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The Weekly Updates Archive

CONTENTS

Angels in America Stan Winston Studio


Cold Mountain Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Bill Tondreau Hero
Monster Smallville: Year Two
Peter Jackson The Forgotten
Hidalgo Shark Tale
50 First Dates Jeff Okun
The Matrix Revolutions What the #$*! Do We Know?
Ellenshaw Under GlassEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Team America: World Police
Mind I Heart Huckabees
Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed Monster Island
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 The Polar Express IMAX 3D
The Punisher Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Big Fish A Very Long Engagement
Troy
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins
Shrek 2
Mark Raats
The Chronicles of Riddick
The Terminal
Around the World in 80 Days
King Arthur
Two Brothers
A Cinderella Story
Todd Masters
Catwoman
Exorcist: The Beginning
HEAVENLY DAYS
Article by Don Shay

When Richard Edlund received a call from HBO asking if he


was available to work on a project called Angels in America,
the four-time Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor hesitated
only long enough to ascertain that director Mike Nichols
would be at the helm. The television miniseries, adapted by
Tony Kushner from his own two-part Pulitzer Prize-winning
play, was a six-hour examination of the burgeoning AIDS
plague in the mid-1980s, and Edlund found himself drawn in
by the treatment of the subject and the intelligence of the
writing.

Edlund flew to New York, where the production was being


mounted, to meet with Nichols and the producers; but
ultimately a younger, less-experienced supervisor was hired
instead. Three months later, however, HBO called again. The
first half of the production was in the can, and Nichols was
dissatisfied with the effects in progress. Would Edlund
consider taking over?

Although most of the visual effects would appear in the


second half of the production, the first featured a
hallucination sequence in which Harper Pitt (Mary Louise
Parker), the pill-popping wife of a closeted gay man, finds
herself in a fantasyland Antarctica dressed with an icebound
sailing ship and other oddities. The sequence, filmed on a
greenscreen stage, had been poorly designed from an effects
standpoint. "They had built a miniature ship that was maybe
ten feet long -- not very detailed -- and they had just put it on
the floor of the set," said Edlund. "Of course, it looked like a
miniature sitting on the floor of the set. They even had little
kids dressed up in Eskimo garb to force the perspective, but
they looked like kids. Also, they were getting video dailies,
rather than film, and they couldn't tell that there were focus
problems."
was a lot of smoke on the set, and shards of light, which
would have made it difficult to add the wings after the fact."

To spare the actress the discomfort of hanging her on wires


for multiple days of filming, the special effects crew
suspended Thompson, upright, on a bicycle seat rigged to
move her up and down and side to side as she hovered and
delivered her lines. Fans on the set blew her hair and
costume. R!OT did extensive roto and paint work to remove
the mechanical flying rig and cables used to support both the
rig and the rhythmically flapping wings.

The sequence climaxes, as it were, with the female angel


seducing the gay man as they hover slightly apart in midair.
Flames sear the garments off both characters in discreet
head-and-shoulders shots requiring the digital team to burn
3D clothing from the undraped performers. Wide shots of the
Edlund took the sequence to R!OT in Santa Monica, where naked figures in orgasmic frenzy featured Justin Kirk and an
Michele Moen, who had worked for him at Boss Film Emma Thompson body double. "We made castings of the
Corporation, was now visual effects art director and lead actors and built body pans so they could lie on their sides,
painter. "Michele has a great eye," Edlund asserted, "and I facing each other, and be shot in profile from above," said
needed someone whose aesthetic sense I could trust." Edlund, "with the floor painted green beneath them." Edlund
Working with unsteady plate photography for a lead-in shot photographed Thompson in closeup, then turned the material
that craned up from a New York sidewalk and then descended over to the R!OT crew, which replaced the body double's head
on the Antarctic setting, Edlund and the R!OT team produced with the actress.' "I had shot Justin and the body double a few
a digital painting-enhanced transition, then went on to rebuild feet apart, so they could move their arms around, but they
the subsequent sequence. "We had to get rid of the ship were pushed closer together in the composite and their arms
model, so we rotoed the actors whenever they walked in front were rotoed where they overlapped. We incorporated some
of it and painted in all the backgrounds -- including the ship, orgasmic body action, since the actors couldn't do any of that
which gave the sequence some visual interest." in the rigid body pans, and layered in fire elements and the
angel's wings, which were shot separately."
The show's most flamboyant effects come when AIDS patient
Prior Walter (Justin Kirk) is visited by an angel (Emma Late in the film, Prior pays a visit to Heaven, a cross between
Thompson) who crashes through his bedroom ceiling and modern-day San Francisco and the remnants of ancient
hovers above him. Thompson was fitted with enormous Rome, run by angelic bureaucrats. The principal action was
feathered wings and flown practically on the set via a custom- photographed at Hadrian's Villa, a 2,000-year-old structure
built rig. "It was better to shoot Emma with the wings on the outside Rome, which was enhanced with digitally painted
set, rather than put the wings on later," said Edlund. "There backgrounds. "Mike wanted to impart visually that this was a
bureaucratic, dysfunctional place," recalled Edlund. "We were
talking about how to do that, and I said: 'Remember Orson
Welles' The Trial, where there was a room filled with this vast
typing pool?' And he said, 'Exactly!' So they got 60 desks
equipped with old Olivettis and Underwoods, and a bunch of
angels in gray suits with little wings. We multiplied them eight
or ten times by shooting tiles, then comping them into the
background."

Working with an acclaimed director on a prestigious, high-


profile project was a heavenly experience for Richard Edlund.
"It was a rare opportunity to be involved in something other
than a bubblegum movie," Edlund commented. "Mike Nichols
and the actors were terrific. Angels in America is one of my
all-time favorite filmmaking experiences."
SIEGE TACTICS awe-inspiring," said Dennis Lowe, "but a lot of it was achieved
at the location, with physical effects, then subtly enhanced
Article by Joe Fordham
with visual effects." Physical effects director Trevor Wood, a
long-time associate of Neil Corbould Special Effects, oversaw
practical carnage for the siege, using more than 250 gallons
of fuel and 200 pounds of explosives to simulate the
excavation of a crater 170 feet by 80 feet, and 50 feet deep.
"They couldn't physically pack all that energy into an area that
was really that size; so Trevor's team detonated a circle of
about 20 charges, which looked like a bigger explosion than it
was."

Visual effects supervisor Dennis Lowe reunited with


filmmaker Anthony Minghella for Cold Mountain, an epic
drama set during the American Civil War. Adapted by
Minghella from a novel by Charles Frazier, the film told the
tale of Inman (Jude Law), a wounded Confederate soldier who
deserts a military hospital to embark on a long trek home,
where his love, Ada (Nicole Kidman), is also struggling to
survive the war.

Like Minghella's earlier films, Cold Mountain emphasized Director of photography John Seale covered the explosion
characters and drama over spectacle; yet, to set the stage of a with four cameras, with a second unit in the trench. Lowe
country divided by war, Minghella chose to open the film with supplied five additional spring-wound Eyemo newsreel 'crash
a ferocious battle alluded to peripherally in Frazier's book: the cameras,' positioned closer to the blast. The explosion was
Union army's attempt to capture a Confederate stronghold in captured in one take, then enhanced with digital effects.
Petersburg, Virginia, by tunneling under enemy lines and Double Negative blended practical elements of exploding
detonating bombs from below, to devastating effect. mud and 3D animation. "We wanted to emphasize the scale of
the practical explosion," Lowe explained. "We added CG flying
The sequence was shot on a tract of farmland outside bodies, horses, carts and barrels blowing out; but it was never
Bucharest, Romania, bulldozed and landscaped to match overemphasized. Anthony wanted the effects to be almost
19th-century reference photographs. "The siege had to look
subliminal. Early on, we added as many people as would have
been located in that part of the trench and had them fly up
300 feet; but that looked a little over the top, so we layered
them into the explosion, covered by foreground mud."

Closeup angles of the ground erupting -- hurling Confederates


through the air and ripping the clothes from one soldier's
body -- used practical effects with minimal digital finessing,
and editorial sleight of hand. "We took out wires and added
dust and debris," said Lowe, "but most of that was done for
real, with the help of film editor Walter Murch, who was very
skilled at judging how much of a shot we could use."

Digital enhancements also included matte paintings of


Petersburg extending off into the distance, and crowd
replication seen in an eerie shot preceding the detonation
where the camera cranes up to reveal the Yankee soldiers
laying in wait, face-down in the mud. Six hundred members of
the Romanian Army portrayed soldiers on the field. To expand
the mass of men, the visual effects team repositioned and
replicated the troops.

Crowd replication was used to nightmarish effect as Union


troops pour into the exploded crater, then fall prey to a
'turkey shoot' as surviving Confederates take potshots from
above. "The extras filled about 1/20th of the area of the
crater," said Lowe. "We shot the crowd in sections using the
old rope trick -- we threw a rope around them, moved them,
then filmed them all again. We shot that as a static plate, then
motion-tracked the foreground and added drifting smoke."
Smoke added to the sepia patina created by John Seale using

combinations of in-camera filters and digital grading by


Framestore CFC.
Filmed over three weeks, the battle set a somber tone for the
picture, intercut with Inman's memories of home. "Anthony
felt the film was not about the war," said Lowe. "He and Walter
broke up the battle as the film took shape, making it more
relevant to the story. It was an anti-war film, really."

In addition to the battle, Cold Mountain's 176 visual effects


included night sky enhancements, digital snowfall and a
surreal vision in a well -- a prophetic image foreshadowing
Inman's return home, inspired by an M.C. Escher print and
created by digitally blending elements of Jude Law and
trained crows. Digital matte paintings also enhanced
environments, adding snow to areas of the Romanian
landscape. "We tried not to make the matte paintings too
beautiful," commented Lowe, " because we didn't want to
draw people's attention to the effects. The hardest thing was
holding back, but that's what Anthony wanted.

"The nice thing about Anthony is that he delegates. The first


thing he said to me when I met him on The English Patient
was: 'This is your film. Treat these shots as your own.' That
was really shocking, because most directors are quite
dictatorial. With Anthony, it's like going back to film school --
you're playing, and if you make a mistake, it's not the end of
the world; you learn from it. That's such a good way to make
movies."

PURPETUAL MOTION
Article by Jody Duncan
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present movie burst upon the scene, the film industry took note of
an Oscar statuette to Bill Tondreau at the Scientific and the new technology -- and those who pioneered it. "Motion
Technical Achievement Awards ceremony on February 14, in control was really hot then," said Tondreau, "and, having built
recognition of his Kuper motion control software and its a motion control system, I got sucked up into the effects
significant contribution to the film industry. world. I was immediately skyrocketed into a position that was
out of proportion to my experience!"

Concurrent with his founding of Tondreau Electronics,


Tondreau was assigned to build computerized, motion-
controlled animation stands for Industrial Light & Magic to
Tondreau's early interests in photography and micro-processor facilitate the company's work on Return of the Jedi. "A lot of
computers converged in his development of a prototype the effects for that film -- laser effects explosions, and even
motion control system in 1978, while working for designer some model effects -- were done on these animation stands,"
Charles Eames. "I developed the system as a way to create Tondreau noted. "From that point on, I had a very close
movement on still photographic images for Eames' relationship with ILM." In the next decade, ILM replaced the in-
documentary films," Tondreau said. "In my work for the Eames house motion control system its founders had developed for
Office, I had a chance to put into practice a number of talents Star Wars with Tondreau's system. "As they found more and
I'd developed in previous years." more uses for motion control, they needed more
sophisticated systems. They started using my system on their
Two years earlier, motion control had been employed to
generate visual effects for Star Wars; and when that breakout
stages in the 1980s. ILM currently runs something like a
dozen motion control systems."

In 1988, health concerns led Tondreau to take a hiatus from


his highly successful business and move to New Mexico for
treatment. Two years later -- after regaining his health and
implementing a major overhaul of the motion control
system's hardware and software -- Tondreau formed Kuper
Controls, the successor to Tondreau Electronics. "I chose the
name 'Kuper' because it had two sharp consonants, and it was
easy to say," Tondreau explained. "It was the same rationale
that Kodak used when they picked the name 'Kodak.' It was
odd enough to remember, but also familiar enough to
pronounce and spell." The name has become so familiar, in
fact, it has evolved into a generic term: 'Kuper' is to motion
control systems what 'Kleenex' is to facial tissues. "I've had
makers of other systems complain to me that, on the set,
operators will refer to their equipment as 'Kuper.'" Though an
understandable mistake, given the ubiquitous nature of
Tondreau's product, references to motion control equipment
as 'Kuper' are misleading -- Kuper is actually a software
package used in conjunction with existing track and robotic
camera systems. "I supply the core technology that allows
other people to develop new systems of their own design."

The current staff of the New Mexico-based Kuper Controls


consists of Tondreau and a handful of part-time helpers who
assist in building circuit boards.

Today, advances in postproduction motion tracking


methodologies have mitigated the need for traditional motion
control setups; yet, Tondreau remains optimistic about the
future of the technology. "The motion control market is
certainly not dead," Tondreau commented. "On Lord of the
Rings, there was intense usage of motion control, both
traditional and nontraditional. There was, of course, all the
terrific model work and virtual set work; but there were also
nontraditional uses, such as shooting actors separately -- seeing systems that set up much faster and impose fewer
because of conflicting schedules -- then putting them together restraints on the director. For shots that involve large-scale
in a scene. ILM is also using a lot of motion control in the new objects, in particular, motion control is very useful."
Star Wars movies. The last two Star Wars movies had 800 to
900 shots that used motion control elements." A future 'large-scale object' that will make use of motion
control is the title character of Peter Jackson's King Kong
remake. "Motion control will provide Peter Jackson with
directability," Tondreau stated. "He is interested in tangible,
directable setups; so motion control will be a great tool on
King Kong."

Despite three nods from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts


and Sciences and a singularly distinguished standing within
the film industry, Bill Tondreau maintains a low profile and
describes himself as 'terminally modest.' "I was just in the
right place, at the right time," Tondreau said, "and my early
investment in learning paid off, big-time."

Its live, on-set presence is among motion control's advantages


over postproduction tracking. "In the case of shooting actors
separately," said Tondreau, "you can do repeat passes on the
set and look at the previous scene as the new scene is being
photographed. As you run your motion control moves, you
can see a real-time composite of previous footage against the
new footage. So the director can direct effects shots on the
set, with the actor. Motion control allows for that kind of
immediacy." State-of-the-art systems are also making strides in
increasing motion control's speed and efficiency. "We're now
SKIN DEEP MONSTER Recommended to Theron and Jenkins by Rick Baker's
Cinovation Studio, Toni G met with the actress and the
Article by Jody Duncan / Interview by Joe Fordham
director well before the start of filming to devise an overall
Among those nominated for the best actress Academy Award approach to the makeup assignment. "When they first called
this year is Charlize Theron, whose chilling turn as serial killer me," Toni G recalled, "I thought that Charlize Theron as Aileen
Aileen Wournos in Patty Jenkins' Monster has garnered Wournos was a bit of a stretch. But when I met with Patty and
ecstatic critical reviews -- many of which note how thoroughly Charlize, I realized that it was definitely achievable. Charlize
Theron disappears in the role. Gone is the svelte, creamy- was so completely inspired, she inspired me! I thought, 'Yes,
skinned, blue-eyed beauty; in her place is a near-perfect re- this is possible.'"
creation of Wournos, complete with ravaged hair and skin,
At that first meeting, Jenkins and Theron made it clear that
crooked teeth and dumpy body.
they wanted to pursue a non-prosthetic approach. "Prosthetics
weren't even considered," Toni G said, "mainly because there
wasn't the budget to do that. But I never thought prosthetics
were necessary, anyway." The plan was to have Theron gain
30 pounds -- which, in itself, would go a long way toward
changing her appearance -- and then implement the other
changes through straightforward makeup and hairstyling
techniques. As a start, Toni G researched a wealth of archival
material on Wournos. "There were so many great photographs
of Aileen and so much video coverage, it was a dream. I had
a plethora of research material."

In the days leading up to the shoot, Toni G applied test


makeups on friends in her garage, arriving at a final makeup
that emphasized Wournos' key characteristics. Among the
most crucial were her misshapen eyebrows and dry, over-
bleached hair. Rather than wear a wig, Theron gamely
endured a day-long hair-frying and hair-thinning session with
Historically, Oscar has honored beautiful women who have hairstylist Katie Swanson. Her eyebrows also took abuse.
shed their vanity for the sake of a juicy role. Elizabeth Taylor "Charlize's eyebrows needed to be completely changed to
as the frumpy Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won frame her face differently," Toni G noted, "so I took off all the
the best actress statuette, as did Hilary Swank playing the outside part of her eyebrows, and also bleached them.
boyish, gender-confused Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry, Eyebrows are an amazing representation of what people go
and The Hours' Nicole Kidman, whose natural beauty was through in their lives. You can see an angry person, a happy
obscured by a prosthetic nose. If Theron continues that trend person, a gentle person, all through the eyebrows. Aileen's
with a win on Oscar night, she is likely to acknowledge the eyebrows had a tendency to angle upward towards her
contribution of Toni G, the makeup artist responsible for her forehead, which created an angry expression." Contact lenses
startling physical transformation.
further altered the actress' eyes, changing their color from
blue to brown and giving them a deeper, more haunted look.

Wournos' crooked, stained and rotting teeth were another


distinguishing feature. Toni G covered Theron's straight, white
teeth with prosthetic dentures, which also served to push out
her mouth slightly, making it appear wider. Toni G hired
Yoishi 'Art' Sakamoto, with whom she had worked at
Cinovation, to make the dentures. "Art took a dental
impression, and then came up with some prototype dentures,
painting on the discoloration and detail. We discussed what
needed to be changed, and went from there. It was important
that the dentures be thick enough to look realistic, but thin
enough not to impede Charlize's speech. We got a practice
pair out to her as soon as possible -- about a month before With practice, Toni G got the makeup application time down
they started shooting -- so she could get accustomed to to a single hour. "I remember the first day we did the whole
speaking with them. It takes time for a person to learn how to makeup on Charlize. It gave me goose bumps. She walked
speak properly with prosthetic dentures, so that they don't out of the trailer, lit a cigarette -- and Charlize was gone."
distract from the performance."
A symbiotic fusion of Toni G's makeup and Charlize Theron's
Even with the excess weight, damaged hair, crooked teeth extraordinary performance resulted in a stunning on-screen
and bleached and over-tweezed eyebrows, Theron's beauty representation of the troubled Aileen Wournos. "If Charlize
shone through. "We had all those things together," Toni G had given a brilliant performance, but still looked like
recalled, "but she still had this creamy, poreless, gorgeous Charlize," Toni G concluded, "that would have been very
skin. With makeup, I had to create the years of abuse to her distracting. But if not for her brilliant performance, the teeth,
skin -- all the freckles and capillaries and sun damage -- either the makeup, the hair -- none of it would have worked."
through hand-painting or working with an airbrush." The
makeup artist used an alcohol-based, makeup-industry 'tattoo
ink' to create layers of translucent washes, building up the
skin damage to suggest depth and dimensionality. A sealant
called 'Green Marble' was applied to create additional texture,
and was also used liberally to prevent the makeup from
running off in a scene in which Wournos appears in the
shower.
FROM KING TO KONG Bringing to conclusion what, for some, was a seven-year
odyssey, the awards recipients made their appearance at The
Article by Joe Fordham
One Party -- a festive occasion organized by the fan website
Hobbits, elves and black-tied gentry erupted with joy Sunday TheOneRing.net -- speculating amid the hoopla about their
night at the Hollywood American Legion Hall as Steven work on the still-in-progress Return of the King: Extended
Spielberg presented filmmaker Peter Jackson the best picture Edition DVD release. "The cut is never locked!" stated film
Oscar for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, editor Jamie Selkirk, one of the evening's winners and a
capping an evening in which the final Tolkien chapter won in veteran collaborator with Peter Jackson. "When you're working
all eleven of its nominated categories. The assembly had with Peter, he never really locks the cut until the last minute.
gathered in the art deco Highland Avenue venue to celebrate We actually ended up doing about four days' editing on it
the 76th annual Academy Awards, viewing the ceremony on a recently, and he said: 'Okay, that'll do for now. I'm going to do
massive Jumbotron and cheering on the New Line Cinema this junket overseas, then the BAFTAs and the Oscars; then
epic, which in addition to best picture, took home Oscar gold we'll come back and have a look at what visual effects are
for best direction, adapted screenplay, art direction, costume finished. So we'll cut when we get back; and, with any luck, it
design, film editing, sound mixing, musical score, song, might be a lock!'"
makeup and visual effects, tying it with previous Oscar record-
holders Ben-Hur and Titanic.

Reportedly, the extended edition will contain anywhere


between 40 to 60 minutes of new footage, added to the
theatrical release's 201-minute running time, and will include
more than 200 new visual effects shots. "When we were
working on the film," said visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel,
"there were pieces that we almost completed that Peter then
pulled out. I think the most infamous one was probably the
Christopher Lee scene -- and I think it's a good guess that will
be back in."
Funke mused on recent rumors that Jackson plans to film
Kong in black-and-white -- "That's news to me, but I wouldn't
put it past Peter!" -- and hinted at plans for creating the lush
vegetation of Kong's Skull Island habitat, building on Weta's
experience creating the miniature Fangorn Forest in The Lord
of the Rings. "Richard Taylor is busy building many, many
trees, and we've been doing some tests on the motion of the
leaves. One of things that didn't quite work for Peter in The
Lord of the Rings was the static look of the miniature trees. In
Kong, we're going to be darned sure that we've got moving
leaves on our miniature trees!"
After three years in New Zealand, Rygiel is planning to return
to his Los Angeles home in April, after completing his work on
the concluding chapter's final version. Visual effects
supervisor Joe Letteri will continue to supervise visual effects
for Weta Digital on Peter Jackson's upcoming King Kong.
Tolkien trilogy animation director Randy Cook is ceding
passage on Jackson's voyage to Skull Island, pursuing
directing ambitions of his own, allowing Paul Griffin to take up
the reins as Weta Digital's animation supervisor. Jackson's
colossal gorilla star has meanwhile been taking shape under
the auspices of Weta Workshop co-founder Richard Taylor.
"Creature design is pretty well advanced and a lot of the
production design is coming right along," noted visual effects With two year's work remaining until Jackson's giant ape
director of photography Alex Funke. "It's going to be a bursts onto theater screens in December 2005, the quest for
remarkable film; an amazing visual treat." greater realism remains a benchmark for all concerned. "I
think Kong is going to be harder than The Return of the King,"
Shooting plans for Kong have so far included discussions with
observed Joe Letteri, "because Peter's not going to hold back.
Weta's miniature and digital departments, and with director of
On The Lord of the Rings, we got more and more into the
photography Andrew Lesnie, who is also returning to the
realism of shots -- and that required incredible amounts of
Jackson fold. "As soon as I get back to New Zealand," said
detail. That was hopefully apparent in The Return of the King,
Funke, "we're getting into a very intensive session of testing
and it was certainly visible in the other work that we've seen
on some of the stylistic issues, working with Andrew Lesnie
recently. We can do so many things more or less routinely
on which type of film stock we should use and exploring
that were once really hard to do that a lot of directors and
exposure issues in conjunction with the guys at Weta Digital.
producers are opting to take shots into the effects realm,
We're going to get a complete system worked out in advance,
rather than saying, 'Oh, gee, we have to do it that way.' It's
so we'll know exactly how the material will scan, or exactly
changed the way we work. Visual effects are now more
how to place exposures."
mainstream."
HORSE SENSE "It was grueling," Alexander recalled. "We were working with
dust storms and animals -- and everybody got sick! One night,
Article by Joe Fordham
I had a temperature of 107 degrees."

