The Irishman and his special effects: 8 keys to understanding why they are film history

What kind of monster is that? Martin Scorsese who, after vilifying Marvel movies goes and takes one that is summed up in three and a half hours of pure special effects?

Stop there, cowboy. You know that no.

For better or worse, The Irish It is a film that has made history for many reasons. It's the longest theatrical release in the last 20 years, it's Martin Scorsese's longest film, it's the first time we've seen De Niro, Pesci and Pacino together, and yeah, in case there's anyone who doesn't know yet. I would have known, the special effects are striking. Different.

And also historical.


Robert De Niro, before and after the special effects of The Irish

Beyond the well-trodden controversy about the suitability or otherwise of the rejuvenation techniques used in The Irish, today in Postposmo we want to focus on the exciting story offered by the head of the matter: the Argentine Pablo Helman, supervisor of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), the company that has been responsible for miraculous visual effects (and, given its conservatism, never seen before) of The Irish. Sneak peek: Scorsese's special effects have little to do with Marvel's. Scorsese's cinema is still a virgin of green chromas. We highlight nine delicious details of the visual effects of The Irish excerpted from the passionate interview (in English and a must-read) that Pablo Helman has offered to the specialized medium FX Guide.

9 curiosities about the rejuvenation effects of The Irish

The rejuvenation process a la Scorsese It would have been the ultimate nightmare (or ultimate golden dream, depending on how you look at it) for any special effects professional. A perfect storm full of impossible which, in the hands of the talented Pablo Helman and his team, has been the vehicle with which a new chapter in the history of film post-production has been written. 

“You know, I'm not That Kind of an actor

Surely, the moment in which Pablo Helman accepted that he was about to cross uncharted waters occurred during the two-way conversation that he had in 2015 with Martin Scorsese and the protagonist (but also producer of The Irish) Robert DeNiro.

"You know, I'm not that kind of actor. I want you to develop a system with no markers on my face. I don't want to wear a helmet or anything like that. And I want to be on set in the right light working with other actors," Helman says De Niro told him, after which Scorsese simply agreed with the actor to add, "Why don't you think about it? And when you come up with a system, you call us.

It was 2015, there were still more than three years to start shooting The Irish and Helman couldn't even imagine the one that was coming his way. The only additional thing (in the aspect of the actors) that has been used in the rejuvenation scenes has been those tiny positioning guides that we can see in the following example image:

Joe Pesci Comparative Rejuvenation The Irishman

Joe Pesci and his rejuvenation in The Irishman

The idea was not to rejuvenate Pacino, De Niro and Pesci.

If one of the main criticisms of the rejuvenation process of The Irish has been that we all remember the look of Tony Montana or young Michael Corleone, (and that man who calls himself Frank Sheeran looks like anything except young De Niro), Helman assures that this was on the roadmap; what Martin Scorsese's claim was to rejuvenate the characters. Not the actors.

the super camera

Since the actors would not have any markers on their faces (in the manner of the Gollum Andy Serkin or that fabulous scene Tony Stark's facial rejuvenation at Captain America: The Civil War, the key would be to record as much information as possible with the cameras. The main (not only) architect of the miracle was the creation of a super structure composed of three chambers: a main escorted on each side by a camera with rings of infrared light. The entire kit weighed thirty kilograms and had a diameter of thirty inches. And since Scorsese is Scorsese, to shoot the dialogue scenes as he usually does, two of these superstructures were necessary.


Super camera (1 + 2 infrared on the sides) used to shoot The Irish

Moons and smoke, out

Given the special nature of infrared light, all the vehicle scenes were a bit special. Because of the lead present in the windows of many cars of the 50s and 60s, the front windows had to be removed from all the scenes of The Irish where rejuvenation effects were to be applied. Same with cigarette smoke, which had to be entered by computer.

pink cadillac

The first time the team The Irish tested his new and revolutionary rejuvenation equipment was with Robert De Niro, who was encouraged to reinterpret the famous scene of the Cadillac rose of One of ours:


Not only the faces of Pesci, De Niro and Pacino have been rejuvenated. Also many hands (whose process is especially laborious, points out FXGuide). After all, «It is in the eyes and hands where you can see the path walked, the infected lives, and how little we have left as humans», what said the poet.

1750 takes

In total, 1750 shots were taken with rejuvenation effects, all of them in 4K resolution. Only three scenes were shot with steadycam. Although Scorsese was able to anticipate some 50 scenes of pre-production work for Helman (which greatly helped to prepare for and speed up the rejuvenation process), there were several totally improvised scenes, for example the long conversation about the smell of fish in the car. Yes, Helman claims that dialogue was not in Steven Zaillian's original script (which grew from the initial 130 pages to 160). Jimmy Hoffa's outburst in Miami was also improvised because of a 15-minute delay.

eye bookstore

The ILM team built an entire database of facial features between 2015 and 2017. A complete library of faces divided by age in which, for example, you can access the eyes of Robert De Niro at the age of 46 in just a few clicks. It has an artificial intelligence system with which, once the parameters have been entered, it selects the best features for a specific scene. In total, in The Irish we see Robert De Niro at the age of 24, 36, 41, 42, 47, 55 and 76 years (your current age). Every time Martin Scorsese reviewed a scene, he did so with almost all of the special effects already applied, says Helman: "I've never heard Martin say anything like 'the resemblance isn't there,' and all he'd say to me would be something like that." to “I think we need more texture on the skin”, etc.

The priority of the original material

Helman claims that no body doubles have been used (something that would have helped a lot when retouching the improvised scenes). What's more, not all rejuvenation effects were in three dimensions. In the flashback where we see the youngest of the Frank Sheeran of The Irish, Robert De Niro's body was adjusted using 2D compositing to make him appear younger and slimmer.

Martin Scorsese's premise was always to work with as much original material as possible.

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