It appears impossibly sleek and glossy — even taking into account the poolside setting, blazing sun and liberal application of tanning lotion. To be clear, this “it” is a penis, and it bears the characteristic gleam of a condom — except there is no visible lip. The latex sheen seamlessly transitions into the matte effect of unsheathed skin.
This is a scene from Falcon Studio’s “California Dreamin’,” allegedly the first porn film to digitally remove condoms in post-production. The performers wore protection while shooting and, through a combination of lighting and editing tricks, the rubbers were erased — for the most part. Clearly, it is an imperfect art, but in some scenes the condom is undetectable. This technological trick seems like just the solution to the acrimonious debate over mandating condoms in porn. This way, performers are protected and viewers get the rubber-free porn they demand, right? If only it were that simple.
Sex educator and director Tristan Taormino says this technique is unlikely to take off. “The way the porn economy is right now, I just think it’s not economically feasible for most people.” Sure, there are “big web companies” that appear to be rolling in money, she says, but their success is a result of having a constant stream of new content. That hamster-wheel business model leaves no time for advanced post-production techniques.
Axel Braun, who was recently named best director by Adult Video New for the fourth year in a row, agrees. “To do it right is extremely difficult, time consuming, and impossibly expensive,” he says. It would involve an animation technique called rotoscoping, and editors would have to “match the color, texture and wetness of the genitals” — for each and every frame. “Given that a sex scene is on average 20 minutes long, and even subtracting a generous 10 minutes between oral and climax which are always condom-less, you’d still have 10 minutes left,” he said. “At 30 frames per second, that’s 18,000 unique frames per scene, times five scenes per movie.”
That amounts to 90,000 frames. “We’re talking easily about one hundred thousand dollars,” he says.