I believe there is a deepfake of the Leia shot on YouTube that might could work better than how it is in the film. Just something to consider!

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I’ve always thought that not only was Leia’s digital recreation not ready for prime-time, but from a dramatic standpoint, it was a really poor decision. George Lucas spent almost all of the beginning of Star Wars hiding her for a reason, which is basically undone with its direct prequel showing a weirdly emoting digital version of her just before the movie starts. Plus, the sort of hope Leia had in Star Wars isn’t the kind that looks all moony eyed and gently smiling. She’s harried and pissed off basically the entire movie. She should be determined and serious on that bridge. Not quietly pleased.

Really, the most we should have seen is the back of her on the bridge. The doors closing on her should have been the iris out, and it should have been underscored with Leia’s theme, not the Force theme.

The only real problems with digital Tarkin are the lighting (he’s a little TOO translucent and starkly lit, he should be flatter) and the way his mouth moves unnaturally. I don’t understand why they didn’t just keep the original actor’s mouth so they didn’t have to worry about animating that part incorrectly. I don’t know if a fan-project could figure out a way to fix the mouth movements, but if someone does, that effect will be essentially flawless.

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Wow, I can’t believe how much I agree with your original post and editing philosophy. It’s almost like I wrote it. The appearance of Tarkin and Leia left such a bad taste in my mouth that Rogue One is the only Star Wars film I haven’t cared to rewatch. And I found the Darth Vader hallway scene similarly distasteful. But I know there’s a lot to love in the film besides all of that.

I wish I had more to offer in terms of suggestions, but all I can say is that I’m interested and excited to follow the progress of this edit.

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I wrote out some more detailed thoughts for you, hope you don’t mind!

I had an idea for the first scene that I think might help make it feel a little more seamless:

As Tarkin turns to deliver the line about the “rather talkative cargo pilot”, this is when you cut to the shot of Krennic smirking. This could be interpreted as Krennic showing forced amusement at Tarkin’s choice of words, if you kept that whole shot.

Then you cut to the shot of Tarkin walking past Krennic, back facing camera. You could keep showing Tarkin’s face briefly as he turns to face Krennic when he says, “flock to the Rebellion”, or you could have Krennic interrupt him before he finishes his line, and cut to the shot of Krennic saying, “The Senate should be of little concern…” I personally think you could make this his first face shot, but it is still at a distance and only shown for a second or two.

I think you could briefly show Tarkin’s face as he pauses before his next line, “When has become now director Krennic, the Emperor will tolerate no further delays.” (place the entirely of this line in the following OTS shot, or have him start his line briefly then cut to the OTS). To me, it almost feels forced that we never see his face, but maybe we can see it very very briefly in one or two wider shots so it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to hide it. We don’t overuse his face, but we show just enough so the audience knows what he actually looks like.

Cut the “You have made time and ally of the Rebellion.” line and shot.

You can jump cut between the OTS shot of Tarkin approaching Krennic and then shot of Tarkin speaking into his ear, “I suggest we solve both problems simultaneously…” In this instance the two problems are the talkative pilot and the delays the Emperor can no longer tolerate. Two birds with one stone.
I think the jump cut would work best when Tarkin’s shoulder is as close to Krennic as possible, then cut to the next shot (maybe when Tarkin is blocking Krennic from camera to help the cut feel less jumpy), skipping Tarkin’s close-up.

We can slightly see Tarkin’s face as he finishes the line, “-with an immediate test of the weapon.” But since it isn’t a direct close-up and his face is pretty obscured in darkness, I think it could still work as is. You also could possibly artificially blur that shot to malr him out of focus earlier than it actually loses focus.

Then, after Krennic turns to face Tarkin, you could cut to the close-up of Krennic that you slowed down. “I will not fail.”

And maybe the last shot of Tarkin, maybe you could tease his face a little more before he turns around?