Johnston limited time at the harsh location by using visual


effects for a sequence in which Hopkins rescues the sheik's
daughter by vaulting across Moroccan rooftops. "We were
supposed to shoot above a mosque," related Alexander, "but
At age 32, Tim Alexander is one of a generation of artists at Joe asked us to re-create the environment against bluescreen
Industrial Light & Magic whose date of birth approximates the in LA. Luckily, he had established the scene at ground level
studio's founding date. A digital compositor since his early so the tops of the buildings weren't visible and we could take
twenties, Alexander drew upon that bedrock experience as he some liberty with architecture. We shot a ton of stills; then,
assumed the role of visual effects supervisor for director Joe back at ILM, we built a 2½D background, mapping stills onto
Johnston's Hidalgo. "I tend to look for a 2D solution before rough geometry to create multiplane and parallax effects."
considering 3D," Alexander observed. "There were quite a few
Horse trainer Rex Peterson supplied five mustangs to
sequences in Hidalgo where we could have gone with either
represent Hidalgo. The only animal animation involved a pair
3D animation or a 2D composite, and we decided to go with
of leopards that menace Hopkins and a companion during the
2D."
race. The digital work proved necessary when the
The film focuses on Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen), an ex- performances of real leopards -- shipped to the location and
U.S. Cavalry dispatch rider who accepts the challenge of a later split-screened into scenes with horses -- were found
wealthy sheik (Omar Sharif) to enter his favorite mustang, lacking. "It was very difficult to make the leopards look
Hidalgo, in a 3,000-mile Arabian horse race. Settings spanned aggressive," said Alexander, "because they knew they were
from 1890's American Wild West to the far reaches of the going back to their cage to eat at the end of every day. So, for
Sahara. The latter was represented by locations in Morocco, some shots, we chose to re-create the leopards in CG." The
where Alexander and his small crew spent six weeks CG leopard was modeled from reference of the leopards on
capturing scenic digital stills and advising on technical issues. set and from animal motion studies. "Very early on, we did a
couple of tests using motion capture data of dogs, which we
had used for Hulk. But when we applied that to the leopards,
they just looked like dogs, so we abandoned that idea." ILM
revisited the live leopards and shot video of them performing
various actions from six different angles. Animation director
Sylvia Wong and her team then rotoscoped the video to the
CG leopard. "That gave us fluid and organic-looking behavior --
but the leopards still didn't look aggressive enough. So we
used that as a starting point and key-framed everything from
there."

Digital matte artists enhanced the scope of the production


with matte paintings that referenced the work of 19th-century
'Orientalist' painter Jean-Léon Gérome -- particularly Gérome's
The Call to Prayer -- for an urban Moroccan vista. "We
embellished the landscape and placed a guy in a big tall
tower in the background, exactly as it was in Gérome's
painting," said Alexander. "For a lower angle, where a
steamship was parked at the dock and the camera panned to
reveal a camel train, we piecemealed the shot together. Half
the boat was practical, shot in Los Angeles, and the back part
was CG. The water came from Morocco. The right of frame
Another action sequence featured a sandstorm that chases came from the desert in Morocco, nowhere near the ocean. It
Hopkins and Hidalgo into an abandoned desert mosque. was quite a blend.
During principal photography, special effects supervisor
Bruno Van Zeebroeck used air mortars to create a blast of
sand impacting the desert location. ILM created the wider
views in post. "Sandstorms in real life are very amorphous
and undefined," observed Alexander, "but Joe decided it
would be more effective to see a wall of sand." ILM generated
the sandstorm in RenderMan, using volumetric particles. "We
wanted it to feel like the storm was sucking up the desert like
a vacuum cleaner. The front edge pulled debris off the
ground, whipped it up the wall, then it slowed near the top,
creating a sense of speed and scale."

The ending of the film, set in the United States, involved a


spectacular stampede of mustangs, enhanced with 2D effects.
"They had 500 horses out on location in Montana," said
Alexander, "but when they released them into the wide-open
spaces, it looked like nothing! We replicated the horses and
made 2,500 out of the 500." Shot from a roving helicopter
perspective, the horse release was an unrepeatable event,
which tested the skills of ILM matchmove and compositing
artists. "We couldn't shoot multiple takes, and the horses
could only run the course once or twice a day; so we ended
up using bits of other footage and tracking horses into the
earlier environment with dust effects."

The lengthy and demanding production resulted in 216


effects shots, yet ultimately proved a painless experience for
Alexander and his team due to the involvement of ILM
alumnus Joe Johnston. "We spent 118 days on location in
Montana, South Dakota, Morocco, the deserts of California, all
over," stated Alexander. "But if ever we couldn't be there, Joe
shot all the elements we needed. He really knew what he was
doing, and that definitely helped."
INVISIBLE WOMAN
Article by Estelle Shay

Specializing in 'invisible effects,' Sheena Duggal relishes


creating the kind of movie magic that most moviegoers never
notice. One of the first four Inferno artists in the world,
Duggal was hired by Sony Pictures Imageworks nine years ago
to set up and oversee the company's Inferno department,
then later transitioned into visual effects supervision. After
working with director Peter Segal on Anger Management,
Duggal signed onto his subsequent project, 50 First Dates, a
romantic comedy set in Hawaii about a young couple whose
budding romance is put to the test by the woman's short-term
memory loss.
Duggal oversaw some 100 shots on the film, including a women. So we just shot a plate of the walrus with his mouth
number of tricky transitions, with wipes and clever morph- open. Later, we set up a bluescreen shoot with the actress in
dissolve gags. In an early scene, for example, the camera the scene, and shot this really gross mixture of dog food and
tracks a dolphin in a marine park tank as it swims past a water at her so we could get the interaction of the vomit
window adjoining the office of veterinarian Henry Roth (Adam hitting her. Then we composited it all together in 2D -- which
Sandler). "We shot the 'A' side of the plate underwater in a wasn't as easy as it appears, because there were logistical
tank with a dolphin at Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, issues in lining up the movement of the walrus' mouth."
California; and we shot the 'B' side on a stage on the Sony lot.
Then, using a lot of 2D effects, motion tracking, matte
paintings, rebuilding the motions within the shot and adding
little nuances of particles floating in the water, we put the
whole thing together to create the feeling that you were in the
tank with the dolphin, and that you actually pass through the
window into the room where Henry is stitching up his injured
friend."

Some effects were added to sell the humor in shots, in


particular those involving characters interacting with the film's
aquatic stars -- a penguin and an enormous male walrus. "A
full-grown male walrus weighs a couple of tons," remarked
Duggal, "and if he gets spooked, he's going to make a run for
the water. So any time the actors were in proximity to the
walrus where they had to be between him and the water, we
did it as a visual effect." A shot of the walrus projectile-
vomiting onto Henry's assistant provided Duggal with one of
her more memorable assignments. "In an ideal world, we
would have gathered all kinds of reference data on the set.
But on the day we were shooting, the walrus was horny; and
they wouldn't let me near him because he was reacting to
Effects intervention also provided the humor for a scene in out of the Vistavision footage and track them into the water.
which Lucy's brother (Sean Astin) performs a 'pec dance,' We also added CG breath to a number of shots of the actors."
moving his pectoral muscles in sync to music. "When we got Adding to the seamless effect was careful attention to lighting
on set," recalled Duggal, "we discovered that Sean couldn't detail. "We got hold of a copy of a sun chart for Hawaii on the
actually do that. So we found a guy who was able to do this day that we shot the Hawaii plates, and did the same in
dance, and we filmed him on a bluescreen stage, trying to Alaska. That way, we could look at what time of day it was in
time it to the music as best we could. We scanned that into Hawaii, and what angle the sun was in the sky, and wait for
the computer, composited it onto Sean, and did a bunch of the same time of day and same lighting conditions when we
morphing and warping to make it look realistic." shot in Alaska."

At the end of the film, Duggal and her crew had to transform "It was all great fun," Duggal concluded. "I love what I do, and
Hawaii into Alaska for a scene in which Lucy Whitmore (Drew I love doing invisible effects. When I get a show like this, I'm
Barrymore) gazes out a boat window as the camera pulls back fortunate, because a lot of the types of shots I'm doing can be
through the glass to reveal the vessel floating in waters done in a 2D way. And since I was involved in building this
surrounded by icebergs and snowcapped mountains. "The department, I know all the skills of the artists. That's a great
production said: 'We'll build a dry dock in Hawaii, and we'll advantage to me as a visual effects supervisor."
cover it with bluescreen, and we'll get a boat on this dry dock
and shoot it that way. Then you guys can put it in Alaska,'"
recalled Duggal. "But in the interest of realism, we decided
that was probably not the best approach -- especially since it
might get us into CG water. Instead, we found a bay in Hawaii,
took the actors out there and filmed them in a boat, then
added whatever we needed to give it the feeling of being in
Alaska."

Though all the live-action was shot in Hawaii, Duggal and a


crew went off to Blackstone Bay in Alaska to capture the
mountain vistas needed for two big rotating helicopter shots
that reveal the entire landscape. "We took a Vistavision
camera with us and shot maybe a 250-degree pan-and-tile of
the environment," said Duggal. "Fortunately, we also chased
icebergs around because I was thinking, 'I'm pretty sure
they're going to ask me to put icebergs into these shots at
some point.'" In postproduction, when the director saw how
little snow there was, he asked for more production value.
"We ended up taking the pan-and-tile, which I was hoping we
could just composite in, and turning that into a matte painting
so we could add more snow and detail. Surprisingly, I was
able to take a lot of the 2D icebergs that we shot, roto them
GHOST IN THE MACHINE research work on Benoit Mandelbrot's fractal systems and
Julia structures. We wanted to establish a compound of the
Article by Joe Fordham
richness of a classic explosion with the mathematical
The sequels to The Matrix -- written and directed by Larry and precision of fractal structures, which represented the origin of
Andy Wachowski -- both featured main titles by French visual the machines' spirit. We used a fractal processing device
effects studio BUF Compagnie, designed to lead viewers into operated with scripts to generate fractals and control their
the fabric of a digital world conjured by machines. tracking motion, then used a mathematical tool aptly known
as 'complex numbers' to animate the shapes, bringing them
to life as the journey progressed."

For the final episode, The Matrix Revolutions, the titles


represented a journey that penetrated the core of the
machines' creation. "The idea for the Revolutions titles," BUF generated 2D layers of patterns, improvised designs of
explained the production's overall visual effects supervisor spiraling and tubular structures, and then created parallax
John Gaeta, "was based on a Big Bang concept representing effects by piling up the layers and adding CG elements in the
the birth of consciousness in machines. It was a quick shot foreground. The initial explosion was made up of particles
because Larry and Andy wanted to get into the film representing stellar bodies expelled at high speed from the
immediately; but it revealed the fabric of all the structures as core of the detonation, 3D flames, rays and halo effects
fractal debris, which were nano-components of that world." textured with fractal detail as the explosion expands. The
camera then approaches a glowing Machine City of
Mandelbrot-style structures, based on a matte painting
provided by Tippett Studio, which generated visual effects for
The titles begin with the series' familiar rain of glowing green
a sequence in the third act of the film, set inside the city.
computer code, which forms the main title in 3D and into
which the camera passes, gliding through the 'u' of
Revolutions to arrive at an explosion of golden, glowing
energy. "To create the explosion," said BUF visual effects The camera zooms into the city and pulls back to reveal a
supervisor Stéphane Ceretti, "we carried out extensive contemporary urban landscape constructed out of green
computer code. BUF based the code city on a digital model
provided by the film's production company, Eon, which
developed the model from surveys of Sydney, Australia --
home to a significant portion of the main-unit shoot. "We
started inside a police car at the foot of what was known as
the Architect's building," related Ceretti. "We then flew up to
the tops of the buildings and beyond. To cover the buildings
in code, we refined the 3D models in the foreground and
applied textures from pictures of downtown Sydney on all the
elements."

Although BUF's contribution to The Matrix Revolutions


numbered only seven shots, with 75 in The Matrix Reloaded,
the work brought to a conclusion a four-year collaboration
between the artists in Paris and the American production.
"BUF's work represented a new stage in the evolution of the
aesthetics of the Matrix trilogy," stated Ceretti. "We had to find
new methods to bring to life the worlds presented in the
script. It was a real pleasure to contribute artistic and
technical know-how to help define that universe. Our close
involvement with the Wachowskis, their visual effects
supervisors John Gaeta and Dan Glass, and the richness of
BUF lit street textures and moving traffic to convey a time- this undertaking made it a unique experience."
lapse effect, with a setting sun and building lights appearing,
and car headlights bustling along streets. The change in
scales, from ground level to high in the sky, required a
transition between four scales of code flowing over surfaces,
until motorways faded away in a satellite view. As the camera
retreats, the city is revealed to be an integer in a line of code
seen on a computer monitor inside the first live-action scene
of the film. The Wachowskis shot the scene with code on a
computer screen on set. BUF replaced the code in
postproduction to allow more accurate control over camera
movement, image definition and animation speed, completing
the 50-second sequence.
AN ARTIST’S JOURNEY
Book Review by Don Shay

Like most aspects of visual effects, the art of movie matte


painting has been transformed by technology, to the point
that 'before digital' and 'after digital' techniques and end
products seem only distantly related. Today, a matte painting
can be a full environment -- a three-dimensional collage of
images and textures over, through and around which a
camera, without film or lens, can be flown with total freedom.
Not all that many years ago, a matte painting was ... well, a with the curmudgeonly master, learning the art and craft of
painting. visual effects on high-profile Korda productions, before
setting off on his own. Eventually his work caught the eye of
Matte paintings were among the earliest visual effects tools; Walt Disney, who hired him to do matte paintings on his first
and for decades, filmmakers used variations on the theme to live-action films, produced in England. The artist recalls
affordably alter and expand movie settings, both interior and creating 62 matte shots in 27 weeks for one of them. With no
exterior. The era of traditional matte painting was firm prospect of employment, Ellenshaw moved his family to
comprehensively and elegantly chronicled in The Invisible Art, the United States, where he soon made a career for himself
by Mark Cotta Vaz and Craig Barron, published in 2002, a within the Disney organization, working closely with the
must-have volume for anyone with a love for the art and studio's gruff patriarch, who took an almost fatherly interest in
history of visual effects. the ambitious young artist.

Ellenshaw Under Glass is not a technical treatise on matte


painting, or even a comprehensive account of Ellenshaw's
considerable body of work, but rather a personal memoir. He
does, however, explain the fundamentals of matte painting,
from vintage on-set glass paintings to dupe-negative optical
composites to original-negative matte shots -- citing a near
disaster on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in delineating the
risks of the latter approach. He also explains -- and illustrates
with details from a painting he created for Spartacus -- the
impressionistic art of incorporating just enough detail into a
matte painting. Too much is as bad as too little.

Ellenshaw offers fascinating chapters on his early work with


'Pop' Day, and provides anecdotal, if not comprehensive
details on such Disney classics as 20,000 Leagues Under the
A companion volume now exists. Peter Ellenshaw, one of the
Sea, Darby O'Gill and the Little People and Mary Poppins.
Michelangelos of matte painting, has produced Ellenshaw
Photographically, the book is a marvel -- 334 pages of matte
Under Glass -- a mammoth coffee-table book filled with
paintings, concept art and behind-the-scenes photos,
photographs and artwork and recollections spanning the
seasoned with personal photos and mementos. Happily,
entirety of his 80-plus years. Ellenshaw suggests that his love
Ellenshaw was not one to throw things away.
of painting dates to his World War I childhood, when he and
his sisters were hustled under a kitchen table, with paper and Bruce Gordon and David Mumford -- who collaborated with
crayons to amuse themselves, whenever German zeppelins Ellenshaw on the book -- explain in an afterword that the
made bombing runs over London. Having taught himself to original intent was to have Ellenshaw write only a outline,
paint by copying the old masters, Ellenshaw eventually which they would then flesh out into book length. By the time
approached the only artist he knew of -- pioneer matte painter he finished with it, however, Ellenshaw's 'outline' was so rich
and effects artist W. Percy Day. Ellenshaw spent seven years with detail that it was already book length -- and it needed
writer, Ellenshaw has a singular, if unconventional, voice --
and Gordon and Mumford are to be commended for not
'improving' upon it.

Whether recollecting his childhood in England, his early days


in the movie business, his wartime experiences as a pilot, his
long and fruitful years at Disney, or his second career as a
fine art painter, Ellenshaw flavors his text with warmth and
wit. A man of artistic temperament and conviction, Ellenshaw
was ever forthright in his views and not averse to butting
heads with his professional elders -- but never with Walt
Disney, whom he clearly revered. In the end, Ellenshaw Under
Glass is a valentine to the artist's longtime employer and
friend, and to his beloved wife Bobbie, his muse and mate of
58 years, whose death, before this book was completed,
broke his heart -- but not his spirit.

only to be shaped and polished. Ellenshaw writes with a


clipped, short-hand style. Thoughts and memories cascade
onto the page. He talks to himself in italicized asides -- often
self-deprecating. Incomplete and run-on sentences abound.
Setups and segues are sparse. Though the style is jarring at
first, the text is endearingly conversational -- as if the reader is
sitting in Ellenshaw's living room listening to him reminisce
while he pages through a lifetime's worth of scrapbooks. As a
RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY "This was a hand-held, non-effects shot," said Buzz visual
effects supervisor Louis Morin, "but in the scene, Jim Carrey
Article by Jody Duncan & Joe Fordham
says a line about everything falling apart -- and Michel wanted
In director Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless to emphasize that feeling." To visually support the idea of a
Mind, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman plumbs a consciousness- world falling apart, Gondry suggested removing one of
bending story about a man, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), who Clementine's legs in the scene. "I said: 'Okay, it's possible --
attempts to ease the pain of a breakup by undergoing a but this is a swish-pan, and it is going to be so fast, nobody
procedure that will erase all memories of the relationship will see it.' But he wanted to try it; so we replaced Clem's real
from his mind. Joel's attempts to interrupt the erasure mid- legs with CGI legs, did 3D tracking and remodeled the
procedure -- all from within his subconscious -- set the story in sidewalk she was walking on."
a world that is part reality, part waking dream.
The first attempt at the shot bore out Morin's initial concerns.
"Nobody could see it," said Morin, "because it was so fast. I
asked if they had a longer take of Clem walking, and they did
-- but in that one, she wasn't turning her head properly. So we
combined takes in the swish-pan, tracked the head from the
first take onto Clem in the longer take, and put in a whole CGI
background." In that background, a car crashes behind a
fence, unnoticed by Clem. "That was a CGI car and a CGI
fence. It was a shocking event to keep the audience on their
toes, to say, 'Look -- some pretty unusual things will be shown
to you in this movie.'"

That surreal world was the stuff of visual effects, more than
100 realized by Custom Film Effects. Buzz Image Group took
on only 16 shots, but each was a critical depiction of Joel's
altered mind as, one by one, his memories of Clementine
(Kate Winslet) are deconstructed, abstracted and, finally,
erased.

The memory abstractions are sometimes blatant, sometimes


subtle. In a sequence early in the film, Joel -- in his car --
follows Clementine as she walks angrily down a sidewalk.
Joel jumps out of his car and runs up and down the block --
his car, magically, situated at both ends. The shot required
two months of Inferno time at Buzz. "We had to track all the
shots," Morin commented, "four takes, going from one side of
the street to the other. Everything was shot hand-held, so we
had to use 3D tracking, and then create transitions. There's a
lamppost and a mailbox there, and we switched from one
take to the other, flipping the image so it was a mirror effect
as he was running back and forth. It was partly a morph,
switching speed, retracking shots into one another. It's not
100% seamless, but pretty close, considering that everything
was shot hand-held and the perspective was off. We had to
freeze-frame the shot, track it manually and reposition camera
projections. We also erased signs and interiors of the stores
along the street using matte-painted projections."
The street scene ends with Joel falling down, only to bounce found some reference footage of real houses collapsing, and
up, rewind-style, onto a sofa in his apartment where he eats then animated the whole house with hard-body dynamics.
takeout Chinese food with Clem. Buzz took reverse footage of What you see is a house collapsing in four seconds -- all CG."
Carrey falling from a sofa, filmed on the street, and combined
it with an element of Carrey seated on the same sofa in the The surreal images in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind --
apartment set. "We used an Elastic Reality morph for that," digital effects sprinkled with in-camera and forced perspective
said Morin. "We also had to add CG chopsticks in his hand. He gags, all achieved without the use of bluescreen or motion
had actually held real chopsticks in the plate with Clem; but control -- sprang from a filmmaker who approaches visual
for this shot, we had to remove them and put in CGI ones that effects more as a magician than a technician. "A magician
would match the chopsticks in his hand when he initially makes you look at one place while the trick is happening
falls." somewhere else," said Morin. "Michel does that with effects.
You expect an effect at one point in a shot, but the effect is
In another scene, Joel and Clem sit in a car, watching a drive- already done by the time you get there. He fools you -- and
in movie from outside the establishment's fence, inventing that's part of his cleverness. Everything is possible in his
their own dialogue for the characters on the screen. As the mind."
memory is erased, Clem and the car flicker in and out. The
fence then disappears, slat by slat, chasing after Joel and
Clem in the animation style of Norman McLaren's National
Film Board of Canada. Carrey and Winslet were shot in a real
car -- once with Winslet inside and once without, to capture
elements for the flicker effect. Buzz then replaced the car
with a CGI car as the characters run out of the vehicle. "We
modeled different parts of the car," said Morin, "then sliced
away the 3D objects, like an MRI brain slice." Buzz also
created the fence animation by removing the fence in the live-
action plates and replacing it with matte paintings rendered in
Photoshop and projected onto 3D geometry.

Buzz's biggest shot is near the end of the film, when a house
on the beach in Long Island -- the setting of a pivotal moment
in the couple's relationship -- crumbles, a visual metaphor for
Joel's losing grasp of Clementine. Buzz began work on the
shot based on Gondry's first directive to create a stop-motion
look; then revised the approach to include more real-time
elements such as animated bricks falling from the chimney,
tracked into a CGI house. "Michel thought that was going in
the right direction -- but he wanted more," said Morin. "So we
SCOOBY DEUX
Article by Jody Duncan

The Brady family did it. The Beverly Hillbillies did it. The
bewitching Samantha Stevens is about to do it. All are
characters from television series dating back 30 years or
more who have made their big-screen debuts in nostalgia-
driven films.

To create the dance sequence, Gosnell and Crosman decided


to shoot a live performer on the set, then track a computer
generated Scooby head to the dancer's body. "A real dancer
gave Raja someone to direct," said Rhythm & Hues visual
effects supervisor Betsy Paterson, "and gave the
choreographer someone to work out the dance routine with.
Also, Scooby was going to be surrounded by extras who were
not accustomed to acting with an invisible CG character. We
felt it would help them to have a real person to focus on and
In 2002, a six-foot-tall, animated Great Dane with a speech interact with."
impediment and a penchant for mischief joined their ranks
with the release of Scooby-Doo, a feature-film spinoff of the
Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Director Raja Gosnell, visual effects
supervisor Peter Crosman and effects studio Rhythm & Hues
reteamed to create the 2004 sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters
Unleashed, which, like the debut film, featured a computer
generated Scooby-Doo interacting within live environments
and with live actors.

