Former FX tech person points out the racist trajectory of skin and hair CGI

Originally published at:


The same is true for ID photos, which are often lit for white people.


a youthful Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Salvation (2009), a young Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy (2010), a de-aged Orlando Bloom in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), Arnold again in Terminator Genisys (2015), a youthful Sean Young in Blade Runner: 2049 (2017), and a 1980s-era Carrie Fisher in both Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2017) and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019).

Broadly I agree with this thesis, but there is a couple of examples of non-white actors getting the treatment:

Will Smith, Gemini Man
Dwayne Johnson, Central Intelligence

There’s a wiki on the topic:

IT Part 2 has the whole cast (including one AA kid) de-aged a little so they can reprise their roles from the previous film. Feels like it shouldn’t count, but I can’t really come up with a good justification.


It wasn’t just Kodak, but film companies in general - including black and white film. The CGI problem is just an extension of existing issues.


Used to work on TV Commercials.
Ad Agencies started doing spots featuring all Black families for McDonalds and other products. This was a problem for some Makeup artists.
Who were all White of course as was the rest of the crew.


I’ve played a lot of Fallout, and up until FO4 black skin complexion was atrocious. FO4 was better, but still not great.


Many of the papers alluded to in this paper rely on very small sample sizes (n<10), supplied by grad students attached to the lab. There seem to be two ways resolving this particular practice.

This paragraph strikes me as weird:

For a brief moment in the 2000s, the shortest scientific path to achieving realistic digital humans was to refine the depiction of computer-generated Blackness in film, not to double down on algorithmic whiteness. Imagine the timeline that could have been. Instead of two more decades of computer-animated whiteness, a generation of moviegoers could have seen their own humanity radiating from Black heroes. That alternate timeline is gone; we live in this one instead.

1 Like

An ID Photo? When was the last time you received a lighting treatment more sophisticated than an on axis flash, supplemented by a flickering fluorescent light?
(if it’s about under exposure/over-exposure, the problem could be solved by using a neutral gray background and metering off that-- not off the subject.)

Doing lighting for photo and video, I have on several occasions encountered black people who had been burned by this often enough that they felt the need to remind me to increase exposure. Sad all around.

Luckily with camera sensors getting more and more dynamic range, this is becoming less of an issue.


“So, chocolate bars and coffee tables: That, finally, got Kodak to produce film that was slightly better at capturing darker tones.”

There’s a generalizable lesson about motivating others here.


No equivalent micro-structural model has ever been developed for kinky, Afro-textured hair.

The funny thing is, my teenage kid has been trying to create believable human characters in blender, and so far has only succeeded in making afro-style hair look good, leading to the decison that 6 out of the 7 characters in the project are now recolored to match the hair and the seventh is restyled as a ‘russian gangster rastafari’ (I don’t know why that specific combination either…). The original ‘storyboard’ was something with knights of the round table and I think there are no plans to change the story. I like how kids just don’t care.


One thing that impressed me about Coco was how much progress Pixar had made on rendering old-looking skin over the last 20 years.


I remember seeing Bill Cosby on a talk show telling stories of his early appearances doing stand-up on TV in studios whose makeup departments had no makeup for black people. Another makeup person proudly told him “this is the same makeup I used on Lena Horne” (who had significantly lighter skin than Cosby).


It’s fair to assume that her skin model incorporates translucency.

1 Like

Yes, especially noticeable in details like how light passes through the thin flesh of the ears.

I guess Coco was also notable for being the first Pixar movie in which most of the human characters had no skin at all.


I was a photographer’s assistant for a year while I was trying to figure out if I wanted to get an MFA in photography or not, and on shoots where we were going to be taking lots of individual shots, a big part of my job alongside the usual stuff was to remind the photographer which adjustments to make based on who we were shooting. It’s not that he didn’t know these things but there are a lot of moving pieces and my job was kind of to cue him to stuff like that. I learned a lot about lighting different races, ages, genders, etc doing that job.

1 Like

White people, especially from countries facing the Mediterraneans Sea have really curly haits, as you could see in these music videos.
And fos skin tones of Italian famous people search Luigi Di Maio e Carlo Conti :slight_smile:

extreme translucency :wink:


Thought this was an interesting blog post, about attempts to render afro hair (which in games that offer it as an option is usually much less good looking than other types of hair):

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.