Virtual Dylan Thomas in the News
BBC News Online - Wednesday 18 May 2005
'Virtual' Dylan brought to life
Dylan Thomas is being brought back to life in the form of a 3D moving image created using his death mask.
No cimematic footage of the Swansea poet is believed to have survived, making art student Bernard Mitchell's short film the only moving pictures.
Scans were made at Morriston Hospital of Thomas' death mask, which formed the basis of a 3D map of his face.
A computer animator and an actor have helped create the final images, which will be premiered in August.
The five-minute film showing the virtual Thomas reading "Do not go gentle into that good night" will form the finale of a one-man play at the Edinburgh Festival.
Mr Mitchell, 58, who is also a professional photographer, became interested in Thomas' life in the 1960s when he took a series of portaits of the author's famous friends, known as the Kardomah Boys.
Facial features and hair were added in the second stage
Now studying for a master's degree at the Swansea School of Art, Mr Mitchell has been inspired to create Thomas as part of a study of absence and presence.
His first step was to have the death mask scanned from all angles at the hospital's maxillofacial department.
These were then used by Swansea-based 3D animators iCreate to "wrap" a virtual skin around the structure.
They then referred to photographs of Thomas to create the right markings and texture on his skin, and the correct eye and hair colour.
Actor Bob Kingdom, who regularly performs as the poet, is being filmed on Wednesday so that his facial movements can be applied to the computer model and lip-synched to the recording.
Voice recordings of Thomas remain but not moving pictures
The final product could be ready by the end of this month, subject to the securing of funding.
It will be screened at the end of an Old Garbo Productions play called Dylan in American, in which Thomas dies on stage.
Creating the film - from inception to editing - has taken Mr Mitchell about 12 months.
"I've got a few more grey hairs than I had when I started," he said.
"It's been quite hard to persuade people it's possible and would be worth supporting.
"To actually do it and to put all the elements together, you have to be dogged and not give up. I'm relieved and excited."
In the long-term, Mr Mitchell hopes to makes a full-length DVD of the virtual Thomas, using recordings of him reading his own work.
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iCreate Ltd and Bvirtual Ltd 2005