Rhythm & Hues completed more than 400 shots for the film,
among them 70 shots for a scene in which Scooby-Doo --
disguised in seventies-vintage afro, suit and platform shoes --
goes undercover in a nightclub and breaks into a disco dance
to rival John Travolta's moves in Saturday Night Fever.
To approximate the dimensions and body shape of Scooby, could see Scooby's chest and neck, those had to be tracked
production incorporated prosthetics into the dancer's disco to the body and the suit, as well. We cyberscanned the disco
suit. Leg prosthetics gave her a canine bulked-out thigh and suit, hand-tracked that to the suit in the picture, then attached
backward-facing 'ankle' joint situated mid-leg. "We also built to it a deformed model of Scooby's neck and chest area."
up the chest area of the suit to create the barrel-chested look
of a dog," said Paterson, "and she wore prosthetic paws on her
hands. We wound up having to scale back the prosthetics a
bit, because when she wore everything to build her up to
Scooby's real proportions, she wasn't able to dance." To
facilitate the postproduction attachment of the Scooby head,
the dancer wore a white hood that was velcroed inside the
suit's collar. "That gave us a smooth piece to roto against
when we had to 'cut out' her head and replace it with
Scooby's." Because Scooby is taller than the dancer,
production attached a crude antenna piece to the top of the
hood to approximate the appropriate eyelines.

Using its proprietary Voodoo software package, Rhythm &


Hues tracked the CG Scooby head to the performer in the
plate -- just the first step in marrying the head to the live-
action body. "When it came out of tracking," said Paterson,
"the head was attached to the body, but it was stiff -- like
someone who has broken their neck and is wearing one of
those big collars. Since the suit had an open collar, and you
that had been intended for one thing while we were shooting,
and make it work for this new gag that had been conceived."

One example of retrofitting action was a scene in which


Scooby, at the nightclub bar, was to lean over to slurp up a
patron's drink. In post, that gag was changed to Scooby
popping pickled eggs into his mouth, and then, in distaste,
spitting them out into the man's drink. "In the plate," said
Paterson, "the body just bent over very stealthily, as if Scooby
was sneaking his tongue into someone's beer. We had to find
just the right moment in the take to make that movement
work for the new spitting action -- which was less stealthy and
more forceful."

Throughout the scene, Rhythm & Hues used its custom hair
program to create Scooby's fur and afro wig. "Scooby has
longer hair in this movie," Paterson noted. "In the first movie,
he was smoother and looked more like a real Great Dane. But
the studio wanted his fur shaggier and longer this time. It
made him look a little less smooth, less clean, less CG.
Longer hair meant messier hair, which went better with
Scooby's character."

It is a truism of the movie business that one learns


how to make a film in the process of making it; and when the
next film comes along, the learning curve resets at the
starting point. With Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, the
Animators -- under animation director Leon Joosen -- artists at Rhythm & Hues had the rare opportunity to apply
animated the neck and head to follow the dancer's everything they had learned on the original film to the sequel.
movements, and also created facial expressions to match "It was great to be able to do a show, having had the first one
body language and attitude. "The body was there and the to practice on!" Paterson said. "It was a second chance to do
performance was set," said Paterson, "so we had to make sure everything right and to perfect everything we'd learned."
that the attitude in Scooby's expressions reflected what the
body was doing." Matching the animation to the live
performance became more challenging when on-set gags
were rethought in postproduction. "We were rewriting
Scooby's gags throughout production and beyond; and so,
quite often we needed Scooby to do things that hadn't even
been thought of on the set. We would have to take an action
SWEET REVENGE in the first film, which involved hundreds and hundreds of
gags -- and none of them were digital," Berger recalled.
Article by Estelle Shay
"Quentin said: 'I don't want to do any computer animation
It took more than 400 gallons of fake blood and hundreds of stuff. I want it all to be live, in-camera.' That was a huge task
severed limb and decapitation gags to supply the grist for for us. We'd walk on the set, and the stunt team, the actors
Quentin Tarantino's stylish revenge tale Kill Bill Vol. 1 and its and Quentin would run through the action for that morning.
sequel Kill Bill Vol. 2. KNB EFX Group, frequent contributors We'd watch it, and from that learn what we had to do. 'OK,
to Tarantino's films, accepted the grisly assignment with this guy gets his arm cut off, these five guys get their legs cut
enthusiasm and delight. off, and there's a decapitation.' Then we would have to chop-
chop and put together whatever we could."

Though six months separated the releases of the original Kill


Bill and its sequel, both movies were shot simultaneously -- Electromagnet technology, adapted by Berger, proved
Tarantino having initially envisioned them as one before especially useful whenever the action called for limbs and
deciding, in the eleventh hour, to split the story into two heads to be severed during the bloody swordfights. Berger
parts. For KNB, that translated into a monumental effort, and his crew made fiberglass cup sections that attached to
begun in June 2002 after just a few weeks of prep, when KNB the actors. These held magnets that were hooked to a power
supervisor and co-founder Howard Berger, along with Chris source, with a battery and trigger switch. They then fashioned
Nelson and Jake McKinnon, joined the production in Beijing, fake limbs containing metal pieces that would bond to the
China. The five-week location shoot soon turned into magnets when the electricity was turned on. When the crew
fourteen, followed by six months of filming on soundstages in killed the power, the limbs would fall off. "We did a lot of
Los Angeles, during which time Berger found himself on set those gags," recalled Berger. "Everything was a magnet -- legs,
nearly every day. "We handled all of the gore and body chops arms, head, torso. We even did some full standing bodies
with electromagnets -- we'd hit the button, and the thing green dancing girl from the Star Trek TV show, saying: 'She
would collapse realistically." was green, but still sexy. That's what I want -- something that's
sci-fi, but real.'" After numerous tests, KNB finally hit upon a
look that involved a combination of creams to protect
Thurman's skin, mixed with fuller's earth and chocolate Rice
Krispies, painted on with tattoo colors to heighten certain
areas. The makeup was applied initially by Berger, then later
by Thurman's makeup artist, Ilona Herman.

KNB also designed makeups for Gordon Liu as kung fu master


Pai Mei, and for Michael Parks, who switches roles in the
second film to play an 80-year-old whorehouse pimp. For
Michael Madsen -- whose character, Budd, is bitten in the face
by a deadly black mamba -- KNB built and puppeteered
several mechanical snakes on set, then devised three stages
of makeup for the actor, depicting the grisly effects of the
venom.

Tarantino insisted on a practical approach even in instances


where CG seemed the logical choice. For a sequence in Vol.
1, where Viper assassin O-Ren Ishi (Lucy Liu) loses the top of
her head to Uma Thurman's saber-wielding Bride, Berger and
his crew took a casting of Liu's head, then sculpted an
appliance that took advantage of forced perspective. "It was
tapered from the front, almost like a pyramid, then fanned
out as it went farther back on her head," explained Berger. "It
was a very slim piece, because we didn't want to make it look
like Lucy had a Frankenstein head." KNB rigged the appliance
with blood and applied it to the actress' head. Specific camera
angles on the appliance further sold the illusion.

While Kill Bill Vol. 1 was all gore and gruesome battle scenes,
Kill Bill Vol. 2 -- different in tone and style -- offered a variety
of makeup design challenges for KNB. "There's a sequence in
the second film," Berger explained, "where the Bride gets
buried alive and takes on a look we called 'dirt girl.' She had
to look beautiful, yet filthy. Quentin kept going back to the For Vol. 2's action centerpiece -- an all-out catfight between
the Bride and Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) -- KNB had to do
some quick thinking when Tarantino decided to alter the
sequence just before it was due to be shot. "Originally," said
Berger, "there was going to be this whole big swordfight
outside a trailer, sort of Samurai Lone Wolf fashion. One of
the two characters gets sliced in the neck, and you see the
blood spraying out, almost like you were holding down a can
of red spray paint. Then the camera pulls back, and we see
that it's Daryl.

"We were prepped and ready to shoot; but then, Quentin


came in the next day and said: 'I had a dream last night, and I
want to change the whole sequence. Daryl's not going to get it
that way.' When you're working with Quentin, you have to be
on point the whole time. It makes you work that much
harder."

Despite the occasional surprises, Berger wouldn't have traded


the experience for anything. "This was one of the most fun
projects I've ever been on," Berger concluded. "Working with
Quentin is really an amazing experience because he pushes
and pushes you. It's not out of ego, or not knowing what he
wants. He pushes you because he wants you to do your best --
to do as good a job as he's doing."
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Article by Mark Simon

Frank Castle -- also known as the Punisher -- has been a


popular Marvel Comics character for more than 30 years.
Driven by the murder of his wife and child, the Punisher has
no superpowers -- only a fierce intelligence, years of combat
experience and an iron determination to avenge victims of
society's villains.

Making his directorial debut with The Punisher, screenwriter


Jonathan Hensleigh had to produce a very big action picture
on a relatively small budget. "We were attempting to make a
full-blown action picture with all of the Hollywood trappings
for less money than a picture like this has ever been executed
for," Hensleigh said. "That's a bold claim -- but I stand by it."
Subsequent views made use of a 1/6-scale train shot by
Fantasy II. "The train is coming," said Fantasy II effects
supervisor Gene Warren, "and we tilt down to the woman on
the tracks, trying to crawl away. Then, whoomp, the train
wipes across her. We shot our model train and matted it into
the shot." In shooting the train model, Fantasy II had to match
the camera tilt-down in the live-action plate. "They didn't use a
motion control camera on location, because that would have
meant big, big bucks. But we tracked it with our motion
control camera when we shot our model train. We matched
their camera tilt and shot it high-speed -- which we were able
to do with a motion control camera because it wasn't a very
big move." Using the live-action footage as reference, Warren
matched the perspective of the shot by eye. Adjustments
were made in postproduction, when the elements were
composited together by Laurel Klick, digital supervisor at
Fantasy II Effects. Klick also oversaw wire and rig removals,
abundant in a film featuring so much stunt and practical
Part of Hensleigh's gameplan for bringing in the film on effects work.
budget was to avoid expensive computer generated effects --
to shoot as much as possible live, in camera, or compositing
in miniature elements. A sequence that would surely have
been turned over to a CG team in another film is one in which
the misnamed villain Howard Saint (John Travolta) throws his
wife off a bridge and onto railroad tracks, where she is run
over by a train. Hensleigh accomplished the scene using a
combination of on-set illusions by production designer
Michael Hannon and miniature effects by Fantasy II. For shots
of the oncoming train, Hannon built the front-end of the train
as a dimensional cutout and mounted it to a pickup truck that
could be driven on rails. Shot with a long lens, which
flattened the screen image, the train cutout appeared to be
much closer to the actress than it really was.
Near the end of the film, the Punisher (Tom Jane) avenges the sculpted to look very close to the shape of the live-action
deaths of his wife and child by tying Saint to a limousine and subject," Warren explained. In this case, Fantasy II built
releasing the brake to roll it into a car lot that he has rigged shapes that matched different areas of Travolta's body,
with bombs. Physical effects supervisor Kevin Harris and his sculpting them out of black wrap -- aluminum foil with a heat-
crew rigged pyrotechnics on cars for the explosions that resistant black surface on both sides. The black wrap was
follow. Fantasy II increased the size and intensity of the then covered in duvatyne, a tough black cloth, treated with
sequence by compositing in 1/6-scale cars shot against black. Stunt Gel -- a heat-shielding compound -- and flammable
"We did the same types of things that the physical effects pyro rubber cement. Fantasy II crews set fire to the shapes,
guys did live," said Warren, "so that our miniature elements manipulating them with cables to match, as closely as
would match. We used air cannons to launch burning car possible, the character's movements in the live-action plate.
models into the air. For cars that just explode from the inside, "We also matched the live-action camera as closely as we
blowing out the windows, we used gasoline with a little diesel could. Then we tracked the flames to Travolta's body in the
oil to create the pyro." Fantasy II also composited in a Tampa composite, adjusting them as needed."
skyline, shooting background plates of downtown Tampa --
which couldn't be seen from the car lot location -- and
blending them into the backgrounds.

In a final aerial view of the burning car lot, all of the


explosions form the Punisher's skull-shaped symbol. Fantasy
II added approximately 60 burning cars to the shot, shooting
Close and medium shots of Saint catching fire as he is smaller groups of car models separately for purposes of
dragged through the explosions required Fantasy II to add fire control and arranging the miniature photography elements in
elements to Travolta or his stuntman in the live-action plates - the final composite to form the skull shape.
- a type of effect Warren has been executing for 20 years. "I
shoot real fire elements against black on shapes that are
The Punisher was a throwback to an old-style, physical
approach to filmmaking -- an approach mandated both by the
limited budget and Hensleigh's vision for the film. "I wanted to
replicate the tone of urban action pictures of the Sixties and
Seventies," Hensleigh commented. "I grew up on films like
Dirty Harry and Bullitt -- movies that were made before the
advent of computer generated effects."

"The film industry needs to rely more on how we used to do


effects," Michael Hannon added. "I liked working on this
picture because it was an opportunity to do practical special
effects, rather than hundreds of visual effects shots. The
Punisher is real. Very eal."
FISH STORY
Article by Jody Duncan Imageworks completed about a dozen conjoined twin shots,
starting with footage of twins Ada and Arlene Tai performing
Columbia Pictures recently released Big Fish on DVD. Making
side by side on set or against greenscreen. "They designed a
its theatrical splash in 2003, Big Fish was just the kind of
dress that both twins could fit into," explained Mack, "so they
magical, whimsical, slightly off-kilter film audiences have
were stitched together at the hip. Of course, they still didn't
come to expect from director Tim Burton. The story involves a
look like conjoined twins because, with the two of them in
son's last-ditch attempts to find the man behind his father and
this dress, they were double-wide." Production also merged
the truth behind his tall tales. The film cuts between the
the two performers for the live-action shoot by tying one
present day -- which finds the elderly Ed Bloom (Albert Finney)
twin's right leg to the other's left leg. "The twins learned a little
on his deathbed -- and the past adventures of the younger
dance routine; but, because their legs were tied together, they
Bloom, portrayed by Ewan McGregor.
could only perform the upper-body portion of it. They couldn't
move around very well."

CG body replacement was required to create the illusion of


Bloom's mythic stories -- realized on film through a variety of
conjoined twins; and, for most of the shots, Imageworks
effects techniques -- include encounters with a giant, a witch,
wound up replacing everything in the live footage except the
citizens of an idyllic village, a really big fish and, in a wartime
heads. "It was a design problem," Mack said. "Tim wanted the
sequence, beautiful conjoined twins named Ping and Jing.
character to look sexy, with this hourglass waist; so even
The conjoined twin assignment, along with the majority of the
though these twins are supposed to be joined at the hip only,
film's effects, went to Sony Pictures Imageworks and visual
with separate upper bodies, they had to taper down to a
effects supervisor Kevin Mack.
single waistline. To make that look right, we had to design the
character, changing the proportions, lengthening the legs, The dress also featured thin net sleeves covering the twins'
tapering the waist, and so on." arms, while sequined fishnet stockings covered their legs. The
twins' chests and shoulders were bare, however, requiring
rendering of flesh in the all-CG bodies. "We see them very
closeup," said Mack, "so we did full subsurface scattering
shaders for the skin. We were fortunate that, with the stuff
that had been shot on set, we had great reference of them in
the costume and in the real lighting."

To facilitate the design process, Mack shot stills of the twin


actresses in leotards and skirts, then warped and stretched
the images in Photoshop until he had achieved an acceptable
look. With Burton's approval of the design, Imageworks
modeled the conjoined twin body in CG, using proprietary
software. The twins' costume -- a dress adorned with strings of
beads, designed by Colleen Atwood -- also had to be built in Imageworks also relied on the on-set reference when
CG. "The beads that dangled off the sleeves and down the animating the CG body, matching the movements of the CG
sides of the dress were all physically simulated," explained character with those of the real performers. Because the
Mack. "We got together with Colleen Atwood very early to performance was essentially the same, the attitude and
design the dress, because I suspected we might have to do a movements of the live-action heads blended well with the
lot of CG. We decided that it would be better for us -- even animated body when they were tracked to it via the Inferno.
though it would be more work -- to have things like sequins "For the most part," Mack said, "once we had the heads really
and dangling beads on the dress, because it would be locked on, they tied very closely to what the CG body was
distracting to the eye and take the mind off the CG. I think it doing. It was a bit off in a few cases, but only because we
made the effect more convincing." added some new elements to the lower-body performance."
The new lower-body dance moves added in post were
conceived by Imageworks animators. "Animators take on
whatever they are doing rather passionately and pursue it
until it is right. I would often find the animators dancing in the so it was a very complex lighting setup for us. We just
hallways, working out the moves. It was a bit disturbing." matched the lighting in the plate very carefully."

In creating Ping and Jing and all of its effects for Big Fish,
The first view of the conjoined twins starts with a closeup of Imageworks chose techniques that would afford Tim Burton
the performers, then pulls back wide and moves around to maximum flexibility and produce invisible effects. "We wanted
their backs in a 280-degree reveal. For that shot, Imageworks to be as discreet as possible," said Mack. "That was the style
filmed the twins on a turntable against greenscreen, that seemed the most appropriate for this movie. These
replicated the rotating move on a dolly on location, then unbelievable stories are bigger than life, but they are told as if
married the two together. As the shot goes wide, it transitions they are really happening -- so we wanted the effects to look
from the live-action performers to the all-but-the-head CG natural, almost off-hand. We didn't want any 'Hey, look at this!'
character. "At the beginning of the shot," explained Mack, "we shots."
actually used their shoulders and chests; but then, there was
a lot of transitional warping and morphing going on from the
chest down as we did a handoff to the CG character, with CG
arms and shoulders and everything."

In another shot, the twins walk right up to camera and into a


dressing room. On the set, the twins were shot walking
toward camera as gracefully as was possible given the fact
that their legs were tied together. "Everything except the
heads is CG in that shot," said Mack. "The real twins moved
through several light sources as they walked toward camera,
CRUEL SEA armada, but he wanted the camera right in there with his
stars, really on the ocean."
Article by Joe Fordham
Art director Cliff Robertson initiated warship design by
3,197 years ago, a beautiful woman absconded with a
drafting conceptual renderings for two full-scale seaworthy
youthful prince from a neighboring city and inspired her
vessels, extrapolated from historical reference. "Both ships
jealous husband to mount a mission to retrieve her, gathering
were 'monoreme' designs," related marine coordinator Mike
a fleet that -- legend has it -- numbered 1,000 ships. Now the
Turk. "Unlike a bireme or a trireme, which had two and three
subject of Warner Brothers Pictures' historical drama, Troy --
decks of oars, monoremes had a single bank. It was the
adapted from classical texts by screenwriter David Benioff
oldest and simplest style of vessel, which helped keep labor
and directed by Wolfgang Petersen -- the story has exploded
costs down for rowing; but they had to look enormous, very
onto theater screens with a stellar cast, vast scenes of war
high-sided and menacing."
and some of the largest sets ever constructed on a feature
film location.

Assisted by physical effects, makeup effects and visual effects


Turk's family business, R.J. Turk and Sons -- based in
from four London effects studios, production designer Nigel
Kingston upon Thames, near London -- has been building
Phelps resurrected the ancient city of Troy and launched the
ships since 1710, during the reign of Queen Anne, and has
Greek attack almost entirely on location in Malta and Mexico.
supplied boats and ships for film and television dating back
"Wolfgang wanted to make the film look as real as possible,"
to MGM's A Yank At Oxford in 1938. Turk drew upon his
stated visual effects supervisor Nick Davis. "He wanted to
maritime lineage for Troy, referencing the 1987
show the sheer scale of battles and the massive Greek
reconstruction of Olympias -- an Athenian Trireme of the 5th
and 4th centuries B.C. -- led by John Morrison, former
President of Wolfson College, Cambridge. "I knew Professor but otherwise they complied to day-sailing regulations for 100
Morrison," said Turk, "but we only used his research on the people."
oars. In fact, because we were working from Cliff's drawings,
we worked backwards, figuring out what lengths our oars
needed to be to reach the water -- doing everything arse-
about-face!"

Turk's naval architect, John Heath, devised working drawings


from the designs. An oar specialist then built 19-foot-long
oars out of spruce, and Turk's team built masts and spars at
his boatyard in Kingston. The main structural build took place
at Cassar Dockyard, close to the main filming location in
Malta, where steel fabricator Norrie Henderson lead
construction of the hulls -- one measuring 120 feet, the other
140 feet. "We didn't try to build the hulls traditionally in
timber," Turk said, "because we only had four months to build
them." Steel hulls helped the ships comply with maritime
safety standards. "We built them to the same standards as
passenger ships that cross the English Channel. They had no
cabins or sleeping accommodations and, in fact, no toilets;
The art department devised six liveries for the ships depicting bow, then rising up and descending over the stern. We did
different ornamentations for tribes of the allied Greek forces. that on the Mall, outside Valletta harbor, running the ship by
Turk's team created sails using flax, an authentic material to the camera within five feet of the sea wall, with ocean liners
the period, and designed custom rigging. "We had no and ships sailing by as we came out. We got up to about 14
historical detail whatsoever about rigging," Turk explained, "so knots -- that was bloody fast."
we used our best means of guessing. But they sailed all right,
so we guessed correctly!" Sailing was accomplished with
combinations of oars and wind power, assisted by a pair of
diesel engines mounted aft, beneath the waterline, in line
with twin rudders. Helmsmen used engines to position
warships in shots and bring the 70-ton vessels up to speed.

Bringing manpower up to speed proved a bigger hurdle. "We


only had six days of training," related Turk. "I brought out six
Watermen from England, who were expert rowers -- tug
skippers and passenger boat masters from the London River,
and winners of Doggetts, the oldest rowing race in the world --
and they trained our local oarsmen, who were made up of
waiters, out-of-work cooks, chefs and other colorful
characters." Despite the ragtag crew, warships performed
impressive feats of seamanship. "For one shot, they wanted
the camera to hang out over the water, shooting under the
Warships roamed up and down the Maltese coast, shooting
ten days of first unit with principal performers, and three
weeks with second unit, accompanied by an armada of 25
ancillary ships coordinated by Turk. Support ships doubled as
camera craft, two passenger ferries served as lunch and toilet
facilities, while a flotilla of safety boats, police and security
trafficked the area. Turk's team also constructed a half-boat
launch to represent Spartan King Agamemnon's barge and
smaller period vessels similar to Arab fishing boats.

At the end of the Malta shoot, warships were dry-docked, then


the art department recycled sails, masts and rigging in
Mexico, constructing beached versions of the ships using
molds taken from the hulls. With digital enhancement by
Framestore CFC, and building on years of maritime history,
the ships provided dramatic underpinning to an epic
adventure. "A Turk built a warship in defense of the realm to
the south of the Tower of London in 1295," Turk remarked,
"so we have been building warships for some time! It was
quite dramatic stuff. I hope it comes across on film."
PERFECTION REVISITED keep doing the same movie over and over." Off-handedly,
Wilson added, "We'd have to do something wacky this time,
Article by Janine Pourroy
like set it in the Old West." To his surprise, Jackson's
When writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock came up with response was, "That's fine."
the original concept for Tremors they never dreamed they'd
still be talking about Graboids fifteen years later. "Universal
said that we'd never do another Tremors after the first one,"
recalled Wilson. "Then the video division pushed for Tremors
2. After that, we said, 'Okay, so now we're done.'"

Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, directed by Wilson from a


script by Scott Buck, was released early in 2004 as part of a
direct-to-DVD package with the original Tremors. Set in 1889,
the story follows Hiram Gummer (Michael Gross), the great-
grandfather of survivalist Burt Gummer and owner of a silver
But fans couldn't get enough of Perfection, Nevada, and the mine that has been faced with a series of mysterious deaths
tale of a small group of citizens banding together to fight an among the miners. Joining forces with other townsfolk --
uncommon foe. Tremors 3 followed, and a successful ancestors of characters who populate 1989 Perfection --
television franchise emerged as well. Each time, Stampede Hiram sets out to determine what is killing the miners, and
Entertainment -- with Wilson, Maddock and producer Nancy faces the underground enemy for the first time.
Roberts at the creative helm -- rose to the challenge of
reinventing the Graboid, the underground creature that was
the story's reason for being. When talk of Tremors 4 began to
surface, Wilson met with Universal executive Patti Jackson to
discuss the project. "I told Patti that we were really in a
corner," Wilson recalled. "The fans were going to want a new
creature, but we had no idea where to go. We couldn't just
With that in mind, the producers discussed ideas for the T-4
Graboids with Greg Nicotero of KNB EFX Group, which
immediately began building new mechanical puppets. "KNB
had already created a new Graboid, El Blanco, for the TV
series," said Wilson, "and we were able to borrow that
technology for the film." KNB's full-sized Graboid puppet for
Tremors 4 was mounted on a four-wheeled dolly, which gave
it greater overall maneuverability, and also featured an
additional neck joint to create more lifelike flexibility in the
head.
Puppetry had provided the means for creating Tremors'
original Graboid -- a legless, 30-foot creature with a mouthful
of powerful tentacles -- and Tremors 2's flying Shrieker.
Tremors 3 spawned the Ass Blasters, a self-evident variation
on the same theme, and introduced the first computer
animated Graboids. For Tremors 4, which would feature five-
foot-long Baby Graboids that eventually grow to full-sized
monsters, Wilson and his team opted to return to the original
puppet approach. "We really listened to the fans," Wilson
commented. "The only negative comments we'd ever heard
about our special effects -- as low-budget as they'd been --
concerned the CG Graboids we did for Tremors 3. They were
faster and much livelier than the big, heavy puppets we'd
used in the earlier versions; but, although the effects were
first-rate, fans said that they didn't 'look right.' And, of course,
they were also more expensive."
Production built the mining town of Rejection -- renamed
Perfection as a plot point later in the film -- in Acton,
California. As with earlier Tremors films, the intention was to
dig large holes in which to conceal the full-scale Graboid
puppets, mechanical rigs and crew. Construction was well
underway when they ran into a serious setback. "The town
was half-built," Wilson recalled, "and I went out and selected
where I was going to plant our eight-foot puppet. But then,
production designer Simon Dobbin came to us and said:
'Guess what? To dig holes out here we're going to have to
blast.' The area was solid rock underneath. It caused our
visual effects producer, Linda Drake, to go back to the
drawing board very quickly and come up with an entirely
different approach."

For some shots, the quarter-scale puppets were filmed against


greenscreen and composited into live-action footage by Kevin
Kutchaver and his HimAnI team, which digitally tracked the
The new approach was to shoot the full-size mechanical greenscreen elements to the live-action. "Compositing in the
puppets only for scenes above ground. For shots of the computer allowed us to do very complex composites," said
creatures bursting out of the earth, Robert and Dennis Skotak Wilson." We could take advantage of image steadying and
of 4-Ward Productions -- veterans of previous Tremors movies tracking, and we could do camera moves. It really gave us the
-- built and puppeteered quarter-scale Graboids within best of both worlds to shoot miniatures and then composite
miniature sets. "Because the Skotaks shot the footage of a them digitally." In one scene, miniature tentacles were
Graboid blasting out of the ground with a puppet in a manipulated against greenscreen, then tracked into the
miniature set," said Wilson, "all of the dust and interaction was mouth of a full-scale Graboid head-and-shoulders puppet that
there, already in the shot." had been shot on location. "It worked marvelously well. We
had these tentacles coming in and out of the Graboid's mouth
-- yet we never shot the full-size tentacles on the set." Other
CG enhancements included gun muzzle flashes, dust and
'monster gut' debris. "We also used CG to distort areas of the
frame to create dirt humps as the Graboid moves
underground."
Despite these computer generated enhancements, Tremors 4
represented a throwback to old-style effects techniques -- a
style mandated by the budget, but also preferred by the
filmmakers. To satisfy Tremors fans and their own
sensibilities, the producers will no doubt take the same
approach to Tremors 5 -- providing there is going to be a
Tremors 5. "A script has been written," said Wilson, "but
whether or not it gets made will depend on how well Tremors
4 does and the response to it when it airs this summer on
USA.
SWAMP THINGS also gave PDI/DreamWorks artists and programmers
opportunities to finesse what they had wrought so beautifully
Article by Jody Duncan
the first time out. "In the gap between Shrek and Shrek 2,"
PDI/DreamWorks garnered acclaim and big boxoffice dollars said head of effects Arnauld Lamorlette, "we looked at what
with 2001's Shrek, the studio's second 3D computer animated we did in Shrek, what had worked and what could be
feature, following Antz. Based on a children's book by William improved."
Steig, Shrek introduced movie audiences to the swamp-
residing green ogre who finds love while on a quest to rescue
an imprisoned princess.

Among items on the 'improve' list were the rendering


techniques used on the first film. PDI/DreamWorks rewrote all
of its rendering tools and took advantage of global
Shrek ended with the nuptials of Shrek and his Princess illumination technology to imbue Shrek 2 with warmer, more
Fiona. PDI/DreamWorks' new release, Shrek 2, picks up after realistic and richer computer generated images. Though
the happily ever after, as Shrek and his bride travel to the global illumination -- which creates real-world bounce light in
land of Far Far Away to meet her parents, who are none-too- the digital realm -- had been around for quite a while, and was
happy that their daughter has married an ogre rather than certainly around at the time the first movie was in production,
Prince Charming. it had only recently been used in film production. "Global
illumination was cumbersome to use," said Lamorlette. "It was
computation intensive and slow. To use it on Shrek 2 wasn't a
matter of inventing a new technology; it was about taking a
The three years between Shrek and Shrek 2 would have been
technology that had been around for 20 years and making it
insignificant in the live-action realm; but in the rapidly
usable in a production pipeline. We made it faster and
advancing arena of computer graphics, three years was ample
created controls that would allow artists to use it easily on a
time to give birth to new tools and applications. The
day-to-day basis." Similarly, the PDI/DreamWorks team used
advantage of a second time at bat with the same characters
subsurface scattering shaders -- which emulate the way light
travels through and reflects off of skin and other translucent
materials -- to give Shrek 2's characters more realistic, warmer
skin. "Like global illumination, subsurface scattering was out
there when we did the last movie, but it wasn't fast enough to
use in a production pipeline."

Variety and richness characterized Shrek 2's crowds, as well,


most prominent in a scene in which the citizens of Far Far
Away greet the royal family in a red carpet parade.
PDI/DreamWorks made great strides in its mob system, largely
through the development of Dynamic Crowd Character, which
gave individual figures within a crowd the same range of
The company invested equal effort into improving its hair dynamics exhibited by hero characters. "Our generic crowd
simulation, not only to make it more workable, overall, but to characters were just like our hero characters," Lamorlette
accommodate the furry new character, Puss In Boots, and a explained. "They had the same character setup, the same
range of more complex hairstyles on the hero characters. The properties in the hair, the same clothing simulation, the same
upgrading of the hair pipeline involved developing hair animation controls. That meant that we could do very
dynamics and rewriting all of the existing hair shaders. sophisticated things within the crowds. We could switch them
PDI/DreamWorks also rewrote fabric shaders to afford greater from crowd character to hero character very easily." Character
variety in character costumes. "The new shaders gave us the complexity levels were determined during rendering. "If the
capability of doing a very wide range of fabrics," said crowd character was far away, we would compute less hair
Lamorlette. "As a result, the costumes in the movie are and reduce the quality of the rendering; but, when we got
unbelievably varied and rich." close to that crowd character, we would use all the same
complexities as in a regular character."
Crowd characters could be manipulated either by animators Technically, visually, artistically, narratively -- in every way --
or the mob system. "The mob system would assign animation the creators of Shrek 2 strove to make a film that was better
cycles to crowd characters," said Lamorlette, "adapting them than the first. "Personally," said Lamorlette, "I think Shrek 2 is
according to the size of the character. It also assigned a better movie than the first one. The characters are even
behaviors, based on a complex set of rules we set up. One of funnier, the story is even stronger. Of course, ultimately, that
the rules might be, 'Look at the closest hero character.' So, if is up to the viewers to decide. We did everything we could to
we had a hero character passing by on the red carpet, the make the movie better -- and I hope audiences can see that."
crowd would look at the closest one. When that hero
character moved further away, the crowd would turn their
heads to look at the hero character that was now closest to
them. That was all done procedurally, with rules in the mob
system. The animator could still go in and override that -- but
that wasn't usually necessary. Dynamic Crowd Character gave
us a lot of variety within the crowd, rather than giving us
something in which the whole crowd acted as a flock."
RENDER MAN radically new approach to creating animated images. "It
was fantastic," Raats said. "I remember doing an image of
Article by Jody Duncan a diver underwater, swimming next to a marlin. Using
Some artists are inspired by landscapes or seascapes, by digital graphics, I was able to create the backgrounds,
flora or fauna. Some are inspired by the beauty of the the diver, little effects on the water. It was crude by
naked human form. Some are inspired by their today's standards, but it was very exciting to me at the
nightmares or their dreams.Artist Mark Raats found time. I was really taken with the fact that I had been
inspiration in an unlikely place -- in the faces and hearts nowhere near a diver, nowhere near water, and nowhere
of those within the visual effects community. near a marlin -- and yet I was able to create this image,
which looked like it was taken with a camera!"

A native of South Africa, Raats (rhymes with 'dots') was


enthralled with Disney animation as a child and spent his
high school years drawing and creating crude animations
at home. After high school and a mandatory two-year
military service, Raats studied fine art in college, doing
graphic design work for an advertising agency upon
graduation. Subsequent employment in a computer firm
introduced him to nascent digital graphics tools -- and a
Raats established his own company in 1986 -- named intense desire to learn how they had been achieved; and
'PixStar,' a combination of 'pixel' and his surname, so I did anything I could to learn about the subject.
spelled backwards -- which provided 2D and 3D graphics Later, it was important to keep up with what was going
and animation for television and multimedia events. In on in visual effects, because the tools were very much
2002, Raats closed shop, moved his family to Australia, the same as those I was using in my industry. What
and joined Rory Toner to form MRT Studios, which starts in motion pictures eventually trickles down to
provides similar services. television and lower echelons of the production chain."

Though his career path had moved him away from As part of his ongoing education, Raats attended
feature film animation, Raats maintained a keen interest SIGGRAPH as often as possible, where he not only saw
in the field of film visual effects. "It had always the latest technology, but also bumped into prominent
fascinated me," Raats said, "from the time of 2001, and visual effects artists such as John Knoll, Phil Tippett,
then Star Wars. When I saw those movies, I had an Craig Barron and Dennis Muren. "I'd have five or ten
words with them, and they'd answer my questions," Raats machine. I thought it might be fun to draw these people,
recalled. "There was nothing profound about these to make them the stars."
meetings, but it was great to put a human face to these
people who had worked so diligently behind the scenes."

Raats' first project was a poster he titled 'The Force


Behind George Lucas,' which featured Lucas in the
In 2001, Raats began committing those faces to paper -- forefront, surrounded by the creative team that had
a gesture of tribute to what he saw as a largely unsung been instrumental to the Star Wars films. He followed
group of filmmaking heroes. "If there is one area of the that with renderings of Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Rob
film industry that the general public doesn't know," Raats Coleman, John Knoll, Rick Baker, Steve Gawley, Jean
commented, "it is the visual effects area. Audiences see Bolte, and others. Raats expanded his scope to include
the flying spaceship, but they don't know who makes the people outside the visual effects arena, but still integral
spaceship fly. They don't know the people behind the to big effects films -- such as composer John Williams,
Star Wars renaissance man Ben Burtt and producer Rick late-night amusement took on greater significance when
McCallum. Raats also rendered more whimsical, cartoon- the portraits began making their way to the subjects via
style depictions of George Lucas as Yoda and Steven the Internet, and -- much to Raats' surprise and delight --
Spielberg in Indiana Jones attire and attitude. they began to respond. "I got an email from Stan
Winston's assistant, saying he wanted to speak to me,
which was mind-boggling! Why the hell would Stan
Winston want to talk to me? Soon after,

Initially, the drawings were purely for Raats' own


entertainment. "I didn't think there would be much
outside interest in these things," he admitted. "I just
loved the people and I loved drawing them. I loved I was privileged to have a conversation with him on the
working with pencil and paper and pen, away from the phone, in which he expressed his appreciation for what I
computer, away from all the digital tools. I would sit at had done. He asked if I could send him a print. I said,
my dining room table and draw well into the night." The 'Oh, no, I'll send you the original.' So I sent him the
original and a print; and he signed the print for me and for himself.
sent it back. That kind of positive feedback was really
gratifying." Through contacts at Industrial Light & Magic and
elsewhere, Raats is acquiring hard-to-find reference
material that will enable him to draw more visual effects
artists, and the collection continues to grow -- for now.
"There are a million visual effects artists out there," Raats
commented, "and I've drawn 12 so far. Obviously, I can't
draw them all; but I'm still enjoying doing these portraits.
At this point, it is a hobby. But if this hobby leads to an
opportunity to move away from the digital field and back
into the traditional art field, I'll take it."

Meanwhile, Raats is drawing at his dining room table,


adding to the collection he has named 'Behind the
Machine: Hollywood's Magicians.' "I called the collection
that because that is how I see these people and their
place in the film industry," he concluded. "The
moviemaking machine can be a cruel, cold and
calculated thing. But, somehow, these people weave
magic into it, and what comes out the other side is
astonishing."

For more about Mark Raats and his work, go to


www.markraats.com.

Raats received similar feedback from other subjects, as


well, and these long-distance connections led to his
meeting many of them in person during a recent trip to
the United States. As he had with Winston, Raats
delivered the original drawings to the subjects, some of
which now hang on their walls, and kept signed copies
RIDDICK RETURNS and Rhythm & Hues. New Deal Studios provided
miniatures.
Article by Jody Duncan

The most memorable character in director David Twohy's


2000 space thriller, Pitch Black, was anti-hero Richard
Riddick, played by Vin Diesel in his first star turn. The
film's marketing tag line -- 'Fight Evil with Evil' --
nutshelled a story in which the seemingly irredeemable
killer led a band of crash survivors in fighting nocturnal
predators on an alien planet. The character made an
indelible enough impression to launch Diesel's career
and spawn a sequel, the current Chronicles of Riddick.

In the new film, Riddick escapes from prison and


searches for his true identity against the backdrop of an
intergalactic war. The Chronicles of Riddick boasts
hundreds of visual effects shots, overseen by visual
effects supervisor Peter Chiang and divided among three
main effects vendors: Double Negative, Hammerhead
named planet Crematoria, the site of a subterranean
prison where Riddick is incarcerated. Among the
Crematoria effects is a planet-wide storm -- caused by
temperature extremes -- that follows the movement of
the sun. "David Twohy asked for something that didn't
look like a sandstorm," said Rhythm & Hues visual
effects supervisor Mike Wassel, "because it isn't
supposed to be dust -- it is supposed to be a 'visible
thermal front.'"

To create the VTF storm, Rhythm & Hues essentially


'poured' a fluid simulation over CG landscapes modeled
in 3D. "That gave us the basic movement of the storm
over geometry," Wassel explained, "but the real look of it
was derived in compositing, where they manipulated
many layers of particle animation. Compositors also
created a white-hot leading edge to the storm, which
lights up the landscape as it moves across the surface."

Rhythm & Hues also executed composites featuring New


Deal Studios miniatures for wide shots of the
underground prison, designed as a vertically-oriented,
200-foot-deep structure with a control room -- dubbed
the 'cork' -- that extended from the ground surface to 60
feet into the subterranean cavity. New Deal built prison
miniatures in two scales: a 1/16th-scale prison interior
and a 1/8th-scale control room. The 1/16th-scale
miniature was featured in a composite shot of Riddick's
initial descent into the prison. "The camera does a 180-
degree move," said Wassel, "first looking up at Riddick as
he is lowered. Riddick then passes camera, and the
camera tilts down to reveal the full depth of the prison."
Rhythm & Hues photographed Diesel motion control
against greenscreen on stage in Vancouver -- where the
Rhythm & Hues' 140 shots primarily served two entire show was filmed -- then scanned the selected
sequences, including an introductory one on 'Planet UV' - take, tracked it, and output the motion control data files
- where Riddick is chased by bounty-hunting mercenaries for New Deal crew members to run when they shot their
-- for which the company generated 3D and 2D motion control move on the prison interior miniature.
landscapes. But the majority of Rhythm & Hues' work is
featured in sequences on the scorching hot, and aptly
In the story, prison authorities cull the convict
population by releasing vicious hellhounds, rendered in
3D by Rhythm & Hues. The design for the massive,
scale-covered dog came down from the production art
department, which also sculpted a full-size foam
maquette -- measuring seven feet long, without the tail --
that was used on set for purposes of staging and
framing. Back at Rhythm & Hues, digital modelers used
geometry from a scan of the maquette to build the CG
hellhound, which featured 9000 modeled scales.
Though canine in appearance, the hellhound was
animated to suggest the behaviors and body language of
a big cat. "The movements of a cat are inherently scarier
than those of a dog," Wassel commented. "Cat-like
movement helped us to make the hellhound more
terrifying." Although the movie's PG-13 rating mandated
that the bloodshed be played largely offscreen, the
hellhounds are seen taking down numerous prisoners.
Live extras pantomimed being attacked on set, then
Rhythm & Hues animated the hellhound to tie it to those
live-action performances.

The most challenging shot was one in which a hellhound


pushes his head through a waterfall, finding -- and
ultimately befriending -- Riddick. On the set, the visual
effects team had pushed a lifesize model of the
hellhound head through a practical waterfall and shot it
on video to provide reference. "That was a good
guideline for developing the fluid simulation so that we
could match the on-set waterfall," Wassel stated. A plate
was then shot clean, sans water, to allow for the addition
of a simulated waterfall and the CG hellhound. Rhythm
& Hues effects animators worked for a year to develop
fluid simulation tools specifically for this shot. "The
simulated waterfall was made up of three separate
entities -- the laminar flow, the water sheet and the
particle spray coming off of it -- which we balanced in the
composite. The main issue was making it really look as if
the dog was interacting with the water, splitting the flow
apart and pushing its head through. And that led to the
next problem, which was that now we had a wet dog. To
create an undulating surface of water sheeting off the
dog, we photographed real water and used it as a texture
map to displace the skin texture."

Rhythm & Hues also rendered 75 matte paintings, many of


which were used to create skies absent from live-action plates
shot on Vancouver soundstages. "Because of the need for
these skies and other landscapes," said Wassel, "The
Chronicles of Riddick was a huge matte painting show -- on
top of everything else."
AIRPORT 2004
Article by Joe Fordham

Directed by Steven Spielberg -- from a story by Sacha


Gervasi and Andrew Niccol, and a screenplay by Gervasi
and Jeff Nathanson -- The Terminal tells the tale of
airline passenger Viktor Navorksi (Tom Hanks), who is
forced to live for 11 months in a New York airport
terminal after the coup-initiated collapse of his Eastern
European homeland.

The filmmakers selected Mirabel in Montreal, Canada -- a


site that specializes in cargo services -- to stage
peripheral scenes and runway action. To depict action in
the terminal, they determined the most practical means
was to build one. Two vacated military aircraft hangars in
Palmdale, California housed the terminal sets, designed
Set almost entirely in the airport terminal, the movie
by McDowell with a team of architectural designers and
posed significant logistical concerns for the filmmakers.
Proof, a 3D previsualization studio. Concepts first
"JFK was very keen to have us shoot in their terminal
focused on the engineering of a steel truss that formed
four," recalled production designer Alex McDowell. "But
the backbone of the set, supporting lights and structures
since it was an active airport, we would have had no
above the 75,000-square-foot floor space. While
control over the passengers passing through. Trying to
McDowell's team generated sketches, blueprints and
portray 11 months of screen time, night and day, would
miniature foam core mockups, Proof built 3D models of
have been impossible." Post 9/11 security issues were
sets and determined the overall shape of the terminal,
also a concern. "If the government announced an Orange
incorporating elements from an array of airports, from
Alert, they could have commandeered the airport for
Kansai to Charles de Gaulle.
military use. There was no guarantee that we could own
an airport once we'd committed to it."
Visual effects art director Robert Stromberg at Digital
Backlot generated a 2D matte painting from the previz
model, combining photographic texture reference of JFK
and Mirabel with photorealistic lighting and skies. JC
Backings then used that image to create a 650-by-48-
foot backing. Lighting director David Devlin rigged the
backdrop with more than 2,000 practical light sources
Previz artist Ben Proctor constructed a 3D model of the and, with director of photography Janusz Kaminski,
terminal in Softimage XSI, which became a point of reference developed a front-lit lighting setup to simulate a daytime
look or a darker nighttime glow.
for set construction, camera and lighting departments and
helped develop a strategy for handling views outside a three-
story-high window that dominated one side of the set. "Steven
wanted to concentrate on the drama," stated McDowell, "and
keep the visual effects low profile. We didn't want to commit
to bluescreen shots every time we looked towards this very
large expanse of glass on one side of the set." McDowell
opted to create the view outside the window through a
backdrop based on a 3D previz model, thus avoiding the two-
dimensionality of a large-scale photographic projection. "We
distorted a view of the previz model to compensate for the
curve of the backing, and lit and modeled the image at a very
high degree of detail. It was an amalgam of traditional Digital effects enhanced window views. "The intent was
techniques and previz technology." to use the backdrop in passing," explained visual effects
supervisor Charles Gibson. "When we lingered on it for
any period of time we were going to add computer-
generated air traffic, security and luggage vehicles,
people walking around. It ended up being a great idea.
Steven was able to stage many scenes with the backing,
without revealing there weren't vehicles or planes. A
surprisingly small number of shots required the
additional digital material."

Digital Film Works provided visual effects, supervised by


Cosmas Paul Bolger, Jr. Artists spent one day surveying
the terminal set then, by referencing architectural plans
and previz models, tracked in digital enhancements
without motion control or onset tracking markers. "We
used photo surveys of the set to reconstruct textures
and patterns on the windows and the columns," said
Gibson.
When a blizzard descends on the airport, the weather much more access to the information at hand, you can alter
change required Robert Stromberg to prepare new the way that you approach the film. In my view, it is changing
conceptual images of the snowbound terminal and the way that production is conducted."
runway. Digital Film Works tracked particle animation
snowfall into windows, shot with sympathetic lighting.
"Janusz and Dave Devlin established a style of lighting to
create appropriate contrast on the backing to suggested
those weather conditions," said Gibson. "We fit our
elements into that, only adding snow when needed.
Steven was constantly coming up with clever ways to
shoot everything in-camera, without detracting from the
production value. He was brilliant at that."

Despite the slender visual effects shot count -- 55 shots,


compared to an early estimate of 200 -- effects technology
contributed immeasurably to the production, blurring the line
between production design and visual effects. "Digital design
has enabled us to collaborate with every part of production
very early on," concluded McDowell. "Previz enables us to
immerse ourselves in a very pure flow of design, which
everyone has access to. By giving all the departments so
FANTASTIC FOGG AND HIS FLYING Rhythm & Hues modelers built the digital boat in Maya,
referencing photographs of a practical half-boat used on
MACHINE location in Thailand. To age it, they relied on displacement
Article by Barbara Robertson maps. Animation was accomplished with the studio's
proprietary VooDoo software, lighting with Side Effects
In 1872, author Jules Verne's eccentric inventor Phileas Fogg
Software's vMantra and rendering with the in-house Ren
-- on a bet -- conjured up the secret of flight and traveled
software.
around the world in 80 days. But he had nothing on the visual
effects wizards who, in 2004, helped actors Steve Coogan
(Fogg), Jackie Chan (sidekick Passepartout) and Cecile de
France (Monique) cross the Atlantic in a digital paddle
steamer and jury-rigged flying machine -- without setting foot
in either.

