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Historic Figures Brought to Life with Movement and Emotion!

Historic Figures Brought to Life with Movement and Emotion!


A graphic artist in Ireland has utilized advanced motional tracking technology to create highly realistic video footage of famous historic figures, showing what they would have looked like in real life. Using paintings, photos, statues, or even death masks of real people from the past, including King Henry VII, Queen Elizabeth, and Nefertiti, the new technology first recreates an image of the person and then brings it to life with realistic movement and emotion.  The results are mind-blowing!

Bridging the Gap Between History and Art

Matt Loughrey is a 41-year-old graphic artist living in Ireland who runs a creative studio whose work on the colorization and restoration of old photographs attracted the attention of National Geographic and others. This led him to establish the website My Colorful Past, which says it is “bridging a gap between history and art” using digital editing technology to recreate historical figures, and his collection is currently being featured in American schools, as well as across museums and libraries.

In an interview last year, Matt told Ancient Origins, “I saw room for a change of approach and decided to focus on creating more accurate methods to improve results”. It took him five years of hard work to develop the technology but he was eventually able to realistically colorize old photographs and enhance them, bringing figures from the 19 th century, such as the outlaw Jesse James back to life. However, he felt restricted in what he could achieve with photographs. Moreover, he was aware of the rapid changes in technology and realized he could do more.

Loughrey’s work then progressed to the recreation of historical figures, not just from photographs of the living, but also from photographs of the dead (such as the mummy of pharaoh Seti I), paintings, busts, and even death masks, including Scotland’s famous beheaded queen, Mary, Queen of Scots.

He told Ancient Origins that, “I was convinced there was a way to travel far further back in time than photography's advent.” Loughrey explained that he saw “life and death masks as a conduit to other centuries”.

The reconstructing of Pharaoh Seti I using face recognition technology. (Courtesy of Matt Loughrey /  My Colorful Past )

The reconstructing of Pharaoh Seti I using face recognition technology. (Courtesy of Matt Loughrey /  My Colorful Past )

Matt Loughrey’s reconstruction of Mary Queen of Scotland. (Courtesy of Matt Loughrey / My Colorful Past).

Matt Loughreys reconstruction of Mary Queen of Scotland. (Courtesy of Matt Loughrey / My Colorful Past).

The photorealistic images comprise thousands of individual layers which are knitted together. By blending his programming skills with his rich historical knowledge of the lives (and deaths) of the figures he recreates, we, the audience, can gaze upon the faces of real historical figures that are long gone.

One criticism of Loughrey’s work, and indeed that of many other experts involved in facial reconstructions, is that the application of facial colorings and hair patterns are all subjective and subject to interpretation. However, through the technological process, different skin colorings, hair styles or facial hair is but the press of a button away as everything is built on individual layers, and these can be switched on or off on demand.

Motion Technology Brings Faces to Vivid Life

Following the success of his image reconstructions, Matt Loughrey has now taken an even greater leap – animating his images with motion-tracking technology.

"Early in 2020, I came up with an idea to track orbital and ocular motion using recordings of real world faces. It is achieved through using and observing hundreds of physical data points or 'keys' and in this process they universally interpret motion with subtlety, which is pivotal to the success of the animation,” Loughrey explained.

“I began showing examples on Instagram in October last. The feedback was tremendous and therein X-Oculi had become a bespoke, real world service through the My Colorful Past website. Relatability is everything throughout my work, whether it be colorization or restoration there are stories to be told and they are deserving of great concentration and respect."

The technology, which Loughrey has named X-Oculi, is a one-of-a-kind imaging technique that uses a combination of unrivaled artistry and cutting-edge orbital motion-tracking to imbue images with movement and emotion.

Loughrey was keen to point out that the craft “is not AI or Deepfakery as is made out in the media at present but more of an advanced mo-trac (motion tracking) exercise whereby hundreds of facial data points can be applied to new faces for realistic ocular and orbital animation/motion”.

Each one of the animations takes upwards of three hours to not only color but to animate successfully while keeping in mind the brief, that being realism.

In creating animated images of historic figures, Loughrey explains, “you are being given a glimpse of not just what they looked like but also of the person that they may have been”.

Top image: Stages of restoration to King Henry VII death mask. (Courtesy of Matt Loughrey /  My Colorful Past )

Matt Loughrey’s portfolio of historic images and videos can be viewed at My Colorful Past.

By Joanna Gillan

Joanna Gillan's picture


Joanna Gillan is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. 

Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in Australia and published research in the field of Educational Psychology. She has a rich and varied career, ranging from teaching... Read More

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