This Animoji video is the 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' remake we didn't know we needed

Animoji — Apple's face-tracking, animated emoji characters — have arguably been the breakout hit of iPhone X. The little creatures use iPhone X's TrueDepth camera system to map your facial expressions and movement onto their own, giving you 12 different emoji characters to express yourself. While they were pitched by Apple as a way to communicate with friends and family in a fun way, a new — incredibly popular — use has cropped up: syncing the characters to all sorts of media. A quick search for "animoji" on any social media platform will return results for #AnimojiKaraoke music videos, #AnimojiTheater movie and television scenes, and more!

VFX artist Joseph Rosensteel has made one of the best Animoji Theater videos I've ever seen. When you take one of the most tense scenes in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and add in some Animoji characters, you get something equal parts hilarious and damned perfect. Trust me, you're going to want to watch the whole thing. There are several references to iOS peppered throughout the video (Control Center, iMessage Screen Effects, etc.) that add to the hilarity.

Give it a watch:

Thanks to Rosensteel's VFX skills, the video takes things a little further than your typical Animoji video. Instead of a simple white background and some music or audio playing over the clip, Rosensteel's video adds some awesome movie magic that makes the clip all the more awesome.

I wanted to know more about what went into making the clip, so I asked him. Like a true professional, Rosensteel didn't disappoint — put another way, I got A LOT of words back. Here's some of the work that went into making this Animoji scene:

It started out simply enough, using many of the same techniques Rene Ritchie recommends in his how-to article.

All the Animoji were recorded karaoke style - screen recordings. Uploaded from my phone to my Mac. They were timed and cut in Adobe Premiere with each animal being its own track to be exported.

Then things get a little more involved.

Those timed videos were brought in to Foundry's Nuke (the non-commercial version is free to download on their site, and I am not making any money on this). Nuke is where all the cropping, transforms, and matte work is done.

Rosensteel goes on to explain how he included references to Control Center and iMessage Screen Effects. Sounds simple enough (/sarcasm).

For the control center console, that was stitched together from a screenshot of control center with a white background. That's not a 3D track, it's a planar track - meaning a plane of the image was tracked. The console is flat so that worked best to get the rotation and movement to match the original movement. The confetti, celebration, and fireworks were all screen recordings. I did a difference matte where you provide two inputs and whatever's different about the images is your matte.

Yeah, so, uhh … I think I'll stick to my simpler, easier Animoji scenes and let the pros do all the planar difference matting and stitched crop tracking … or whatever.


What do you think of the video? Did you laugh as hard as I did at the iPhone X notch? Did you spot Control Center? What are some of your favorite Animoji videos? Share a link in the comments or over on Twitter!

Mikah Sargent

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.