The tricky part of the illusion was putting the boat in water. In
Thailand, the crew shot background plates of a Thai tug
chugging through the ocean to simulate the paddle boat's
journey across the Atlantic. The tug's movement was later
applied to the CG boat. "The plate gave us a wake and a good
position for where the boat was supposed to be in the water,"
The first Around the World in 80 Days film was made in 1914 Spears said. The waterline was assembled from CG water
and since then, the book has been revisited through at least created in Side Effects Software's Houdini using Martian Tools'
four more features, a mini-series, an animated film and Hydrous. "Integrating the boat into the water and adding the
numerous knock-offs including The Three Stooges Go Around waterline took endless hours of slaving on an Inferno. It was a
the World in a Daze (1963). lot of tedious hand work."
For the new Buena Vista version, visual effects supervisor The boat not only sailed through the water, it paddled, so the
Derek Spears masterminded 400 shots, 80 of which were effects crew needed to move CG water through the
created at Rhythm & Hues. Among the company's effects paddlewheel. "We used a particle system, but particles look
were the sail-powered paddle steamer boat and a pedal- like dots," said Spears. "The tricky part of water is getting
powered flying machine that transport Fogg and crew on the sheeting action. Particles try to stay local to one another, so it
final leg of their journey. was hard to get them to not look like rain. We used
smoothing techniques to stick the particles together so they'd
look like streams of water coming off the wheel." Rendering
techniques in vMantra helped turn some of the particles into a tried to render the whole thing together, but it was too
foamy spray as the wheel churned through the water. expensive," said Spears. "Instead, we had rings of lights follow
the CG actors around. If they walked over a white part of the
deck, white light would reflect on them. We also used
ambient diffusion to get soft shadows, and ray tracing for the
wet areas."

To complete the illusion, Rhythm & Hues populated the boat


with digital characters that walked, climbed ladders, and
pulled on ropes, using animation cycles created from motion
capture data altered by animators. Variations among the
people on deck were created with texture maps; the actors When Fogg, Monique, and Passepartout realize that they are
were simulated using still photos taken on set. All the people not going to make it across the Atlantic in the boat in time to
were parented to the boat so as it rocked and rolled -- to win the bet, they use pieces of the boat to build a pedal-
match the movement of the tugboat tracked from the plate -- powered flying machine. Fogg drives, Monique sits behind
the digital people stayed firmly aboard. him, and Passepartout pedals. "Most of the flying machine
shots were completely synthetic," said Spears, "although some
have live-action backgrounds."

With digital people, digital water streaming through the paddle


wheel, digital sails with a bit of cloth simulation on them, and
the boat moving through water that was, in part, digital,
rendering with global illumination became impossible. "We
the direction that the digital people moved was controlled by
crowd simulation software, Softimage|Behavior. "The people
are reasonably small, but they cover the screen," said Spears.
"There are thousands of them running into the square from
edge to edge."

Some of the shots in the sequence were greenscreen


composites of the practical flying machine filmed on stage.
"We used background plates shot in London that we had to
change to match the period," Spears said. "We tracked in 2D
paintings of buildings from other plates. London looks period
from the ground, but when you look sideways, you see the
Working from Lidar laser scans of the practical flying modern buildings because they tend to be taller." Re-creating
machine, Rhythm & Hues built a digital equivalent and then Jules Verne's Victorian-age scientific fantasy on film for the
staffed it with digital doubles of the actors. Because in one illusion-savvy moviegoers of 2004 required tools and
shot the characters are almost full frame, their faces were techniques that a Victorian scientist could hardly imagine.
rendered with subsurface scattering techniques to add
transparency to the flesh, and animated by hand using
reference photos shot on set. The background sky was a
matte painting enhanced with

an occasional CG cloud formed by in-house volumetric tools.


The water was practical unless camera moves made that
impractical -- in which case the crew simulated water, again
using Houdini and Hydrous.

Near the finish line at the Royal Academy of Science square in


England, the CG plane flies into a practical set actually filmed
in Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt. Waiting to cheer the intrepid
travelers' homecoming after their remarkable journey are
thousands of people moving, as on the boat, according to
animation cycles from motion capture data. In these shots,
DARK AGE EPIC visual effects shots for the film. Neil Corbould supervised
practical effects.
Article by Joe Fordham

Fantasy or legend, ancient myth or ancient history, the tale of


Arthur Pendragon, King of the Britons, and his round table of
knights has fascinated storytellers dating back, at least, to the
Sixth Century A.D. As retold by producer Jerry Bruckheimer,
screenwriter David Franzoni and director Antoine Fuqua in
Touchstone Pictures' King Arthur, Artorius (Clive Owen) is a
bedraggled military man, half-Roman and half-Briton, who
leads a troop of foreign mercenaries to defend an ancient
British tribe against invading Saxon hordes.

Shot predominantly in Ireland, one of the film's main effects


involved transforming verdant Irish landscape into a Dark
Ages winter. "Physical effects snowed up large areas of
landscape," related Johnson, "but Antoine wanted to expand
the scope of the environment, so a lot of times the camera
was pointing away from snowy areas, looking at lush green
Irish rolling hillside." Cinesite added snow to the environment
using luminance mattes and chroma-keying green to white,
and by compositing snow-filled matte paintings. Cinesite also
added animated snow effects to 50 percent of the snowing
shots in the film.

One spectacular winter sequence - shot in the height of


summer -- called for Arthur and his knights to face a Saxon
Gritty and devoid of the traditional mystical elements of army across a frozen lake. "Antoine was looking for a vast
Arthurian myth, the production embraced realism. "This was mountainous region with a large frozen lake big enough to
not a fantasy," stated visual effects supervisor Matt Johnson. march the Saxon army across," recalled Johnson. "It had to be
"Antoine Fuqua was very keen for it not to look like an effects
surrounded by steep cliff faces, which forced the army to walk
picture. The main directive for effects was to expand action
scenes and the overall scale of the production, to create over the ice. Ireland doesn't have a lot of mountain ranges,
elements that didn't exist on location, to create the epic feel and it certainly doesn't have frozen lakes -- particularly in
of a David Lean movie." London's Cinesite generated 482 August!
The production staged the conflict in a valley in County To create digital frozen lake environments, Cinesite layered
Wicklow -- ironically, near the Irish town of Hollywood. "We digital matte paintings into 3D settings using '3D Space' -- a
called the valley the 'Hollywood Bowl,'" Johnson said. "Physical plug-in for Shake, developed by digital artist Michele Sciolette.
effects dressed the area with fake snow to create the "We took a 3D track from our production plates and created
impression of a snowy, icy bank, and snowed up greenery on 3D camera moves in Maya," Johnson explained. "We took that
either side of the location as high as the snow-spraying trucks data into 3D Space and then added layers of matte paintings,
could reach. Visual effects then created the world beyond which ranged from 3K to 8K resolutions. We assigned
that, enhancing what was there and, in some places, replacing sections of each painting to correctly proportioned 3D
a lot of what was shot on location." markers within Shake and created a sense of parallax and
perspective shift from the 3D camera."
To assist environment extensions, Johnson's team positioned
portable greenscreens behind actors wherever possible on
location, but mostly relied on postproduction means to add
digital enhancements - surveying the location, then motion
tracking and rotoscoping performers from backgrounds. "We
didn't want to place restrictions on Antoine and his director of
photography, Slawomir Idziak," said Johnson. "There was a
limited amount of time to shoot the scene, so they kept
camerawork very fluid with a lot of Steadicam and camera
movement. We filmed half the scene in Ireland, concentrating
on Arthur and the knights, and some of wider establishing
shots of the Saxons. We later shot Saxons against bluescreen
on the backlot at Pinewood Studios in England and created
the environment behind them. Antoine decided to replace the
real environment behind the knights, as well, so the scope of
the effects expanded during postproduction."
Compositors created crowds of Saxon warriors using digital
replication. For selected shots, the team made use of artificial
intelligence crowd simulation technology, developed in-house
as 'React,' applying motion capture of battle reenactment and
stunt performers to 3D animated warriors. "The AI assigned
different parameters to different marching and fighting
movements," said Johnson, "and then React integrated that
within Maya and RenderMan. We used React to generate 3D
characters in our final climactic battle and during the ice
battle, where we're underwater looking up through the ice.
Everything in those shots -- from the particles floating in the
water, the ice, feet hitting the ice, bodies fading off -- was
completely computer generated."

CG ice required a complex volumetric shader, seen close up


when Arthur's knight, Dagonet (Ray Stevenson), swings an axe
to shatter the frozen lake beneath the Saxon army's feet. Neil
Corbould's physical effects team built a mechanical rig for the
shattering effect on Pinewood Studios' backlot paddock tank
using giant gimbaled sections of ice, engineered to tip stunt elements and mixed in live splash and snow elements as
performers. Cinesite digitally replaced the ground beneath the bodies fell into the lake. Cracking effects were entirely
performers' feet with computer generated ice using custom computer generated, with animated displacements and
shaders to create depth and refraction in all frozen surfaces. procedurally driven fragmentation effects filled with
volumetric elements that simulated the internal structure of
the ice - bubbles, ice shards, and tiny 3D frozen leaves adding
to the detail.

"We created a lot of subtle elements to give the shots a real-


world feel," commented Johnson. "It was a fantastic story, but
it was grounded in reality."

The ice shader used ray tracing to create light refraction and
scattering effects. Compositors layered elements using
environment maps, occlusion, shadowing and particle
TWO BROTHERS cameras to capture closeups.
Article by Alain Bielik

Since winning the 1977 Best Foreign Language Film for Noirs
et blancs en couleur (Black and White in Color), his directing
debut, French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud has
challenged his crews with some of the most complex
productions ever undertaken in France -- Quest for Fire,
Seven Years in Tibet and Enemy at the Gates. For Universal
Pictures' Two Brothers, the story of two orphaned tiger cubs
reared by human captors, Annaud shot in one of the most
hostile environments possible -- the jungles of Cambodia --
with two very dangerous animals in the lead roles.

Plate photography of the tigers was carefully monitored by


visual effects supervisor Frederic Moreau of Éclair Numerique
in Paris. "After several weeks of work," Moreau recalled, "our
perception of the tigers changed a little bit. One day, we shot
a scene in which one of the animals tears off his trainer's arm
through cage bars. We first shot a plate in which a silicone
arm was held through the bars by the crew. The tiger came in,
walked around the cage and, without warning, jumped on the
arm and tore it off! After witnessing this sudden burst of
As he had for The Bear, Annaud intended to keep visual violence, we were all even more cautious." A second plate
effects to a minimum, relying on the exceptional skills of featured the actor behind the bars, reacting to Annaud pulling
animal trainer Thierry Le Portier. However, he quickly learned his arm. The two plates were combined via a complicated
that tigers are no teddy bears. During principal photography, split-screen in which the fake arm under attack by the tiger
none but Le Portier and his team were allowed in the was digitally attached to the real actor. "Interestingly enough,
immediate area occupied by the tigers, and crew members Universal requested that we paint out most of the blood for
shot from the safety of locked cages, using remote-controlled the American version."
When body contact was not required, actors and tigers were
combined via bluescreen composites. The animals were
always shot first; the human players then adjusted their
performance to what their four-legged partners had done in
the first plate. In some shots, especially the ones featuring
child actor Freddy Highmore, the plates were captured with an
animatronic stand-in that was replaced by a real tiger in
postproduction.
Annaud employed a variety of techniques to combine actors
and tigers that were never shot together. Scenes in which An unusual stand-in was used for the scene in which the two
characters had to physically interact with the tigers were shot animals run away in a panic-stricken crowd. The plates were
with the help of animatronics effects created by Pascal shot with two production assistants playing the part of the
Molina, Jean-Christophe Spadaccini, Denis Gastou and a crew tigers among hundreds of extras. The assistants were then
of 60 -- the largest ever assembled in France for a makeup painted out of the scene and replaced by the tigers, which
effects project. "The attack scenes obviously required had been photographed alone in a separate pass.
animatronics," Molina said. "It was either a real tiger attacking
a silicone replica of the actor, or an animatronic tiger shot
with the real actor. All together, we built ten tigers, plus a
variety of body parts for specific closeups. We had a tail,
several legs and a head, all used for direct interaction with
the players. We also built a head-and-torso piece mounted on
a Steadicam harness, which allowed the camera to literally
run with the tiger through the jungle."
work focused on shots of the tigers alone. "Most of the time,
when you see two tigers together on screen, it is a
composite," Moreau noted. "Tigers don't socialize very much.
As soon as we released them, they went their separate ways.
As a result, a shot of two tigers simply walking from point A to
point B required several passes -- one for each tiger and one
with a clean background." Each setup also required 'bush
passes.' "Tigers are very playful, and they just loved tearing
bushes away -- which created obvious continuity problems. So
we had to shoot the bushes as separate elements in order to
digitally restore the sets."

Face replacement was another technique used in some


instances -- such as in a circus sequence featuring tiger
performers. "One of Le Portier's assistants was photographed
in the cage," explained Frederic Moreau, "playing the part of
the animal trainer. He was made up and dressed to look like
actor Vincent Scarito. The illusion worked fine for long shots,
but for tighter shots, we had to replace his face with
Vincent's, photographed under the same conditions while
Jean-Jacques Annaud played the part of the tiger to guide his
performance!"

Although the scenes featuring characters and tigers together


were the 'money shots,' the bulk of the film's visual effects
The quickly-changing lighting conditions in the jungle often
resulted in different ambiences from one pass to the next,
requiring a lot of color correction to make the composites
work. Visual effects crews often had to paint out an animal
trainer, as well, or digitally retouch the tigers' performances --
sudden moves were slowed down, morphs were executed to
enhance body language, light was added in the eye area,
tigers were rotoscoped and repositioned elsewhere in the
frame, and camera moves were digitally added or modified.

In the end, Two Brothers featured more than 550 visual


effects shots -- 450 more than in Annaud's The Bear. Although
the numbers are impressive by French standards, Frederic
Moreau is more impressed by the end result. "This project was
so complicated to shoot," Moreau commented, "I never would
have thought that the result could look so fluid, so seamless.
When you see the movie, it all looks 'easy!'"
AN OLD TALE WITH A NEW TWIST The 55-second opening shot begins with a view of a mountain
range -- though, the camera is so close, the viewer cannot
Article by Estelle Shay distinguish it. In one continuous move, the camera pulls
back, sweeping through a canyon and up a mountainside,
One of the most enduring of fairy tales, Cinderella has then flies past the first peak to reveal a fairytale-like castle on
inspired an array of dramatic incarnations over the years. the next pinnacle. As the camera circles the edifice, the
Memorable film adaptations include the 1950s Disney lighting slowly changes, and huge snowflakes begin to fall.
animated version, a 1975 British adaptation titled The Slipper The camera then pulls back to reveal that the magical setting
and the Rose, and more recently, the 1998 Drew Barrymore is, in fact, a miniature inside a snow globe, held up by Sam's
film Ever After. Now, Warner Brothers' summer comedy A father. Continuing its pullback, the camera performs a sudden
Cinderella Story celebrates the age-old tale once again, this 180-degree flip, zeroing in on the real setting for the film --
time offering up a more modern spin, with sixteen-year-old the San Fernando Valley, viewed from atop Mulholland Drive.
actress Hilary Duff as Sam Montgomery, a spirited high school "The gag," explained Digital Dimension visual effects
teen with serious step-family issues. supervisor Ben Girard, "is that the film starts out looking like a
traditional fairytale, all pretty music and castles; and
suddenly, there's the sound of a needle scratching across a
record, and you come into the reality of L.A. The joke is that
this Cinderella is really a valley girl."

Given the film's thoroughly updated treatment -- think


misplaced cell phone in lieu of the missing glass slipper --
director Mark Rosman had little need for the kind of magical
flourishes that might characterize a more traditional telling of
the tale. An exception, however, was the film's all-CG opening
credits shot, which cleverly sets the stage for the modern-day
setting. Hired to execute the opening, along with some 70 To ensure maximum flexibility, Girard decided on an all-CG
other effects shots, was Digital Dimension, a four-time Emmy approach for the shot, which would transition to live-action
Award-winning CG production studio that provides services once the camera had passed through the glass of the CG
for film, television and interactive industries. snow globe. Girard and his crew began by browsing the web
for reference to help achieve a photorealistic mountain range
and castle, both of which had to withstand close scrutiny The biggest challenge was the transition from the all-CG
during the flyover. "At the same time," noted Girard, "we were environment to the live-action plate, as the camera moved
also exploring how the camera was going to fly through the out of the glass globe and into the real world. "Technically,
scene. We went through a previz phase, shooting animatics so storytelling-wise and lighting-wise, it was very tricky," said
that we could try out different camera moves, coming up with Girard. "When we were on set, we took high dynamic range
ideas of how to go around the castle, deciding when the photography and sampled the lighting from the scene, which
opening credits should roll, what the tempo should be, and had been shot outdoors around 2:00 in the afternoon, with
how to make it grandiose enough." the sun very high in the sky. But when we started building our
environment and tried matching the position of the sun, it
didn't work. It was very flat lighting. So we moved our virtual
sun around until the castle looked good. Then we adjusted
our whole lighting system over the course of the transition so
it matched the live-action."

Scale issues arose because compositors were dealing with


two different cameras -- the CG world's virtual camera and the
real camera on set. "The live-action camera started very slow
and very close to the snow globe," explained Girard, "but not
close enough for us to do a smooth transition. So we had to
come up with a way to temporarily re-scale things, filling the
gap between the two cameras, warping the footage into place.
We also had to modify the background a little as we pass
through the glass, to simulate refraction -- which allowed us to
For the beginning of the shot, the filmmakers strove to create cheat a bit and put a temporary background behind the glass
the impression that the camera was climbing a real mountain. until we were back to the scale of the original footage."
"Once we were past the mountain," said Girard, "the vibe was:
'Make sure the castle is fairytale-ish. Make it look a little too
good, a little too saturated.' Then, when we transitioned to the
real setting, it had to look like a real snow globe with a plastic
castle inside. It was tricky to blend all of those things together
smoothly, without any cuts or dissolves."

Rendering in mental ray, Digital Dimension built in layers of


detail, including fog and mist, for the mountain flyover, and
used procedural applications and in-house shaders to apply
snow, moss and trees to the mountains. "We wrote a shader
that allowed us to make each tree look a bit different,"
remarked Girard, "so there would be the illusion of a more
natural forest." The castle, too, was a highly detailed model.
"We're very far away from the castle at first, but then we get
really close to it -- close enough to see individual bricks and
windows with cloth banners hanging from them."
To aid tracking the CG globe to a real globe base held by the
actor, Girard put a Q-tip in the middle of the prop during the
live-action shoot, which served as a reference point. "But the
actor was shaking the base, and our camera was backing up
and everything was moving," observed Girard, "so it was quite
hard to match. We ended up having to morph the base slowly
so it looked like it was rotating, even though it wasn't, and
warp in footage to help hide the transition."

Though it took about three months to complete that one


effects shot, Girard was pleased with the result. "None of the
other shots we did in the movie compare with this one," he
stated. "Fortunately, the director was very receptive to what
we were doing. He knew the challenge of that shot."
MONSTER MAKER eventually realized how old I was because I was always
Article by Joe Fordham taking the bus and could only work in the summer or on
weekends. But it was a good experience because it
For an 18-year-old young man entering the field of taught me a lot about animation."
makeup effects at Richard Edlund's newly formed visual
effects facility -- Boss Film Studios -- the early 1980s was
an exciting time. "Boss Film was a great group to jump
into," recalled makeup effects artist Todd Masters. "Steve
Johnson and Randy Cook were there -- Screaming Mad
George, Pat McClung, Mark Stetson. Everybody was
coming through Boss at the time. There was a great
camaraderie; and a lot of those connections have been
far-reaching."

Masters' introduction to the Hollywood effects


community was preceded by an apprenticeship at a
young age in his hometown of Seattle, Washington. "I The enterprising youngster sought career advice from
made little 8mm films as a kid," said Masters, peers by scouring city phone books at the Seattle Public
"experimenting with clay animation and drawing. I Library. "I read about Ray Harryhausen in London,
showed a couple of my films to a small animation England, so I called him on the phone!" said Masters. "He
house, and started working there when I was 12. I was a was nice enough to talk to me about how to make better
big kid, had a really deep voice, and by the time I was molds; and through his help, I hooked up with Jim
13, I was head of the cel painting department. They Danforth and Craig Reardon." Employment followed at
Alpha Cine in Seattle, where Masters worked as an horror series, Tales From the Crypt -- initially providing
optical effects assistant for the postproduction facility's set dressings for creature designer Kevin Yagher's
visual effects wing, Alpha Effects. Masters' personal animatronic Crypt Keeper emcee, then creating Emmy-
creative interests, meanwhile, gravitated toward award-nominated makeup effects for later seasons.
puppetry and makeup effects; and, by the age of 18, he Since then, MastersFX has produced makeup effects for
had applied those skills to commercials and a local four seasons of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, FX
television Halloween special -- experience that led to his Network's gruesome plastic surgery drama Nip/Tuck, the
employment at Boss. ABC TV miniseries Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital, and
has earned an Emmy award for HBO's Six Feet Under.