It is pretty different from your current version, but I don’t think that scene can realistically work as excised as you currently have it. But I do think you can still cut around his face quite a lot while still generally keeping the blocking of the scene in order to avoid awkward continuity.

For the next Tarkin scene, I don’t think you really need the extra shot you added in that has continuity issues. I honestly think you could jump cut from the shot of Krennic stepping forward to the shot of him turning around and it wouldn’t feel that strange. I at least think it would be better than if you kept that additional shot that is from an entirely different scene.

I like the way you had Tarkin’s following dialogue in the next scene as VO. I think it works well here.

The scene where Tarkin wants to speak to Krennic, I think you should just end that scene with Tarkin asking if the plans are on Scarif and the officer replying yes. Ending the scene there would be enough to infer what he is going to do, and we don’t need to know that he is “informing Lord Vader”. Vader can just be a surprise at the end of the film. Another reason to do this is because you’re forced to overuse that one wide shot and it is noticeable.

If you keep Leia’s face concealed (Broom Kid made a very fair point about it!), maybe you could add the sound of R2’s wheels getting closer to Captain Antilles, which will help the audience assume that he is right there with him and Leia when she delivers that line. Even better, you could place R2 right behind Captain Antilles in the shot of him handing the plans to Leia.

Also, I don’t think you need the quick shot of the rebels pulling the plans back out and saying, “Let’s go!”. Just showing the plans transmitting (and hearing it say ‘transmitting’) is enough to know what is going on. I just assume those are some rebels on the Profundity who don’t make it off alive, and they’re transmitting it to the Tantive IV.

I don’t know if you’re using wipes throughout, but I think having the fade-to-white just fade back onto the Tantive IV flying away from the Profundity would work as well if you decided not to use wipes too. It just feels a little out of place there to me because wipes typically imply time is passing, and you don’t really have wipes in the middle of battle.

Sorry for the long post, just wanted to give you some feedback!

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With all the footage they must have of Cushing in the vault, I’m surprised they didn’t go the Superman Returns route. I totally get the vibe you’re going for here. Reminds me how they didn’t show Blofeld’s face in the early 007 films. Keeping a similar air of mystery around Tarkin and Leia works for me.
I really like Threepio and Artoo being there in the final scene. Makes much more sense than seeing them at the base! 😃

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Peter Cushing was an actor.

Tarkin is a character. Do you see the difference? I can assure you Peter Cushing’s ‘corpse’ as you emotively wrote is quite undisturbed. Perhaps you should issue a fatwa on anyone who makes an image of someone who has passed?

Seems mock moral outrage is all the rage online today though.

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Broom Kid said:

I’ve always thought that not only was Leia’s digital recreation not ready for prime-time, but from a dramatic standpoint, it was a really poor decision. George Lucas spent almost all of the beginning of Star Wars hiding her for a reason, which is basically undone with its direct prequel showing a weirdly emoting digital version of her just before the movie starts. Plus, the sort of hope Leia had in Star Wars isn’t the kind that looks all moony eyed and gently smiling. She’s harried and pissed off basically the entire movie. She should be determined and serious on that bridge. Not quietly pleased.

Really, the most we should have seen is the back of her on the bridge. The doors closing on her should have been the iris out, and it should have been underscored with Leia’s theme, not the Force theme.

The only real problems with digital Tarkin are the lighting (he’s a little TOO translucent and starkly lit, he should be flatter) and the way his mouth moves unnaturally. I don’t understand why they didn’t just keep the original actor’s mouth so they didn’t have to worry about animating that part incorrectly. I don’t know if a fan-project could figure out a way to fix the mouth movements, but if someone does, that effect will be essentially flawless.

There’s a deepfake video of Tarkin.

Here’s my recommended viewing order for the Star Wars franchise: Rogue One, ANH:R HD, ESB:R, TFoR, RotJ:R, TFA (NeverarGreat), TLJ (my upcoming edit), and TRoS.

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Matt.F said:

Peter Cushing was an actor.

