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In the end of The Mandalorian S02E08,

young Luke Skywalker

came to rescue everyone from Dark Troopers on-board Moff Gideon's cruiser.

That's a first for a TV show given the cost involved. How did they bring him back? Was it costly CGI or a body double with make-up?

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    (thanks for using the spoiler system on the era's greatest reveal!) For your interest, the (fairly bad) TV movie "the Irishman" (crime movie by Scorsese, DeNiro etc) also notably used de-aging techniques. (in fact, it wasn't very good, to my eye! the one you mention in this question was astounding) indeed there's a short documentary about the "irishman" de-aging it you can dig up. May be of interest.
    – Fattie
    Jan 4, 2021 at 13:48

2 Answers 2

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CGI, body double and Mark Hamill are all involved.

“We started off the whole series with the Baby Yoda reveal – with the Grogu reveal – that was a secret that everybody was really blown away by,” Favreau said. “Part of that is not telling too many people, not having merchandise that’s being tooled up and announced and everything. And then the very last episode having Mark Hamill actually on set filming and us using whatever technology we had available to de-age him and try to make him look as much like he did in the old films.”

IndieWire, Jon Favreau Confirms Mark Hamill Was on ‘The Mandalorian’ Set to Film Luke Skywalker Finale Scene

That’s also how this younger version of Luke was brought to life for “The Mandalorian,” with actor Max Lloyd Jones taking on the role from behind a computer-generated mask. Hamill doesn’t appear to have been very involved with this episode, as that doesn’t even sound like his voice speaking the lines — though of course that may just be cinema magic de-aging his voice.

The Wrap, ‘The Mandalorian': That CGI Character Appearance Was Really Weird

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Digital de-aging by ILM. They have not disclosed the exact techniques, but this article describes some of the possibilities:

From the credits, we learn that Mark Hamill did reprise his role, and Max Lloyd Jones is named as a body double ("Double for Jedi"). That signals that the filmmakers incorporated a technique similar to the one used in Rogue One, where the studio hired Guy Henry, a 56-year-old British actor (who appeared as Minister of Magic Pius Thicknesse in the two Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows installments) to play the part of Tarkin on set before the VFX team took over to replace his head with a digital version of the late Cushing.

Hamill's face in Mandalorian could have been the result of one or more techniques, including incorporating some found footage into the shots. For instance, to create a young Leia and Luke training with lightsabers in The Rise of Skywalker, the filmmakers found footage of the actors from the production of 1983’s Return of the Jedi and combined those facial performances with digital bodies.

Other ways to de-age a performer include compositing techniques that could be likened to Photoshop or a sort of digital makeup applied to the actual actor to smooth their skin. More advanced processes could involve scanning an actor's head and creating and animating a fully CG version. This could involve hand animating based on reference material of the actor's performance and/or incorporating facial performance capture.

As regards difficulty and cost, Disney is currently banking on The Mandalorian to serve as a tentpole for a continuing Star Wars franchise, so I would not be surprised if they increased the budget for this episode. Secondly, these techniques are getting more accessible. A YouTuber has already improved the quality of the scene.

And honestly, these techniques are getting more accessible all the time. Corridor Crew has done a few very convincing digital simulations of people for example, and they've broken down how they've done it.

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  • After the deep fake Queen's message came out I commented that 10 years ago the general public wouldn't have considered it possible, right now it's not perfect, but close and that in 5 to 10 years from now you won't be able to tell the difference just by watching some video.
    – Peter M
    Jan 3, 2021 at 15:43
  • The issue with deepfakes are twofold: first, there's some question about copyright issues since the software uses old footage that a studio may not own, so they may not want to get into the legal fight with an unknown outcome. The second issue is that a deepfake works or it doesn't, and you don't know until it's done. It would suck if you're doing the VFX, the deadline is coming up, and it turns out the deepfake didn't work. With the 3D mask and normal rendering you've got control over every step of the process and can fix something in process. Jan 4, 2021 at 1:08

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