Masters opened his own makeup effects studio,


MastersFX, in 1986. The studio cut its teeth on the HBO Despite the workload, Masters only recently expanded
his Arleta, California, base of operations to a larger
8,000-foot studio, where he maintains a core staff of 12
artists. To cater to increasing Canadian production,
MastersFX opened a satellite studio in Vancouver, with a
staff of four supervised by makeup artist Mike Fields.
"This business runs in cycles," noted Masters, "so we've
been cautious about growing and not getting too big for
our britches."
MastersFX feature film assignments have been as
diverse as horse wound prosthetics for the equine star of
Hidalgo, a cobblestone roadway of living faces for What
Dreams May Come, and biomechanical Borg warriors in
Star Trek: First Contact, for which the studio created the
disembodied head and shoulders of the Borg Queen
(Alice Krige). The Borg queen effect remains a favorite of
Masters' for its blend of practical and visual effects.
"They were originally going to do it as a big CG shot,"
Masters recalled, "but we did it as a simple gag. In a big
motion control camera move, we lowered Alice into the
set on a slant board that angled her body away from a
prosthetic representing her severed neck and shoulders.
Then they repeated the move without her so that we had An annual MastersFX Halloween party has been an
a clean background; and ILM put it all together. It's a industry staple for nine years, growing ever more
really cool shot, because you're not really looking for the elaborate with each year's event. "They're out of control!"
trick. It's Special Effects 101 -- you have the audience Masters remarked. "When I first got into the business,
look at something else while you're stealing from the makeup artist Ve Neill was hosting them, and I thought
kitty." they were a wonderful way to meet people. Most of us in
this industry don't have the time to connect and
Mix-and-match techniques played a role in a recent network. Screaming Mad George hosted a couple; Steve
series of commercials for Michelin tires. MastersFX Johnson did one. We did our first one because we
fashioned a full-body suit of the chubby pneumatic man, thought it would be a cool way to show our artists' work,
using lightweight foam construction with a silicone skin the stuff that never sees the light of day -- original ideas
to create a wrinkle-free, slightly translucent finish. The that are unbudgeted, unscheduled brain burps. It was a
performer wore foam latex hands and a fiberglass great celebration of our art -- not just MastersFX art, the
helmet head with an open window in the face. Digital art of this industry -- and it started spreading. Most
Domain then applied tracking markers to the performer's Halloween parties you go to in real life suck. They aren't
face, and digitally generated cartoon-style expressions. at all like the Halloween parties you see in movies,
"It would have been impractical to try to create Tex Avery which always have all these great aliens and creatures --
animation as a physical effect," Masters observed. "It but ours are!"
would have always had an animatronic look. But, by
having the character physically in our world, Digital Party-maker and businessman, Masters maintains a
Domain could see exactly how the light worked with the passion for his craft. "The business is more organized,
materials we used. more of a business than it was in the early eighties,"
Masters observed, "but it's still a lot of fun. It's a very
hard job -- you get up extremely early, work really late
and get a lot of slimy stuff on your hands -- but it's still a
blast. When people ask you what you do, you can tell
them, 'I'm a monster maker,' and that's always a good
answer."
CAT TALES beckons neighborhood cats to the scene, then walks up
to Patience, climbs onto her chest and breathes life back
Article by Estelle Shay into her, along with feline superpowers. "Pitof's camera
moves in those shots were pretty ambitious," observed
Not surprisingly, the set of Catwoman -- Warner Brothers' Friesch, "big elaborate moves that involved motion
newest comic book adaptation, directed by Pitof -- was control -- which is why they couldn't use the real cats."
overrun with cats during filming in Vancouver last year. The shots also included several extreme closeups of the
In fact, the cats performed so well that Tippett Studio, cat's face, its eyes and nose even filling frame at one
which was hired to create computer generated cats for point. "We were a little hesitant about that. We thought
the film, in support of the show's principal effects we could do a pretty good photoreal CG cat, but we
vendor ESC Entertainment, found its job shrinking as didn't want to go that close."
principal photography progressed. "Originally, we were
going to do about 40 shots," recalled Tippett visual
effects supervisor Joel Friesch, who shared duties with
co-supervisor Eric Reynolds. "The production figured they
were going to give the real cats two or three takes, and if
they didn't perform, they'd just move on and we'd do it
with CG. But it was a credit to the trainers that these cats
seemed to do everything they wanted."

Though the company ultimately ended up with just four


At the start of the production, Friesch traveled to
shots in the film, they were key moments in an early
Vancouver to take reference photos of the three
sequence revealing how shy, sensitive graphic artist
Egyptian Maus used on set. Those photos, along with
Patience Phillips (Halle Berry) becomes Catwoman. In
video reference and precise measurements of the real
the sequence, Patience is killed by her corrupt
cats, were brought back to the studio, where Tippett
employers, and her body washes up on the banks of a
crews built the CG replica. Modelmaker Jeff Unay made
reservoir under the watchful gaze of Midnight, an
use of Tippett Studio's relatively new proprietary skin
Egyptian Mau cat with mystical powers. The Mau
and muscle system, employed for the first time on
Hellboy. "This was our first opportunity to use it on a
photoreal animal," noted Friesch, "so we were pretty
excited. Cats have this loose bag of skin, and when they
move, the skin just slides over the muscles. Their knees
almost vanish into their bodies when they move,
because they have all this fur. We could achieve that
kind of movement with this system."

The Tippett crew also employed its proprietary fur tool, first
pressed into action for the 2001 film Cats & Dogs. "The
Russian cat in Cats & Dogs had thick, gray, wooly fur,"
recalled Friesch, "whereas this was straight fur. So, we had to
figure out a whole different texture. But we've learned a lot of
tricks from using our fur tool on other shows. We keep
refining it, and it just keeps getting better." Interestingly, the
rare Mau breed's unusual coloring -- silver with black spots --
made the task easier. "We could hide a lot in the pattern.
When you have something flat and single-colored, you tend to
focus more on the surface and the quality of the hair. But
when you have a pattern, there's so much more to look at."
something, which a real cat wouldn't necessarily do."

For the shot of the cat breathing life into Patience,


animators initially suggested adding a bit of subtle, but
visible cat breath -- a suggestion that the production
initially rejected. "We got a callback about two weeks
after we delivered the shot," stated Friesch, "and they
said: 'We want to see magical cat breath.' Fortunately, we
had an element from a previous show, and our
compositors were able to stick that in."

For the cat's eyes, Tippett artists avoided refractions or


fancy rendering techniques. "We did a sphere," explained
Friesch, "and put a pupil on it that animators could
animate dilating or constricting. Then we put a
transparent lens over that and did a couple of different
light passes, putting the whole thing together in
compositing." Pitof directed Tippett to shorten the cat's
teeth so as to give it a less threatening appearance when
seen at close range. "Pitof wanted the cat to have
charisma, but he didn't want it to look mean or scary --
Another motion control shot had the CG Mau
just strong and confident."
surrounded by a dozen or so real cats shot on the live-
action set. "Production did six or seven takes of the real
Animators spent long hours observing real cats in order
cats," said Friesch, "and in each take, some of them hit
to copy the typical cues of feline behavior. "Because the
their marks, while others didn't. We had to go into all the
camera is so close," said Friesch, "there was a lot of
different takes and pull out the ones that worked, then
attention put on ear tics and little eye moves and
stick them in our shot. It involved a lot of plate building
whisker movement -- all the tiny details. Cats are
and retiming."
constantly moving something. Their whiskers are picking
up information, they're always scanning and checking
out their surroundings. Of course, the big advantage of
our CG cat was that we could maintain an eyeline on
Though their work on Catwoman ended up being but a
fraction of the overall visual effects undertaking, the
Tippett crew welcomed the opportunity to refine their
craft. "I always wanted to do a photoreal animal," Friesch
remarked, "and to do one that is so recognizable was a
big challenge. Then, to get that close -- it's hard to get
anything CG to look that good that close."
DEMON SEED postproduction visual effects supervisor Brian Jennings. "At
Article by Jody Duncan the end of the reshoot," recalled Jennings, "we suddenly had
500 extra visual effects shots to do -- and not that much
The beleaguered production of William Friedkin's The Exorcist budget. A lot of it was cleanup stuff; and a lot of it were these
has been well documented -- but it had nothing on Exorcist: African landscapes. We used some of the Morocco material
The Beginning's rocky road to completion. When its for establishing shots -- that stuff became fodder for our matte
production company, Morgan Creek, rejected Paul Schrader's paintings. We would take sections of it and construct new
version of the film, executives turned to director Renny Harlin views, projection mapping it onto 3D geometry."
to orchestrate one of the most thorough postproduction 'fixes'
ever attempted. In fact, Harlin and his collaborators rewrote
the story, recast key roles, and completed a 13-week reshoot
to deliver what was, for all intents and purposes, an all-new
film.

Whereas Schrader had traveled to Morocco to shoot the


movie's Africa-set scenes -- where Father Lankester Merrin
(Stellan Skarsgård) first encounters the demon Pazuzu during
an archeological dig -- the reshoot's severe time constraints
led Harlin to shoot all of his new material at Cinecittà Studios
in Rome rather than attempt a schedule-eating location stint.
Except for what little could be saved from the original
Morocco footage, all of the new Africa locations had to be
constructed through visual effects, under the leadership of
The shot would also feature a dead character -- Emekwi (Eddie
Osei) -- who had to be clearly visible in the frame, even
though Osei had not been present in the shot originally. "In
addition to taking one of the characters out of this really
difficult camera move," said Jennings, "we had to add this
character in, tracking him to the complex camera move."

One of the trickier environmental effects shots is a long


pullback on the dig site, after a battle that has left many
soldiers dead. The pullback starts on a fabricated stonework
'bowl' representing the dig site. "This bowl had papier maché
'rock' walls that were about 35 feet tall," Jennings explained. Other major effects sequences were a CG hyena attack --
"It was dressed for different areas, and we did a lot of our realized by Meteor Studios and supervised by production
closeup work on that. For this pullback shot, the camera was visual effects supervisor Ariel Velasco-Shaw -- and scenes
on a dolly track and a crane -- so it moved back along the featuring CG flies. "The demon is represented by these flies,"
ground, over the dead soldiers, then craned up to reveal this said Jennings, "and so, we had about 45 shots with swarms of
wide landscape. By the time we got to that shot, a storypoint flies. We did a lot of scientific work and wrote a lot of
software to make these fly swarms. We wrote software to
had changed; so we had to paint one of the characters out of
generate flies that would fly in a certain pattern. The software
the scene -- which was difficult, because the camera was had rules to govern their behavior. They would gather around
moving all over the place. The only way to paint him out was lights, for example, around windows and lamps. That was a
to re-create that section of the set in 3D geometry, then do a
boujou track and project textures back onto that geometry.
Then, as the camera continues to pull back, it becomes a full-
CGI shot. It is a synthetic matte painting -- part-2D, part-3D,
part live-action pieces -- with CG mountains in the
background, another layer of mountains into the midground,
and foreground mountains blended with the papier maché
set."
procedural thing."

The CG fly shots were indicative of the bloating effects slate


that resulted when the movie was reconceived. "When we
In one scene, Merrin enters a room to find a swarm of flies started," said Jennings, "there were only going to be about 10
buzzing around a painting of a demon head on a wall -- fly shots -- a few here and there. But it suddenly became a
evidence of the demon's recent presence. Procedural tools much bigger deal, with many more shots. We did it in-house
governed the flies' interaction with Merrin as the character because the bids from outside vendors to do it were really
reaches up to take the painting down from the wall. "The flies high -- over $1 million. So we said, 'forget that' and decided to
would move away from his hand as he reached for the do it in-house, with guys I'd worked with in the past, such as
painting," said Jennings. "That was done through a kind of Bob Emrich, who was the CG supervisor, and Ivan DeWolf,
volume detection tool. We could set up, at the outset, that the who actually wrote the fly simulator."
flies would move away from his hand and keep a certain
distance from his hand. They were 'artificial intelligence' flies - The final in-house shot count numbered more than 400 shots
- but they weren't that smart, because sometimes we would -- which Jennings and his crew generated in only 90 days.
put them into a sequence, and some of them would be flying
upside down!"
DIGITAL DENIZENS mutants, not to mention the inhabitants of three Jurassic
Parks.
Article by Joe Fordham

Adding to the cavalcade, in 1996, Winston launched his own


film and television production arm, Stan Winston Productions,
which currently has close to a dozen creature-related projects
in production or development, and produced the 2003 horror
thriller Wrong Turn. A toy and comic book production
company, Stan Winston Creatures, appeared in 2001, shortly
followed by the studio's youngest production arm, Stan
Winston Digital.

Led by visual effects supervisor André Bustanoby, animation


In 1993, animatronic creature makers predicted the end of supervisor Randall Rosa and art director Aaron Sims, the in-
filmmaking as they knew it as the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park house digital effects facility grew from Winston's earlier
cast long shadows, portending the onset of the digital partnership with Digital Domain. Bustanoby had previously
revolution. More than a decade later, Stan Winston Studio, the supervised DD's visual effects for the horror comedy Lake
prosthetic and animatronic facility in Van Nuys, California, has Placid and had collaborated with Rosa on the Michael Jackson
seen the ebb and flow of hundreds of artists who survived the music video Ghosts, which Winston directed. Winston Studio
change, and the studio's famous black-walled conference created physical creations for both projects and, after a
room is now filled with denizens of dozens of films made in fruitful collaboration, planted seeds in the digital artists'
the interim -- including sundry apes, aliens, robots and minds. "The digital and physical creations all started with
physical sculpts," recalled Bustanoby. "That was very satisfying character work and in its hookup into mental images' mental
from a physiological, anatomical and artistic point of view." ray; so we built on that, established relationships with the
software manufacturers and, at the same time, capitalized on
Winston Studio's character work."

The SWD team embarked on its first production with


Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, supporting Winston
Studio's design of the T-1 prototype Terminator robot and the
After leaving DD in 2001, Bustanoby and Rosa approached
Winston with a proposal to create a visual effects entity at film's futuristic female nemesis, the TX. In a hybrid creative
Winston Studio, with an emphasis on character animation, process, the studio sculpted pieces digitally, then sent the
offering one-stop shopping for physical and digital effects. data to rapid prototyping vendors, where pieces were milled
Aaron Sims integrated existing tools into the new digital from foam. Winston artists then took the milled form into the
pipeline, having already established a small render farm using physical sculpting studio and finished pieces in clay. Molded,
Avid Softimage XSI for conceptualizing the futuristic painted pieces were then scanned back into the computer for
'Supermecha' robots for A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. "We used a
Windows work platform and hinged our technology around further revisions. The process was occasionally reversed --
XSI," said Bustanoby. "XSI was especially effective for starting in clay, then scanning and adapting digitally.
On the heels of T-1 and TX, Winston presented SWD with its SWD's subsequent assignments included supplying a
first solo project: developing a creature -- sculpted by Winston mechanical 'crablock' and miscellaneous effects for the
Studio veteran John Rosengrant, from a design by English Doctor Seuss adaptation, The Cat in the Hat, and generating
comic book artist Simon Bisley -- for a Stan Winston Creatures 2D and 3D animated animal lip sync for the live-action comic
comic book action figure, Trakk. "Stan handed us a highly- strip cat comedy Garfield -- both films led by Rhythm and
detailed, 20-inch-tall sculpture," recalled Rosa, "and said: Hues. The projects paved the way for SWD's most demanding
'Make it move. You've got a month and a half.'" In that short assignment to date -- 106 shots of exotic creatures for
time, SWD set up an infrastructure, recruited six additional director Kerry Conran's upcoming period fantasy, Sky Captain
staff, and did animation, lighting, rendering, compositing and and the World of Tomorrow. "All the jobs we took on before
sound mix for a 90-second trailer that presented the character Sky Captain increased how much work and what type of work
at the 2002 San Diego Comic-Con and the Wizard World we could do," commented Rosa. "Going from 40 or 50 shots
Chicago comic book conventions. to 106 was quite a graduation."
SWD is not restricting its focus to fantasy fare. Currently in
production for an intimate character drama for director Wayne
Wang, Because of Winn Dixie, the studio is carving its own
niche. "We could be perceived as one of the higher end
'boutiques' that is focused on creature and character work,"
said Rosa. "Our vision is to be focused, but not be exclusive
to the creature and character world if there are other
opportunities."

Competition for an up-and-coming visual effects vendor is


fierce, not only with major established effects vendors, but
also with smaller vendors now offering cost-effective
alternatives to filmmakers in far-flung corners of the globe.
One obvious resource that separates SWD from the pack is in
its founding company's lineage. "What it comes down to is
creativity," stated Bustanoby. "That is the core of what Stan
Winston Studio has been doing for 30 years -- creating
memorable characters, and offering that in a competitive way.
That is what we are really leveraging here. It's our
responsibility to carry that into the computer; and I think it's
where the industry is heading. A majority of vendors at
Siggraph this year were offering image-based acquisition
tools: digital image scanners, scanning materials and high-
resolution topology. For characters, in particular, the work
must look photorealistic -- but Stan has been doing that
exceptionally for most of my life!"
BUILDING A BETTER BOGGART required thoughtful interpretation to define its appearance on-
screen.
Article by Joe Fordham

Chocolate frogs, flying broomsticks, haunted castles and a


bestiary of strange creatures fill the pages of J.K. Rowling's
novels chronicling the education of fledgling wizard Harry
Potter. Director Alfonso Cuarón stirred the cauldron of
ingredients for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the
third installment in the movie franchise, bringing new flair to
magical goings-on in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
Wizardry, producing a darker tale where teenage Harry Potter
meets mysterious characters and spectral apparitions
seemingly intent on his demise.

"The Boggart was a constantly changing chameleon,"


commented visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, who
divided duties on the production with visual effects supervisor
Tim Burke. "The idea was that it did not exist in any other
form other than the creature it turned into, and it took the
form of whatever its victim feared most. We decided it should
be like scanning channels on a radio. If you scan radio
channels in England, between BBC Radio Four and Radio One
you might pass through other channels, passing Radio One
then coming back and missing it a couple of times. The
During one such sequence, Hogwarts' Professor of the Dark Boggart was like that -- constantly trying to figure out what it
Arts Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) invites Harry Potter (Daniel was supposed to be."
Radcliffe) and other students to confront their fears embodied
inside an ornate wooden wardrobe containing a 'Boggart.' Like In the classroom scene, Lupin encourages pupils to take turns
many of Rowling's creations, the Boggart was drawn from opening the haunted wardrobe, revealing and then
mythological reference -- in this case, an obscure and suppressing their personal Boggart demons. Industrial Light &
mischievous spirit from Northern English folklore -- and Magic -- one of five main visual effects vendors on the film --
generated the Boggart as a swirling, airborne apparition.
To create the nexus of the effect, ILM lead CG modeler
Michael Koperwas designed a series of glasslike digital shapes
-- spheres, ovoids, rods and interlocking orange-segments --
which lead animator Paul Kavanagh articulated to describe
motion like shifting tumblers in a combination lock. "It was an
abstract art style of animation," said ILM animation supervisor
David Andrews. "We made the pieces pop and flip and spin,
and applied them to this completely bizzare creature. Alfonso
wanted it to behave like a visual representation of a radio
tuner sound, picking up these different nightmares. We tried
to give it a very frenetic quality to match that weird sound,
and used the animation principle of a bouncing ball -- it
anticipated the action by a couple of frames and then popped
and changed shape, like a frog squishing down and then
hopping."
"Alfonso didn't want to simply see one creature morphing into
another," stated ILM supervisor Bill George. "He wanted a
shapeless creature, like a vortex. Tim and Roger found
reference of a very high-tech CG simulation of a nasty,
industrial, geometric shape that was buzzing, vibrating and
spinning. They sent that to us and said, 'It should be
something like this, but organic.'"

The spinning, shifting pieces drove transformations between


Boggart forms, culled from a library of live-action images
representing elements on the Boggart nightmare scale.
"Alfonso asked us to come up with 100 different scary things
that we thought would make interesting images," related
Guyett. "He was very good at tapping into the kinds of things
kids are afraid of -- things within their own set of experiences,
like the classic fear of going to the dentist. But we also tried
to put an angle on it because these were Hogwarts kids, not
in the normal world." The production allocated a Boggart
shooting unit to film a wild variety of childhood fears --
including a dentist, a crocodile, a shark's mouth, lunging
knives and a flamethrower. Censorship concerns of placing
children in peril whittled imagery to a handful of horror
archetypes -- a gecko, raven, witch and snake - which ILM
mapped and revealed subliminally in the shifting CG object.

The first Boggart apparition involved the appearance of


Hogwarts Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), who
terrifies Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) before acquiring
women's apparel. "We used a small motion control rig where
we hand-operated and recorded the move," related Guyett.
"We filmed Alan Rickman stepping out of the wardrobe in his
professor robes and recorded the move. We then dressed ILM next modeled and animated a giant spider, reminiscent of
Alan as a woman and played back the selected take. Alan is the monstrous Aragog from Harry Potter and the Chamber of
such an incredibly skilled actor, he matched his movements Secrets, to terrify Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) before the young
exactly; then, ILM did a fantastic job of matching Snape in his wizard succeeds in conjuring rollerskates onto the spider's
robes to Snape in the dress, through what looked like a feet, causing the giant arachnid to skitter and skate. The third
handheld camera move." candidate (Sitara Shah) transforms a giant lunging snake --
another ILM animated character -- into a giant jack-in-the-box,
constructed as a full-scale animatronic by creature effects
designer Nick Dudman.
The sequence then concludes with Harry Potter facing his own
demon -- a towering spectral form representing one of the
robed prison guards from Azkaban wizard prison. One of the
most nightmarish creatures in the film, the form was
generated digitally by ILM. "The Boggart started out as a longer
sequence than it appears in the movie," stated Guyett. "But it
was a cute idea, and short and sharp is probably the way it
should be."
HERO’S WELCOME Logic in Australia, and Tweak Films and The Orphanage
in the U.S., recruited by production visual effects
Article by Estelle Shay supervisor Ellen Poon.

It took two years for the epic martial arts film Hero -- the
latest work by gifted Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou --
to find its way to American theaters through a
distribution deal with Miramax following its 2002 debut
in China and throughout Europe. But an enthusiastic The Orphanage had a hand in one of the film's most
reception by U.S. film critics, who have pronounced the talked-about scenes -- an attack on a calligraphy school
film a dazzling artistic achievement of the highest order, by Qin's warriors. In the scene, a massive army of
has peaked the curiosity of more than just fans of the archers gathers outside the school in which two of Qin's
genre. adversaries are in hiding, then launches an arrow attack
Co-written by Yimou, and starring Asian film superstar that literally blots out the sky with millions of arrows.
Jet Li, Hero is set in ancient China's Qin dynasty, where "The production did not have a large number of soldiers
on hand during the live-action shoot," recalled The
its first emperor has embarked on a bold and brutal plan
Orphanage visual effects supervisor Jonathan Rothbart,
to unify his empire by invading and conquering
whose team was charged with the task of digital crowd
neighboring lands. Enter an unknown warrior who wins
replication to transform several hundred warriors into
an audience with the king, and through a series of
hundreds of thousands. Compositing in Adobe After
flashbacks, relates how he reportedly has vanquished
Effects, Rothbart and his crew worked from the plate
the ruler's three greatest adversaries, delivering their
photography, stealing from different areas of the plate to
confiscated weapons as proof of his exploits. Though the
create the illusion of a vast army fanning out as far as
film's astonishing visuals are a testament to the vision of
Yimou and the skills of cinematographer Christopher the eye can see. "Our primary concern was to make sure
Doyle, other talented behind-the-scenes collaborators that the movements of the soldiers didn't look too
included a trio of visual effects companies -- Animal repetitive. That involved some retiming and reshaping of
the elements, and using different warp tools to give the
replicated soldiers independent movements. There was
dust all around the soldiers, so we also had to add a lot
of 2D and 3D dust particles to further sell the shots."

Inside the school, a barrage of arrows strikes a hallway where


Qin's adversaries are standing. "There were a number of real
prop arrows that were stuck into the wall of the set during the
live-action shoot," said Rothbart, "but all the flying arrows were
ours." Artists repainted holes in rice paper struck by the
arrows, adding dust and shafts of light coming through the
paper as the arrows poked through. For many shots, they
opted to hand-animate arrows hitting the walls, rather than
For views of the arrows being launched and arcing in the air,
The Orphanage employed a Maya particle simulation. "The rely on a simulation. "We try to figure out the best way to do a
director wanted the arrows to look like a swarm," recalled shot -- which is not necessarily to live off all these cool tools.
Rothbart. "He likened it to a plague of locusts, a cloud By hand-animating the arrows, we could be very specific in
descending on the school. We had to work out camera angles the placement of them. We could work with the director as far
and figure out what the arrow 'cloud' would look like." as when, where and how he wanted them to hit. Had it been a
Animators also had to be precise in their alignment of the simulation, we would have had to rerun the simulation every
arrows with the bows and archers, making sure that they were
in sync. "We had to paint out real arrows that were in the time there was a change."
bows of the live-action foreground archers, replacing them
with our digital arrows so that they would all fly off the bows
the way the director wanted."
As the attack continues, a calligraphy instructor calmly urges
his students to remain at their desks and continue with their
classroom work amidst the chaos. "The instruction we were
given for those shots was to 'go for it,'" recalled Rothbart,
whose crew once again orchestrated the digital barrage of
arrows in the scene. "Our guys were getting a little carried
away. We were impaling people with arrows all over the place.
Eventually, we had to pull back on that a little." Animators
also strove for a realistic effect in the interaction of CG arrows
and live-action characters. "We had to make sure our arrows
stuck to them. As they were hit, they would fall over; and we
had to animate our arrows to precisely match their
movements." Exterior shots of the post-attack temple featured
matte paintings by The Orphanage and Tweak Films, who also
contributed effects work to the sequence.
Ultimately, The Orphanage effects crew completed 97 shots
for Hero. A highlight of the project was a personal visit from
the acclaimed director, whose artistic sensiblities have been
likened to those of Bergman and Kirosawa. "The feedback
loop on any show is difficult when there's a geographic
distance involved," noted Rothbart. "But then you add a
language barrier, which in this case involved two separate
translations -- from Mandarin to Cantonese to English -- and
it's that much harder. We were never a hundred percent sure
if we were getting an exact translation. But having Yimou here
in person helped us to get a sense of what was important to
him on the screen, and what was not."
SMALLVILLE:YEAR TWO doing a breakdown on a show for later in the season,
finaling shots for an episode airing next week, and doing
Article by Jody Duncan shots for a number of episodes in between -- all at the
same time."