Tarkin is a character. Do you see the difference? I can assure you Peter Cushing’s ‘corpse’ as you emotively wrote is quite undisturbed. Perhaps you should issue a fatwa on anyone who makes an image of someone who has passed?

Seems mock moral outrage is all the rage online today though.

It’s entirely normal to think that the CGI face looked terrible and may have been disrespectful, so it’s not “mock moral outrage.” There are serious ethical issues around this practice.

I like the editing as it is, but I’d recommend rotoscoping in appropriate backgrounds for the cutaways. It might help fix the issues that Rouge Leader described. I’d also recommend getting to the Tantive IV through a dissolve instead of a wipe.

JEDIT: Now that you’ve moved 3PO and R2 to the end, would you consider cutting out their Yavin appearance?

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“We weren’t doing anything that I think Peter Cushing would’ve objected to. I think this work was done with a great deal of affection and care. We know that Peter Cushing was very proud of his involvement in Star Wars and had said as much, and that he regretted that he never got a chance to be in another Star Wars film because George [Lucas] had killed off his character. This was done in consultation and cooperation with his estate. So we wouldn’t do this if the estate had objected or didn’t feel comfortable with this idea.” John Knoll, VFX Supervisor.

Please feel free to go ahead and be outraged anyway, and create an ‘ethical’ cut of the movie!

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Matt.F said:

“We weren’t doing anything that I think Peter Cushing would’ve objected to. I think this work was done with a great deal of affection and care. We know that Peter Cushing was very proud of his involvement in Star Wars and had said as much, and that he regretted that he never got a chance to be in another Star Wars film because George [Lucas] had killed off his character. This was done in consultation and cooperation with his estate. So we wouldn’t do this if the estate had objected or didn’t feel comfortable with this idea.” John Knoll, VFX Supervisor.

Please feel free to go ahead and be outraged anyway, and create an ‘ethical’ cut of the movie!

Meh, ethical or not, it still looked awful. Prosthetic makeup, like in ROTS, would have been fine. Either way, I like this cut sparing us having to look at it.

Also, just chill. Don’t try to write off OP as “whiny” and “outraged” because he disagrees with you and has different values from the filmmaker.

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FreezingTNT2 said:

There’s a deepfake video of Tarkin.

What I like about it: It does flatten out the lighting, which makes him look more natural. ILM went all in on subsurface scattering (I think that’s what you call it) and half the time Tarkin looks like a faintly glowing bruise under a flashlight instead of a sallow-faced person.

What I don’t like is that when you deep-fake a CGI creation, the mouth still doesn’t work, because the base you’re working from is fundamentally wrong. So you have the images of a real person trying to match the incorrect mouth movements of a digital recreation of that person. The deep-fakes of Carrie Fisher over CGI Leia have the same problem. Leia may look a little more realistic (only a little) and then she mouths the word “Hope” and suddenly she’s an effect.

I think cutting around Tarkin is a step sideways, at best. It doesn’t really improve things, because the conspicuousness of not seeing him calls just as much attention and pulls you out of the film just as much as watching his mouth not work right. Either way you’re drawn to him not as an organic part of the scene, but this artificially introduced distraction. It’s just a different sort of distraction when you’re constantly cutting around him.

I think the Tarkin effect is much better than Leia’s, though. Leia shouldn’t have seen in Rogue One. It doesn’t make any sense from a story perspective, and the execution didn’t make up the balance.

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Broom Kid said:

FreezingTNT2 said:

What I don’t like is that when you deep-fake a CGI creation, the mouth still doesn’t work, because the base you’re working from is fundamentally wrong. So you have the images of a real person trying to match the incorrect mouth movements of a digital recreation of that person. The deep-fakes of Carrie Fisher over CGI Leia have the same problem. Leia may look a little more realistic (only a little) and then she mouths the word “Hope” and suddenly she’s an effect.

I think it might be possible for someone to (using a feathered mask of sorts) plop down the original mouth on top of the deepfake.

