Virtual Tinseltown on the horizon

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The Independent Online
Highly paid screen actors could ultimately find themselves being replaced - by computer software. The prospect of what actors might view as Nightmare in Tinsel Town was raised at a film and television conference in Glasgow yesterday. Scientists at Geneva University have already made an experimental 10-minute short, Rendezvous in Montreal, in which a computer- generated Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe conduct an affair.

Yesterday, Professor Robin Baker of Ravensbourne College, Kent, an expert on computer-generated images and film technology, told the Robotix 97 Screen Wizards festival that if Hollywood decided to throw money at the concept, virtual actors, or "vactors", could become a reality in two or three years.

What would be seen by filmgoers would not be computer-controlled models or robots, but "actors" created in 3-D form on a computer screen, which is then filmed. Professor Baker views this as the next logical step in the development of screen technology. Similar techniques were used by Hollywood. "If you think of Toy Story (below), you are not all that far away from it," he said.