Smallville -- an episodic television retelling of the


Superman tale, in which Tom Welling plays an
adolescent, pre-Superman Clark Kent -- recently
launched its fourth season on The WB network. Since
May, the complete second season of the series has been
available on a six-disk DVD collection that features,
among other bells and whistles, a ten-minute
documentary -- Faster than a Speeding Bullet: The Visual
Effects of Smallville. The special feature includes
commentary by visual effects producer Mat Beck and
other members of the Entity FX team, which has
provided the show's effects since season two.

Entity visual effects supervisor John Wash sees to on-set


effects requirements in Vancouver, where the series is
shot. Plates are delivered to Entity's facility in the west
side of Los Angeles, where an average 20 to 30 effects Three second-season effects sequences are highlighted
shots per episode are generated. "We get an outline of in the DVD special feature. One is a shot from the
an episode first," explained Mat Beck, "and from the time episode titled 'Insurgence,' in which Clark executes a
we get that outline to the time the show is completed is superhuman leap from the roof of the Daily Planet
usually around two or three months. Generally, we work building. To achieve the image, stage crews shot Welling
on five or six episodes at once. We might be reading and against greenscreen on a lifting rig; Entity composited
that greenscreen element into an all-CG environment, the best of the digital world."
designing the shot first in previz. "Originally," said Beck,
"the shot was designed so that the camera would be
behind him when he jumped. I suggested that we zoom
over the top of him and out over the building to create
more of a vertigo feeling." All of the buildings
surrounding Clark -- including the Daily Planet building --
were CG, many texture-mapped with reference
photographs shot in Vancouver. "We had also shot
footage of the city streets, which we comped into the
shot to add some movement down below."

A truck -- with Clark and Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) inside


-- spins furiously within the tornado, breaking apart piece
by piece. A partial truck cab was shot greenscreen, on a
multi-axis rig, with the actors inside. "It had outriggers on
it so you could track it as it spun around against
greenscreen," said Beck. "We then built a CG truck --
basically doing a 'truck extension' -- and tracked it to the
A tornado sequence from the season's first episode -- greenscreen cab. Then we 'blew off' those digital truck
'Vortex' -- is also highlighted in the DVD documentary. To extension parts in sequence."
generate the tornado, the Entity FX crew projected An effect seen throughout the series involves Clark's ability to
practical smoke and dust elements onto particles, move at super-speed -- represented either by the character
creating sprites. Those sprites were subsequently and the surrounding environment moving fast, or by Clark
mapped to digital tiles that swirled around to form the appearing to move at normal speed as everything around him
overall shape of the twister. "We were able to control the slows to a near standstill. "We use different techniques for the
overall movement of the twister through these tiles," hyper-speed effect, depending on the shot," said Beck. "In its
Beck explained, "but within that shape were real, organic simplest form, we start with a clean background, then Clark
particles of dust and smoke. Combining those two
runs up to camera, and we do some blurring and streaking
techniques gave us the best of the physical world and
and spatial distortion behind him to make it look as if he is
leaving a trail. It becomes more complicated if the camera is
moving and we have to replace the background behind him."

A hyper-speed shot in a cemetery, in an episode titled


With its producers' commitment to presenting new and
'Accelerate,' was complicated by a bullet-time-like effect, the
startling images every week, Smallville gives the artists at
camera moving around Clark and his friend, Pete (Sam Jones
Entity FX the opportunity to execute a range of effects
III), who appears frozen in frame. "We didn't do a traditional
techniques, from character animation to set extension to
bullet-time technique with an array of cameras," said Beck.
digital ambient enhancements. "The variety of the work is one
"We just made it look like that by shooting the environment
of the reasons we really like working on this show," Beck
and the actor in the background with a high-speed camera.
concluded. "We get to use a combination of traditional
The actor froze the best he could as the high-speed camera
techniques and new techniques and practical techniques. We
was spinning around him; and then, in post, we tweaked that
will shamelessly use an old technique, if it is appropriate;
high-speed footage to make it look as if the actor was really
and, of course, we are always trying to expand the new ones."
motionless. Any actor, when they try to freeze, will tense up a
little bit -- so we had to do some digital tricks to remove any In addition to its work on Smallville, Entity FX provides effects
tensing or twitching of muscles." for other television shows, movies -- Spider-Man 2 and Aviator
are recent projects -- and commercials.
The shot was made even more complex by rainfall that also
had to freeze in frame, individual raindrops suspended in
midair. Entity created the rain entirely in CG. "For each
raindrop," said Beck, "we had to do a holdout of the The DVD set of the third season of Smallville will be released
environment, a refraction of the environment, and a reflection in November.
of the environment behind the camera. If you look carefully,
you can see images of Clark reflected in each raindrop." The
shot won the Visual Effects Society's award for best single
composite on television last year.
THE FORGOTTEN
Article by Barbara Robertson Fortunately, Telly bumps into a man in the same dilemma.
Together, she and Ash Correll (Dominic West) search for the
truth. Could they be the victims of an otherworldly
government conspiracy, and who is that mysterious man
(Linus Roache) who seems to be everywhere? The suspense
builds with the help of visual effects supervised by Sony
Pictures Imagesworks' Carey Villegas.

Could a woman have a child only in her imagination? The


possibility is about as alien as the opposite notion -- that a
young mother could forget her child. In Columbia Pictures'
The Forgotten, directed by Joseph Ruben, Telly Paretta
(Julianne Moore) grieves for a child she's certain died in a
plane crash... or is she certain? Was there a son? Her
psychiatrist tells her that 8-year-old Sam never existed. And
she can find nothing to prove he did.
Effects were produced at Imageworks, The Orphanage and she is injured, but hard enough to turn the glass into a spider
New Deal Studios. The Orphanage created digital doubles; web. Moore was filmed in a car with greenscreen outside the
New Deal built miniatures; Imageworks handled the rest, and windows; the greenscreen was replaced at Imageworks by a
put it all together. "The director of photography, Anastas N. live-action background plate. The glass was cracked digitally.
Michos used a handheld camera a lot and had a stylized
treatment that was very realistic," Villegas said. "The effects
needed to be seamless."

"The trick to the effect was the way we shot the background
plate," said Villegas. The crash was filmed in reverse in a
series of plates, starting with the two cars in the end position
at the intersection, with the Surburban then backing up. It
worked, but only with clever manipulation of the tiled series
in post. "We did extensive work in Flame to make it feel
realistic. We had to do a lot of speed changes."

The first effect is a car crash. The camera looks through a


car's side window, past Telly in the passenger seat, as a
Suburban crashes into the passenger door -- not so hard that
The Forgotten shifts gears as Telly and Ash desperately search sounds silly when you talk about it," admitted Villegas, "but in
for answers and government agents try to stop them. While the context of the movie, it works."
hiding out in a small cabin, the two capture an NSA agent
(Tim Kang) and tie him to a chair. When Ash threatens the
agent, he agrees to talk -- but whispers, "They're listening." At
that moment, the roof of the cabin explodes outward and the
agent is sucked up into the sky. "Nothing in the film has
hinted that something like this would happen," said Villegas.
"That's the point of the shot. It's such a tight shot, you don't
know what happens. One moment he's there. Three or four
frames later, he's gone."

As cameras rolled, Woodard mimed being pulled backwards.


The Orphanage then created and animated a CG character to
match, and Imageworks blended the digital double into the
plate. Using The Orphanage's digital doubles composited by
Imageworks, the trick would be repeated in later scenes as
two more people are sucked off the planet, one during a
freefall from a 13-story office building, the other from an
airplane hangar during the film's climax.

The full-size cabin interior was matched by New Deal Studios


with a quarter-scale miniature. Moore and West were shot
against greenscreen, as was Kang -- separately -- tied to a
chair. "To get the blowing-up effect without using
pyrotechnics," Villegas explained, "we hung the miniature
upside down 20 feet in the air on a sound stage, pulled it
straight to the ground, and let gravity do the rest." To give the
miniature more heft, they shot it from above at 48 frames a
second, and then, as with the car, reversed the result.

The next person sucked off the earth is Detective Ann Pope
(Alfre Woodard) who is investigating Telly's claims that
someone took her son. Just as Ann starts to tell Telly she
believes her, Ann is sucked out over the ocean. "The shot
With just 98 visual effects shots, The Forgotten hardly
qualifies as an effects-driven film; however, seamless effects
were critical for story points throughout the thriller, and made
impossible events possible.

"It's an intriguing story," concluded Villegas. "If you buy the


ending, you will think the experience was worthwhile."

For the end sequence, inside the hangar, the 'mysterious man'
screams at Telly, and in his rage, shows his true face -- a face
created at Imageworks using Flame to warp and morph the
image. His scream is so powerful it shatters windows. "We
couldn't break glass with actors in the building, so it was all
done with composites," said Villegas.

Imageworks added CG glass to the first-unit shots and a hazy


atmosphere -- since the air cannons used to break real glass
for later shots in the hangar had filled the air with steam and
smoke. The digital effects were created with Houdini and
Imageworks' SPLAT renderer. SPLAT's painter's algorithm
shortened rendering times for the complex smoky volumes.

Like the cabin, the hangar explodes outward. The shot was
accomplished with another New Deal miniature. "The hangar
was huge -- 400 feet long, with a ceiling 30 to 40 feet tall,"
said Villegas, "so we used a 1/6-scale version -- but it was still
too large to hang. Fortunately, we had to blow up only a
corner." To pull off the roof, the crew took the miniature
outside and rigged it with cables and air rams. "These shots,
like the cabin shots, start on a character and follow the
character up. So we shot it with a Vistavision camera on its
side. That gave us more height to create a virtual tilt and pan
move later."
UNDERWATER ANTICS accommodate the film's very art-directed, stylized look -- all
while moving forward with the production. On every level, the
Article by Estelle Shay
challenges were considerable.

Much like the protagonist of Shark Tale, the story of a fast-


talking little fish whose big dreams land him in a whole lot of From the standpoint of character design, the characters -- all
hot water, DreamWorks nearly bit off more than it could chew of them creatures of the sea -- not only had to exhibit
three years ago, when it dreamed big and decided to produce amphibious qualities, but human ones as well. "Our fish don't
the CG-animated film at its Glendale facility -- whose just swim," observed Cooper. "They walk. And they gesture
infrastructure at the time was primarily geared toward 2D with their hands and pick things up. Typically, character rigs
animation. "We had Shrek 2 in production up north at are designed for a particular kind of motion -- either
PDI/DreamWorks," recalled Shark Tale visual effects quadruped or biped, or flying or swimming. But our character
supervisor Doug Cooper, "and we couldn't risk disturbing that teams came up with rigs that could swim and do biped
schedule by taking people from that film and bringing them walking interchangeably, with controls that allowed us to
back here to feed the production process. So we decided the switch the mode and blend between the two kinds of
smartest thing for us to do was to build a new pipeline for movement."
Shark Tale around the tools that the talent base in Los
Angeles was familiar with."

Spearheaded by directors Rob Letterman, Vicky Jenson and


Bibo Bergeron, the ambitious plan would entail recruiting new
supervisors from all over the U.S. and abroad, as well as
retraining the studio's existing 2D animators to transition from
the paper and pencil world to the world of 3D animation.
Whole new tools sets then had to be devised that could
felt fun and had a lot of energy to it, something that you don't
normally get to see with shading and textures and real lighting
on it."

The new proprietary lighting and rendering pipeline -- a hybrid


system that used both RenderMan and mental ray in an
innovative way -- would also prove invaluable in supporting
the film's delicate balance of real and stylized. "It wasn't a
push-button solution," explained Cooper. "It wasn't just set up
your lights and do a simulation that runs for hours and
duplicates exactly what happens in the real world." The
approach, pioneered by DreamWorks CG supervisor Mark
Wendell, took advantage of mental ray's ability to produce
rich and realistic lighting detail, but in such a way as to give
the artists greater control over the final effect. "We computed
Charged with creating stylized, snappy performances, all of our beauty render passes in RenderMan, while mental
animators made use of the character rigs' built-in 'squash and ray was used to compute bounce light and what we call
stretch' capabilities in order to achieve a look not ordinarily exposure mapping, or ambient occlusion. We built a pipeline
seen in 3D character animation. "It's an exaggerated style of that actually connected the two renderers together; but with
expression that 2D animators have been doing really well for our system we could set up our initial lighting in RenderMan,
years," remarked Cooper. "A lot of what's been accomplished then bake through any bounce lighting we needed. We would
in computer graphic animation is making stuff look realistic. have already prebaked all the exposure mapping, so when we
We've got dinosaurs and aliens that look completely real. But went to do our beauty passes, incorporating the bounce light
we were not going for that. We were going for something that and exposure maps, we only had to work within RenderMan.
That allowed us to get a lot more interactive control over the a term we called 'fishification,' to describe the environments,"
look and the style of global illumination, without enormously said Cooper, "the idea of taking something from the real
long render times." Artists also wrote custom shaders to world, but distorting it and changing its design to make it look
produce the shimmering iridescence of the sea creatures, like it was built or manufactured by fish. So in terms of the
mixing those with subsurface scattering techniques, which city, imagine buildings made out of chunks of coral that have
gave characters -- particularly the jellyfish -- their soft, been cut into blocks by the fish and assembled into
translucent quality. buildings. But after they've been built, the coral continues to
grow. So the buildings are not straight, not perfectly angular,
because they've started to move off on their own. And as you
go up to the tops, they fan out because they've got more coral
growing at the top, with plants and flowers and everything."

In addition to CG character creation, the DreamWorks team


also had to create complex environments, including a colorful
underwater city, complete with skyscrapers, billboards and
traffic jams, the complexity of which presented the CG team
with some of its biggest artistic and technical hurdles. "All of For Cooper, a nine-year veteran of DreamWorks whose stint
the highrise buildings were covered with hundreds of on Shark Tale was his first time out supervising a fully CG-
windows," recalled Cooper, "each window having a slightly animated feature, the assignment was an opportunity to
different, unique shape. Developing the pipeline and the explore unique visual territory. "I loved Finding Nemo," said
technology to get all that geometry in the rendering engine Cooper, reflecting on the inevitable comparisons likely to
was quite an undertaking." arise between Pixar's underwater tale and DreamWorks' latest
undertaking. "I think it's a beautiful movie. But what we've
For Cooper and his crew, one of the fun things about the done here is a very different thing. It's not the same story, the
environments was the philosophy embraced by production design is nothing like it, the mood of the film is nothing like
designer Daniel St. Pierre, who envisioned a city with it, and it doesn't look like it. I feel pretty confident that what
recognizable icons from the human world that have been we've done is something unique."
incorporated into the undersea metropolis. "We came up with
PROFILE: JEFF OKUN
Article by Jody Duncan

Okun started acting as liaison between Bass and the optical


effects houses. "I got my foot in their doors, one at a time,"
Okun recalled. "I would say to them: 'I have no idea how you
Though known as a visual effects supervisor, Jeffrey Okun
are going to do this, but this is what we want. Tell me how we
worked in a number of film-related fields early in his career -- can do this, and I'll tell Saul.' As a consequence, I got a
as a picture editor, sound editor, and right-hand man to the phenomenal education from these optical camera operators,
late graphic designer and director Saul Bass, the channel and I started to understand all their tricks and tools." Okun
through which he gained entry to the visual effects world. gained a reputation as an ingenious solver of tricky problems,
"Saul was a noted title sequence designer and master of the and began getting SOS calls from those same effects houses.
montage," said Okun. "He designed all the racing montages in Eventually, he was called in on troubled feature film
Grand Prix; and, depending on who you talk to, he designed productions. "That was a great position to be in. As the 'fix-it'
and shot the shower sequence in Psycho. When I went to guy, only one of three things could happen: It wasn't broken
work for him, I discovered that no matter how he shot in the first place, but I got the credit for fixing it; it was
something, it was wrong and had to be made right in post. As broken and I fixed it, and they thanked me profusely; or, it
a result, everything we did became an optical effect. was broken and nobody could fix it, but they thanked me
Unfortunately, by the time I started there, none of the optical anyway, because it wasn't my fault."
effects houses in town wanted to work directly with Saul,
because he was so exacting."
The Last Starfighter marked Okun's introduction to computer
generated effects in movies. "The digital age was so new,"
Okun said, "the people speaking that language didn't speak
our film language at all. There were all these space geniuses
talking about polygons and wireframe models and artificial
lighting -- and I was thinking: 'I just want to pick up a light and
move it over here. Wouldn't that be quicker?' I tried not to
look like a complete moron as I learned what all these words
meant. My real value to the process was that I knew what
looked right."

In 1983, Okun was called in to consult on The Last


Starfighter, for which a pioneering effects crew was employing
a Cray computer to produce early computer generated
images. Okun's contribution was to make the high-tech
approach workable within a production schedule. "In my first
meeting," Okun recalled, "I asked two questions that made
everyone hate me. 'How many polygons are you averaging in a
Knowing what looked right served him well as Okun
frame? And how long will it take to print that to film if the
continued his acclimation to the digital world through 1994's
computer works 24 hours a day, seven days a week?' It came
Stargate. "During Stargate," Okun said, "I found that most of
out to more than 17 months! And so, we had to come up with
the digital technicians didn't have a good eye for what things
a redesign of everything and some really clever ideas." One
really looked like. And so, I would organize brown-bag
shortcut involved the computer generated spaceship. "The
lunches in the park once a week, just to make them look at
spaceship alone was a million and a half polygons! We
real life -- where the sun was, how shadows were cast. It was
redesigned shots so that there was no perspective shift --
an educational period, a coming together of the digital world
which meant we could take a still image of the spaceship and
and the filmmaking world."
put it on a single polygon. That was a revolutionary idea, back
then."
The personal reward from mentoring has heightened Okun's
experiences as visual effects supervisor on shows such as
Cutthroat Island, Sphere, Deep Blue Sea, Red Planet and The
Last Samurai. Currently, Okun is working on Cameron Crowe's
Elizabethtown, and is involved in developing a new
technology that he believes will revolutionize the
entertainment industry. Okun is also an active member of the
Visual Effects Society, serving as vice-chairman of the society
and chairman of its awards committee.

Coming up on 40 years in the business, Okun has maintained


a rare level of independence, having never worked within the
confines of a visual effects facility. With the proliferation of
such facilities, spurred by the digital explosion, Okun has
witnessed the arrival of a new breed of visual effects
supervisor. "Visual effects companies always want their
The Stargate experience also sparked Okun's interest in
supervisors on the set," Okun commented, "but I've seen
mentoring future visual effects artists -- something he
some appalling behavior from some of these people. I've
continues to do to this day. "I realized that there was a need
seen alleged supervisors asking stars for autographs instead
for experienced people to pass on what they knew to those
of setting up their shots. I've seen supervisors making
who didn't have experience, but had great capabilities," Okun
unnecessarily big deals of setting up their shots, mainly to
explained. "Since then, I've searched for talented people that I
make themselves look important. You've got 200 crew people
could help out."
"As a visual effects supervisor, I have a different idea of what
my job is than some of these new 'supervisors.' They think the
job is to get the best shot possible, at all costs. But, really,
the job is to get the best shot possible without stopping the
making of the movie."

sitting there for three hours, when much of it could have been
done after wrap. It is the 'visual effects voodoo dance,' and
since most producers don't really know how this stuff works,
they are reluctant to question it. But it winds up affecting us
all, because producers and directors finally get fed up and
say, 'We don't want visual effects people on set anymore.'
WHAT THE … The most daunting effects challenge was just developing the
stylized look of the animated sequences, in particular, all of
Article by Jody Duncan
which had to entertain while also illustrating complex
Who would have predicted that a documentary about scientific concepts. "If you were to just read the script,"
quantum physics, featuring a series of talking-head Phds, Jacobs said, "you would think, 'Okay, this is like Discovery
made for $5 million, and initially released in only one theater, Channel or the Science Channel.' But Will Arntz was very clear
would become the word-of-mouth cult hit of the early fall that he wanted it to be bold and stylized. He didn't want
movie season? That is the backstory of What the #$*! Do We boring science documentary stuff. He wanted it to be part of
Know -- the new 'Rocky Balboa' of independent films. the story."

One of the animated sequences, created by Atomic Visual


Effects, represents a camera traveling through the interior of
Directed by William Arntz, Mark Vicente and Betsy Chasse, the brain. "We took a lot of liberties to make the environment
What the #$*! Do We Know is made up of three distinct look more cool than the real interior of the brain would look,"
elements: documentary footage, live-action story elements, said Jacobs. "We took all the matter away, except for the
and animation effects. Both the 3D animation and other nerve cells, creating a forest of electrically charged nerve
effects sequences, which totaled 300 effects shots, were cells." Though the look was more stylized than anatomically
overseen by visual effects supervisor Evan Jacobs, and correct, the modeled nerve cells were taken from
executed by Mr. X in Toronto, Lost Boys Studios in photographs of real nerve cells. "We went with a shader
Vancouver, and Atomic Visual Effects in Cape Town, South approach to create glowing, self-illuminated nerves -- which
Africa. meant we didn't have to add a lighting element to this fairly
heavy nerve geometry. Those were the kinds of cheats we did
to make it more economical."
Lost Boys created a 'quantum basketball' sequence, in which
quantum mechanics theory is illustrated in an impromptu
game of one-on-one between Amanda and a city youth. "As
Amanda steps onto the basketball court," said Jacobs, "you
see a ripple, indicating that she is stepping into a different
world. And then we had to go into the sub-atomic world and
show what is really going on in there. There was all this heavy
science we had to illustrate, but we wanted to make it
interesting and cool. It took a long time to develop the look
for this sub-atomic matrix -- the world of the atom. That
transitions into what we called the 'blue grid of infinite
possibilities' -- and, again, who knew what that was going to
be? The concept was that it was like 3D graph paper that the
world is painted on. We started off with these rudimentary
Another animation sequence has lead character Amanda grids, moving through them, moving light down them -- until
(Marlee Matlin) perceiving the 'human cells of emotion' this very elaborate look finally evolved."
running amok at a wedding reception. "Those emotion cells
had to look somewhat cartoon-y," said Jacobs, "but each of
them had to represent a different emotion. There are anger
cells, control cells, a shy cell, a lust cell. But they are just
these gummy things -- almost like little flubber characters. So
we had to figure out some way to get personalities into these
blobby shapes." The filmmakers awarded the 3D animation
work to Mr. X. "They had all this crazy, Saturday morning
cartoon animation stuff on their reel, so I knew they would
nail it. It was a really iterative process, doing it over and over
again, to get it just right; but those guys did a fantastic job."
Mr. X produced 45 emotion cell shots for the sequence.