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I didn’t mean Guy Henry’s mouth. I meant the CGI mouth from the original film.
Broom Kid specifically mentions the mouth movement from a deepfake as looking off.

So: Original CGI mouth on top of deepfake head might help. One might have to fiddle with the color and brightness curves, but, theoretically, everything should match up.

Unless, I’m misunderstanding Broom Kid…

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Thanks for all the feedback! I agree with everyone that changing the backgrounds of some shots would clear up the continuity issues, but I’m afraid that’s a bit beyond my abilities.

RogueLeader said:
it is really hard not to show Tarkin’s face in that first scene, but what if you instead you just try to limit how much you show his face

Broom Kid said:
The only real problems with digital Tarkin are the lighting (he’s a little TOO translucent and starkly lit, he should be flatter) and the way his mouth moves unnaturally

My objections to the CGI aren’t just limited to how bad it looks, but more so the fact that Peter Cushing is dead and couldn’t consent to the process (whatever his estate approves). It just feels incredibly violating to me to have your visage commodified by a corporation long after you have any control over it. I think their insistence that they are honoring his performance is a little rich considering that they recast two other roles whose faces weren’t as distinctive. If they truly valued his acting they could honor it by giving the role to another fine actor to interpret (Guy Henry’s real face and all).
(Also just trying to cut down his face is a losing battle; they already limit it a great deal and the shooting and editing style in his scenes changes a fair bit to accommodate this). Really, editing him out partially or completely is going to look rough without additional coverage. (All that extra footage in the trailers and almost none in the scenes I needed!).

RogueLeader said:
As Tarkin turns to deliver the line about the “rather talkative cargo pilot”, this is when you cut…

All of these are good ideas, but the problem is that it’s all match cuts as he moves around Krenic, and cutting it down just make it look like he’s telporting. Some of your ideas are somewhat different than what I tried, so I’ll give them a go.

Cut the “You have made time and ally of the Rebellion.” line and shot.

This is a good idea, I remember doing it and then reverting it. I think because the music pulses a bit here it was a more obvious cut, but I might be able to finesse it a bit.

Then, after Krennic turns to face Tarkin, you could cut to the close-up of Krennic that you slowed down. “I will not fail.”

The neat thing is I took a shot of Krennic from the trailer of him just staring, color matched it to the later footage in the final film and smoothed the gap between the two by abusing Resolve’s “smooth cut” feature.

For the next Tarkin scene, I don’t think you really need the extra shot you added in that has continuity issues. I honestly think you could jump cut from the shot of Krennic stepping forward to the shot of him turning around and it wouldn’t feel that strange. I at least think it would be better than if you kept that additional shot that is from an entirely different scene.

That would just be a jump cut; the shots are framed basically identically. I could do a big zoom on the second shot, but it’s still missing time of him turning so you couldn’t get a match cut out of it. I originally had another shot of the technician working the controls here, but the fact that I do this quickly again made it obvious he was filling a gap.

I like the way you had Tarkin’s following dialogue in the next scene as VO. I think it works well here.

Thanks, there’s really no other way to handle this scene other than making Tarkin a hologram or a audio waveform on the Death Star screen, which is beyond my skills.

The scene where Tarkin wants to speak to Krennic, I think you should just end that scene with Tarkin asking if the plans are on Scarif and the officer replying yes. Ending the scene there would be enough to infer what he is going to do, and we don’t need to know that he is “informing Lord Vader”. Vader can just be a surprise at the end of the film. Another reason to do this is because you’re forced to overuse that one wide shot and it is noticeable.

I think I tried to do this but the audio wouldn’t cleanly cut; maybe the center bled into the stereos or something to do with the music length? I might see if there’s a way around it.

If you keep Leia’s face concealed (Broom Kid made a very fair point about it!), maybe you could add the sound of R2’s wheels getting closer to Captain Antilles, which will help the audience assume that he is right there with him and Leia when she delivers that line.

