In 2012, the Walt Disney Company added Lucasfilm to their illustrious portfolio, already containing big names such as Pixar and Marvel Entertainment. The $4 billion deal was immediately followed by an announcement: Star Wars is coming back!
A significant contribution to the Star Wars trilogy comes from a group of researchers at Disney Research Zurich. DRZ is a technical partnership between Disney and the ETH Zürich.
What is the Swiss element in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens?
Do you remember the Stormtroopers? Yes, the elite soldiers who were the symbol of the Emperor's authority on the galaxy, also known as the guys in "white armor".
In the saga, the Stormtrooper fleet was made up of clones born out of the genetic template of bounty hunter Jango Fett. In the later episodes, the human recruits (blind loyalists) adorned the white armor, however giving them an individual outlook proved tedious.
With the advancement in the field of computer graphics, the team at DRZ have overcome the previous limitations and have added a new dimension to the basic characterization of Stormtroopers in Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens.
(Copyright by Disney Research)
Thabo Beeler, who is responsible for the “Capture and Effects” team at DRZ, shares his view on some of the limitations: "Today's scanners cannot identify hairstyles correctly, for which reason they reproduce the hair roughly or print a generic hairstyle."
At the world's most important conference on computer graphics last year, SIGGRAPH, Beeler and Derek Bradley presented a solution to address this problem.
The technology the team presented resembles a process which a sculptor adopts. And with this breakthrough, individual hairstyles can be reproduced. In addition, facial hair can be added to give a realistic picture.
(Still picture from official trailer)
All this means that an individual identity can be given to each Stormtrooper.
Markus Gross is the founding director of Disney Research Zurich. He and his team have more plans, as evidenced in GLOBE magazine: "We are developing methods that have as much general validity as possible."
"When we build a new scanner to give individual faces to our personalized Stormtroopers figurines that can be printed in 3D, for example, we aimed to make the underlying technologies as generic as possible so that we can apply them as broadly as possible."
Work is underway to build a scanner that would benefit the medical field in assisting the medical staff and patients during a maxillofacial surgery. With the movie release, the hard work will not go unnoticed, giving the team the necessary momentum to keep innovating.
What can we expect from the new Star Wars trilogy?
John Williams, the composer for all of the Star War movies, gave a fresh perspective in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine earlier this year (with link to the original article): "It's all a continuation of an initial set of ideas. It's a bit like adding paragraphs to a letter that's been going on for a number of years."
"Starting with a completely new film, a story that I don't know, characters that I haven't met, my whole approach to writing music is completely different - trying to find an identity, trying to find melodic identifications if that's needed for the characters, and so on."