Sewing together Chewbacca’s headpiece, turning Meryl Streep into Julia Child —makeover magic is what makes movies work, by encouraging willful suspension of disbelief and letting people imagine, just for 120 minutes or so, that the person they're looking at on screen isn’t the same person they saw makeup-free in an Instagram post last week. The behind-the-scenes artistry is more convincing now than ever — and it often comes with a 4 a.m. call time and hours of grueling work.
But Disney Research is imagining a completely different future, where makeup doesn’t get better but rather becomes… irrelevant. Fast Company reports that Walt Disney Company’s scientific-research branch has developed Makeup Lamps, a new project that uses face-tracking technology to project digital pixels onto the skin. In addition to creating the illusion of makeup on the face, it can add wrinkles, light, and shadow in a way that looks seamless.
Lady Gaga’s performance at the 2016 Grammys, in which she channeled David Bowie, used similar technology — but, when you watch closely, the result is less than perfect. Makeup Lamps, on the other hand, read expressions and project “responsive pixels” in just 10 milliseconds. It also works to predict the next movement a subject will make, which it determines by the way your face moves.
Makeup Lamps may sound like the name of an as-seen-on-TV product that guides you while applying makeup, but it’s actually a huge innovation that could change the history of filmmaking as we know it. And it's likely some version of it will show up in our IRL makeup routines, too.