Smart move.

Also, I don’t think you need the quick shot of the rebels pulling the plans back out and saying, “Let’s go!”. Just showing the plans transmitting (and hearing it say ‘transmitting’) is enough to know what is going on. I just assume those are some rebels on the Profundity who don’t make it off alive, and they’re transmitting it to the Tantive IV.

Yep, that’s how it should look like (and what makes sense within the context of the first film and presumably similar to how it was going to be before the reshoots.) The reversed footage actually looks pretty good. I think I needed the 2nd shot for length, but that was before I added that closeup of Vader, so I might be able to cut it now.

I don’t know if you’re using wipes throughout, but I think having the fade-to-white just fade back onto the Tantive IV flying away from the Profundity would work as well if you decided not to use wipes too. It just feels a little out of place there to me because wipes typically imply time is passing, and you don’t really have wipes in the middle of battle.

I actually like the idea of some time passing here, because it makes more sense for the Tantive to be some distance away. I do think a fade might work better, how does this look?:
https://vimeo.com/364437724 pwd: originaltrilogy.com

BedeHistory731 said:
Now that you’ve moved 3PO and R2 to the end, would you consider cutting out their Yavin appearance?

Yeah, if I can do it cleanly that makes sense.

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You could try to go back and do version closer to your original test, but cut out the “rather talkative cargo pilot line” and the “time and ally of the Rebellion” line. Cutting those lines can help from repeating those shots as much as possible. But you would still need to change the background of the Krennic shot, or at least remove the panel where we can see the Death Star in the background. Enough to show that it might just be the other side of the bridge windows.

If you just had to have another insert for that second Tarkin scene, maybe you could use another angle of the technicians pressing buttons that is from the scene that you removed after the Jedha test. You kept Tarkin’s lines but removed the scene, but there might be some extra insert shots you could pull from there. Otherwise you need to crop around Krennic turning to create a more appropriate background as he turns.

Well there reason I suggested cutting that scene sooner where he asks if the plans are on Scarif is because the multiple wide shots are awkward partially because how the officer keep slowly swinging his arms as he is standing there because of how you reused the shots. If you could make just make that part of him a still image it might be less noticeable.

I was thinking you fade from the white screen straight to the shot of the Tantive IV flying away from the battle, but that might work too. Or since the camera is moving left to right during shot of seeing the explosion from space, you could just cut to the Tantive IV flying away in the original left to right direction so the momentum is going in the same direction. Or flip the shot of the planet explosion and havebit back right to left.

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RogueLeader said:

You could try to go back and do version closer to your original test, but cut out the “rather talkative cargo pilot line” and the “time and ally of the Rebellion” line. Cutting those lines can help from repeating those shots as much as possible.

I’m going to potentially try something like what you initially suggested and also see if shortening his dialogue in this way makes the current version any better.

But you would still need to change the background of the Krennic shot, or at least remove the panel where we can see the Death Star in the background. Enough to show that it might just be the other side of the bridge windows.

Oh, that’s a good idea, I can probably work with just changing what’s in the window.

If you just had to have another insert for that second Tarkin scene, maybe you could use another angle of the technicians pressing buttons that is from the scene that you removed after the Jedha test.

I have a version that does this, but I actually feel that this shot of him turning works better than the other shots (maybe with some more color correction). We don’t really see this angle in this scene otherwise, and there’s nothing to suggest that there can’t be windows behind them. (And I can probably get rid of the left window panel to obscure the death star more than it is already).

Well there reason I suggested cutting that scene sooner where he asks if the plans are on Scarif is because the multiple wide shots are awkward partially because how the officer keep slowly swinging his arms as he is standing there because of how you reused the shots. If you could make just make that part of him a still image it might be less noticeable.

Yep, it’s smart to get rid of the last one, I going to give it go again. The arm swinging can probably be fixed too, I just need to get creative with the speed control and matting.

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