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Future Actors Won't Always be Real

In the film "Simone," Al Pacino created a computer-generated actress he passed off as real. Now this is no longer fiction: for his two sequels to "The Matrix," director Joel Silver mixes real actors in the same scenes with computer-generated images and you can't tell the difference. The movies will be released a few months apart in the spring of 2003. Larry and Andy Wachowski, with their partner Gaeta, say they can now make movies in which it's impossible to tell real characters and scenes from fake ones.

There's a scene in the sequel "Reloaded" in which the character Neo fights 100 "Agent Smiths." Only one of those Agent Smiths is the real actor Hugo Weaving, but you can't tell which one. The other 99 are all digital creations, and they're not just close approximations. They seem perfect, right down to the most subtle facial expressions. In the films, Gaeta and his team create virtual humans, virtual rooms and virtual vehicles.

But virtual cinematography doesn't do away with the need for real people, because they have to start out with flesh-and-blood actors. Five high-resolution digital cameras strong enough to pick up details like pores and follicles record an actor?s performance. "Matrix" actor Keanu Reeves, who also appears in the sequels, says, "Larry and Andrew were always asking more of us. In the kung fu scenes, they would ask me, 'Can you duck a little bit later?'?Once they have the source material, you, the actor, are no longer involved." Next they feed the information from all five cameras into a computer, and a complex algorithm calculates the actor?s appearance from every angle, even those the cameras missed. "Once we have the master performance captured," Gaeta says, "we can actually use it to create an event, like a martial-arts fight. But it could be anything."

How can we tell what?s real? Some things that sound totally fantastic really happened.

To see the trailer of one of the new films,click here.

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