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.
Did you know that Stormtroopers once collided with the police in Switzerland?
Back in 2019, two city cops in Bern could not believe what they saw while issuing parking tickets: a fleet of Stormtroopers had just landed on the Parliament Square (Bundesplatz).
Since the huge spaceship was standing right in front of the Parliament building - a definite "NO PARKING" zone, the cops approached the Stormtroopers: "This is not the parking spot you are looking for." See what happened next in the epic clip below:
(Feature photograph copyright Josh Hallett, reading Stormtrooper copyright Musgo Dumio_Momio/Flickr)