Motion control was used for a live-action sequence in which


Amanda comes face to face with other versions of herself
inside the lobby of a movie theater and on a sidewalk
outside. "It wasn't a new trick," Jacobs said, "but on a low- difficult to find good stock backgrounds. So we had to shoot
budget, and with the tight locations we chose, it was a the backgrounds. We wound up shooting the backgrounds in
challenge. We had to put her in five different outfits, and South Africa -- since we were already there, doing some post
make sure she wasn't intersecting herself in this big long shot. work."
We covered 500-600 feet in the shot -- and it was
overcranked, too, which added complexity. Again, it's not that
this hasn't been done before; but to do it at this level of
production was a feat." All of the motion control material was
shot over two nights, by General Lift.

At the time the greenscreen of Matlin was shot, the


In a dream sequence, Amanda finds herself on a fantasy backgrounds were still undetermined -- which meant the
island. "This sequence illustrates a story about when ultimate lighting scenario was unknown. "Fortunately, the
Columbus and his ships arrived in the West Indies," Jacobs gods were smiling on us that day," said Jacobs. "It was a little
explained. "Because the Indians had never seen clipper ships overcast, so we had flat lighting and we had some latitude
before, they literally couldn't see them on the horizon. But when we put the backgrounds in. Basically, we were in a
then the shaman looks out to sea and sees the ripples made parking lot in Portland, shooting this thing -- but it works in
by the ships -- and, eventually, he sees the ships themselves. the movie." Atomic composited the dream and theater
He's the only one with an open enough mind to see them." In sequences.
the film, the shaman approaches Amanda on the beach, then
points out to sea, where the clipper ships suddenly appear.
"When I read the script, I thought, 'Okay, we'll go to a beach
somewhere for this.' But, due to Marlee's schedule, we
couldn't get her after the shoot in Portland. So we shot her on
greenscreen, and just put in background plates. It doesn't
seem as if that would be too hard, but it was amazingly
"One thing you can say about this movie," Jacobs concluded,
"nothing about it was conventional. The effects work wasn't a
technical masterpiece. The story of this film was just getting
this amount of effects work on the screen, for a budget that
was only 10% of the total production budget." The ability to
do 300 effects shots on that very low budget was due to ever
more accessible and inexpensive digital effects hardware and
software. "There is no question that this film couldn't have
been made this way five years ago."
A LOT OF FLAMES, A LOT OF SMOKE firefighter's job -- running into a burning building, and facing
one's mortality, is all in a day's work. "Jay wanted to convey
Article by Janine Pourroy
their fear -- as well as their courage -- and their willingness to
risk whatever it takes to save people."

A news helicopter hovers outside a burning highrise as


firefighters bravely battle the inferno within. The blaze is
The film was shot entirely on location in Baltimore with the
spectacularly out of control with, as one reporter aptly
full cooperation of the Baltimore Fire Department. "They were
observes, 'A lot of flames, a lot of smoke.' Both the line and
so gracious to us," said Fioritto. "The fire department was
the scene represent the heart of Touchstone Pictures' Ladder
involved from Day One. They read the script and approved of
49, with fire, and its inevitable companion, smoke, playing
it, and were extremely supportive with whatever was needed."
like unspoken characters throughout the film -- powerful,
Working with the late Peter Donen, who served as visual
deadly, and nearly always present.
effects supervisor, Fioritto explored various ways of achieving
Wanting to achieve the most realistic depiction possible for the film's multiple fire effects as safely and authentically as
his homage to firefighting heroes, director Jay Russell turned possible.
to veteran special effects coordinator Larry Fioritto with the
The original intention was for Fioritto and crew to supply a
question of how best to accomplish the variety of blazes
few burning windows that would later be duplicated in
required for the film. "At first, Jay told me not to get too
postproduction; but during an early test, their strategy shifted
excited because Ladder 49 was going to be a movie about
completely. Russell had wanted to determine how much
firemen, not fire," Fioritto recalled. "I just laughed and said,
firefighting equipment would realistically be required for the
'That's great, but what they do is put out fires, so our fires
movie's key sequence, a deadly grain elevator fire that traps
have to be the real thing.'" He knew Russell wanted the
firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) and ultimately
audience to experience the remarkable nature of a
becomes the story's visual centerpiece.
Fioritto and crew went to work at the site, realizing they would
have to sustain the grain elevator sequence for a week of
shooting, as safely and economically as possible. "The
building had been empty for fifteen years," Fioritto said,
"occupied only by birds -- which meant we had to start by
environmentally cleaning it. Also, there was no water supply
in the building, and none of the pipes worked anymore. I had
to install a plumbing system on all six floors to provide water
for fire protection. Then we ran another pipeline for air, and
installed a 250-gallon fuel tank on each floor."

The filmmakers decided to do a trial run at the grain


elevator's Baltimore wharf location -- with impressive results.
"The fire department brought in a number of trucks and the
fire boat, and all these men went to work pouring water on
the building. It was spectacular. Peter and I immediately
realized we were going to have to come up with something no
one had seen before." The decision was made to create real,
live-action fire effects that would be shot on location during
production.
During weeks of experimenting with fire, the effects team had gas and diesel into the mix to expand the flames. By aiming it
come up with a cocktail of pressurized gasoline and liquid differently and adjusting the fuel levels, we could vary the
diesel that was fed into propane. "That's what expanded and appearance and intensity a number of ways."
gave us the look of huge fires," Fioritto explained. "By testing
different combinations of fuel, nozzles, and propulsion
systems, we discovered ways of creating a variety of looks for
our fires. We could control the appearance of the flames
depending on what angle the director was shooting."
Ultimately, two sides of the building and a total of 43 windows
were set ablaze.

A custom-designed, steel fire hood was installed inside each


window with a two-fold purpose in mind: to keep the blaze
safely directed outward -- as opposed to burning into the
building -- and to keep the fires from being extinguished by
the waterfront wind, which was an ongoing problem. "We had
an ignition setup rigged with remote pilots so we could light
the propane without anyone having to be there," said Fioritto.
"Once it was lit, we could bring up the level to increase the
fire. Then, with our propulsion system, we could deliver the
safety into everything we did. I feel great when people tell me
how impressed they are with the effects; but my biggest
While they were able to stage live-action fire during the shoot, accomplishment was that no one got hurt -- not the least little
Fioritto and Donen knew that some of the smoke effects burn. That's what I'm most proud of."
would have to be created during postproduction. "The smoke
was a real problem for us," commented Fioritto. "We could
have created all the smoke we wanted right there on the set,
but the audience would never have seen any of the action
because of it. There was also a safety factor. Dark, black
smoke is made from a combination of noxious fumes and
gases, which was too dangerous for the cast and crew to be
around. We worked with our director of photography, James
Carter, to layer in as much as possible on set; but the rest
was composited in afterwards."

Fioritto and his crew achieved the authentic fire and smoke
effects that had been demanded by the filmmakers; but
keeping the production team safe had always been their
primary concern. "The biggest part of my job was to figure out
how to provide real fire while making sure nobody was
injured," concluded Fioritto. "We spent a lot of time building
TEAM SPIRIT show; so I understood the limitations of the puppets." He was
equally well-equipped to handle the directing duo's 'on-the-fly'
Article by Estelle Shay
approach to filmmaking. "I originally came out of the Roger
Corman school of filmmaking, where you learn how to do
things very cheaply and in-camera. I loved the old Republic
Picture serials, and researched how the Lydecker Brothers did
all that stuff. They had no budgets back then, and, as it
turned out, neither did we."

Where would James Bond be without his Aston Marton? The


same might be asked of the superheroes in Team America:
World Police, a raunchy spy spoof by South Park creators Trey
Parker and Matt Stone. Relying on an all-puppet cast to poke
fun at everything from politics to Hollywood's fondness for
over-the-top action films, Parker and Stone called upon
miniature effects artisan Lou Zutavern to oversee design and
construction of a slew of tricked-out vehicles for the
marionetted superheroes, armed to the teeth with terrorist-
defying weapons and missiles.

Zutavern -- a veteran of such iconic films as Titanic,


Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Starship Troopers, and a
longtime fan of Thunderbirds, the sixties-era Gerry Anderson
puppet show that inspired Parker and Stone -- jumped at the
chance to work on the project. "I'd spent a lot of time studying
the work that Derek Meddings and his crew did back in the
sixties for Thunderbirds," said Zutavern. "I'd also worked on
Super Adventure Team for MTV, which was a marionette
Operating out of stages in Culver City, Zutavern and a had enough lumber to build the tabletop, and that was it. But
skeleton crew of ten that eventually grew to 20 began fleshing I needed trees. So I went down to Pier One Imports one night
out designs for Team America's miniature vehicles and and trimmed their hedges for them. They just assumed the
assorted aircraft. The script called for a Lamborghini limo that gardeners did it. That's kind of what we were doing here. I
transforms into a flying craft, and a boxy, Hummer-like utility brought in boxes of old model parts, and asked my
vehicle equipped with hidden missiles that serves as the distributors for all the kits with parts that were missing. For
team's main means of transport. Additional vehicles included the jet, I literally went down to one of the local hobby
a motorcycle ridden by Gary, the team's newest undercover distributors and bought a bunch of kits, and started chopping
recruit, military-style Osprey and Black Hawk helicopters, a them up until we got something we liked the look of."
sixties-style jet, and a submarine -- all of them featured
prominently throughout the film. "There were jet-to-jet air
battles," noted Zutavern, "terrorist jets trying to shoot down
the Team America vehicles, submarines underwater, shooting
ballistic missiles and torpedoes, and vehicles on land chasing
each other and exploding. Pretty much, if you've seen it in a
Michael Bay film, you're going to see it here."

Zutavern and his crew also created interiors for scenes shot
inside the various Team America transports, all designed to
reflect the personas of the protagonists. "Their whole thing is
once they blow up a country, it's time for a libation," observed
Zutavern. "So everything was done as if it's basically a lounge."
Though modelmakers often used chopped-up model molds,
discarded parts and prop bin rejects to detail the interiors,
The vehicles were built in sizes ranging from 1/3 scale to one exception was the tricked-out limo interior. "It was very
accommodate the 22-inch puppets, to 1/35th scale, making it slick, completely upholstered, with carpeting, neon lights, two
easier to use off-the-shelf model kit parts. From the start, videoscreen feeds and a bar built into the door. There was a
Zutavern found himself relying heavily on his Roger Corman back seat and a front seat that fit together, and the front seat
roots. "Roger used to walk in and go: 'Here's $2,000. Make it and the dash came off so you could stick a camera in and get
last," recalled Zutavern. "And that would be my budget. I a view of two puppets sitting back there having a
remember having to do a tabletop model one time, and we conversation."
At Zutavern's urging the production hired special effects and
pyro expert Joe Viskocil to handle the mechanics of
motivating the vehicles and rigging explosions for the various
action sequences. "With few exceptions, everything was
pulled on cables," noted Zutavern. "We couldn't use radio
control all that much because there was a lot of wireless
communication from the marionettes and static from our
lighting rigs, which would have interfered."

Shooting the miniatures proved challenging, as constant


script changes came down the pike from Parker and Stone,
who kept devising more and more outrageous scenarios.
"We'd have five different sets, and three guys running between
them," said Zutavern, "with three setups going, and two getting
ready to shoot. I remember one instance where we had a
bunch of taxicabs, and we realized we had no people in the
cabs. So one of our modelmakers raced over to the craft
services table and got a bag of cashews and raisins, and
glued them together with the raisin as the head, and the
cashew as the body. We stuck those in as drivers, and nobody
could tell the difference."
Though the vehicles were built with steel chassis to better
withstand abuse, Zutavern was hard-pressed to keep them in
play during the no-holds-barred action scenes. "We'd have a
bag of parts," recalled Zutavern, "and just glue them together;
and then the painters would spend all night doing these
dazzling paint jobs. They'd be just barely dry, but they would
go straight to the stage in the morning." Once on stage,
Viskocil and his crew would crash the cable-driven cars at
speeds approaching 30 miles per hour, model pieces flying
upon impact. "It got to the point where we kluged the models
together so many times, the only thing keeping them together
was the paint. People would look at them and go, 'That looks
horrible!' And we were like, 'Well it didn't used to.'"
Despite such challenges, there was no shortage of
modelmakers willing to work on Team America. "When they
saw what we were doing and how much fun it was, even
though it was really hard work," Zutavern remarked, "everyone
wanted to work on this show. Any big effects film from the
last 30 years -- somebody in my crew was on it. But this was
more fun for them because they could get back to their roots.
Modelmakers don't usually get a chance to design things.
Usually, they're given a set of drawings and told to make it
just like that. Here, they could jump in and really be creative.
Of course, sometimes I'd say: 'Yes, you can design this whole
interior. But you've got to deliver it right after lunch!'"
3 GUYS AND 3 5G’S The visual effects, some forty shots contained in ten
sequences, essentially fell into two categories -- those in the
Article by Estelle Shay
real world, and those happening in Albert's mind. The real
It isn't often that industry novices have an opportunity to world sequences occur at several points in the narrative, as
impact a major Hollywood release, especially one that boasts Bernard expounds on his philosophy that everything in the
A-list stars like Naomi Watts, Jude Law and Dustin Hoffman. universe is interconnected. As if to demonstrate that theory,
But such was the case for visual effects supervisor Russell characters pause briefly in mid-discussion, while small tiles --
Barrett, visual effects producer Scott Puckett and visual like so many two-dimensional squares, each containing an
effects artist Joe Kastely on I (Heart) Huckabees, a eye, an ear, a nose or other feature -- float off their faces and
metaphysical comedy from Fox Searchlight, written and intermingle before dropping out of frame. Effects in the
directed by David O. Russell. The three young men created all second category occur in scenes in which Albert submits to
of the film's visual effects on just three Macintosh G5 guided meditation exercises, zipped into a sensory-
computers loaded with Adobe After Effects software. deprivation, cocoon-like body bag. His thoughts take the form
of cardboard-cutout memories featuring floating disembodied
heads and images of his nemesis, Brad Stand (Jude Law).

I (Heart) Huckabees follows Albert Markovski (Jason


Schwartzman) as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery
with cosmic implications. Troubled by a series of disturbing In envisioning such shots, the director sought to put a
coincidences, Albert hires existential detectives Bernard and modern spin on classic 2D effects like those seen in the old
Vivian Jaffee (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to investigate, Monty Python's Flying Circus BBC shows and the 1980s'
but soon finds them delving into his personal and Talking Heads video And She Was. "David did not want
professional relationships with disastrous results. anything slick," explained Barrett. "He wanted to present ideas
with a simple, abstract approach. He felt he needed to convey
emotions, not dazzle the eye, in order to get people thinking Though the studio had initially contracted with an outside
about what's really going on in those scenes or in Albert's effects vendor for the shots, when early versions began
mind." coming in, Russell rejected the work as too polished-looking.
At that point, Barrett and Scott Puckett, both of whom had
pre-existing relationships with the director, stepped in. "We
came up with a proposal that was an extremely cheap
alternative," related Barrett, "which was to rent three G5s and
do everything in After Effects. We felt all the ideas that David
had, everything that he was describing, lent itself to what
After Effects does best -- using two-dimensional images in a
3D world."

Barrett and Puckett proposed a test designed to convince the


director that they could handle the work. "We scanned some
of the show's filmed elements and produced two test shots,"
said Barrett, "putting them through our entire proposed
process, all the way out to film. When they saw the screened
tests, they said: 'You know what? You've got the job!'"

Equipped with three G5s, the duo -- joined later by Joe


Kastely -- soon found themselves ensconced in a room at the
back of a rented house where editing of the movie was
underway. "The floating square effects were probably the least
challenging of the shots," noted Barrett, "because we had hit
the nail on the head with that right away. Then it was just a
matter of how many squares were coming off the faces, and
what the timing was when they start to dance. We tried
various ways of affecting them once they came off the heads -
- they change colors, start to stutter or blur, that sort of thing.
But it was all the same basic idea."

Shots featuring Albert's disturbing visions were more


challenging. In several scenes, Bernard attempts to guide
Albert's meditation by encouraging him to picture the people
in his life sitting in a tree in a field. "There was talk of making
an amalgam of a real tree and a fake tree," Barrett recalled.
"What we ended up doing, though, was a completely
computer generated tree, textured in Photoshop with real
textures. So it had this unreal cartoony quality, but still 3D."
Plate photography for these and other shots was provided by
director of photography Peter Deming. "Peter shot these really
amazing plates. If it involved disembodied heads, he put a
green collar around the actors' necks so we could separate
the heads out and do whatever we wanted with them. All of
the plates were shot to allow the most leeway possible, once
we got them into the computer. They were shot flat, so we
could add our own shadows and things."

"I think the thing we learned from this whole experience,"


Barrett concluded, "was that the technology is really getting to
the point right now where you can take a do-it-yourself
attitude toward visual effects. I had one class at NYU on After
Effects, and I dabbled in it a little bit after I graduated. But it
turned out to be the best class I ever took, because it
enabled me to have the cajones to say: 'Hey, you know what?
We can just do this ourselves!'"
Working in the same space where the film was being edited
proved advantageous for the director, who received, on
average, 35-40 versions of every sequence. "David could view
a sequence, and we could go right back and make the
changes he wanted, then render them out in no time at all,"
said Barrett. "We also came up with some homemade
approaches to save money. We brought in a 50-inch high-
definition monitor that dominated our little room. We found
that we could hook it up to the G5s and preview all our
effects in high-def, which turned out to be really helpful for
finding little nicks and scratches and dust and things. It saved
us a lot of money on outputting costs because we could really
fine-tune the work."
THAT OLD-TIME ANIMATION Scorpion. I wanted to do a project where I could resurrect the
look and feel of those movies. I didn't want to do a spoof of
Article by Jody Duncan
them; I just wanted to find a vehicle that would allow me to
recapture the feelings of watching those movies on a Saturday
morning when I was a kid.

Monster Island -- an MTV-produced movie that was first aired


on the MTV network, then released on DVD on November 2 --
was to some extent the realization of a dream for
Perez's original notion was to develop a 'monster of the week'
writer/director Jack Perez. That dream was to make a monster
television series. "The idea was to have a small coastal
movie in the mold of the old Ray Harryhausen and Willis
community that, every week, would be besieged by another
O'Brien films, with nary a computer chip employed to bring
creature from the 1950s. That would have allowed me to use
his creatures to life on screen.
the entire arsenal of 1950s movie creatures -- giant bugs, the
Though nothing in his previous directing credits -- La creature from the black lagoon, everything. There was some
Cucaracha, Wild Things 2, The Big Empty and, for television, interest, but it wasn't the kind of thing they are doing on
The Mary Kay Letourneau Story -- suggested an affinity for television right now." Enter executives at the MTV network,
classic creature movie fare, Perez, like so many other with whom Perez already enjoyed a relationship. "They were
filmmakers, had been infected with the movie bug while a doing made-for-television movies; so my manager suggested
child watching some of those very movies on television. "Like that I adapt my television series idea to a feature and pitch it
a lot of people," Perez said, "I was heavily influenced by the to them. I did, and they bought it."
original King Kong, by Harryhausen's pictures, by 1950s
atomic mutation movies, such as Them! and The Black
The only caveat to the network's involvement was that the To realize the creatures, Perez and his producers hired Bowes
film's storyline be connected in some way to the MTV world. Productions, a stop-motion animation effects company based
Perez retooled his story, using the device of an MTV contest in Vancouver. In early meetings with the Bowes principals,
as the set-up for bringing his characters together on Monster Perez stressed that he didn't want the creature designs to be
Island. "MTV is always having these contests -- Have Aerosmith spoofy or silly. "I didn't want Caveman creatures, dinosaurs
Come Play at Your Prom, or whatever. So, to set up the story, with big bug eyes. I wanted the design of the creatures to be
I devised a contest in which an entire senior class wins a trip fairly straightforward -- Them! being the model for the ants,
to a tropical paradise, hosted by a pop star. During that pop and The Deadly Mantis being the model for the praying
star's performance on the island, she is carried off by some mantis. Overall, I wanted Bowes to look at this as if it was the
gigantic mutated thing. From there, it takes on a King Kong 1950s, and they were being contracted to make a straight-
structure -- a small band going into the jungle and facing ahead monster movie. And because of that, we would
different creatures to rescue this pop star." deliberately avoid all CGI. That was the whole point. The
reason for going back to these old techniques was that I was
The pop star was portrayed by Carmen Electra -- as herself -- so bored with CGI. The only thing CGI was good for on this
joined by Adam West as the appropriately-named Dr. picture was compositing, and perhaps a little atmosphere -- if
Harryhausen, an atomic scientist and island recluse who I wanted stars or clouds or something like that. But,
reveals the island's previous use as a testing ground, which essentially, I wanted to keep the project pure and to avoid
has produced giant mutated ants and praying mantis, all of any CGI in the creature work."
which were created through stop-motion animation or full-size
puppets.
For direct interactions with the actors, Bowes built a full-size,
fully-operational, mechanical queen ant, two soldier ant heads
and legs, and a full-size praying mantis claw. The live creature
effects were employed on set in Vancouver, where live-action
was shot in a 22-day principal photography schedule. Bowes
augmented the Vancouver sets and locations with a variety of
miniatures. "Again, I wanted the feel of the old Kong," Perez
explained, "so we had miniature jungle sets, with gorges and
bridges. The whole island was a miniature, in fact, used for
establishing shots. There was a ton of miniature work." The
jungle set featured more than 1,000 hand-made trees and
plants, some of which were articulated to bend and fall as
creatures moved through the foliage.

These miniatures served as the settings in which Bowes'


animated its 16- to 18-inch stop-motion puppets. In addition
to praying mantis, queen and soldier ant puppets, Bowes built
and animated a flying ant -- the creature that first makes off
with Carmen Electra -- mounting the puppet on a modelmover
to create flying scenes. "The flying ant shots were the only
instances in which the models were shot against bluescreen
and then composited, rather than shot in the miniature sets."

One of the key creature animation scenes is a fight between


two giant praying mantis. "That becomes kind of the Kong-vs-
Allosaurus fight, with a lot of intense interaction between the
two creatures, all staged on a miniature military facility set." In
the scene, Electra's bodyguard provokes chase in a bulldozer
to distract the praying mantis. Bowes animated the action on
the miniature set, using a scaled bulldozer and bodyguard
puppet -- one of several puppet actor replicas that were
employed to create in-camera interaction between the human
characters and the creatures. "We had a Carmen Electra
puppet, as well as indigenous people puppets for a scene at
the end of the movie -- the enslaved islanders fight against the
giant ants, and there are shots of them in the clutches of an
insect. I always loved that in the Harryhausen movies.
Whenever somebody was grabbed by a creature, the
animated creature would cover the live actor in the
composite; and then, when the creature spun around, it
would be carrying a miniature character, kicking and
screaming. We did exactly that for the scene where Carmen
Electra is grabbed by the flying ant." In order to make the MTV
airdate, all the stop-motion animation work was completed in
an eight-week period.

"More than anything else," Perez concluded, "I did Monster


Island as a conceptual piece. And for people who are fans of
that genre and these techniques, it makes perfect sense to
have made it this way. For the 13-year-old MTV watchers, it
may not make as much sense -- but it introduces them to
effects techniques that they probably haven't seen before."
The Monster Island DVD, which features a behind-the-scenes
documentary on the making of the movie, is available at
major video outlets.
A TICKET TO RIDE The technological feat was made all the more impressive in
the last months of production when the studio greenlit an
Article by Joe Fordham
idea that had been brewing for the previous year: to coincide
the theatrical release of The Polar Express with a large-format
Imax presentation -- expanding the film from standard 35-
millimeter, four-perforation format to Imax's 70-millimeter,
15-perforation format, in stereoscopic 3D. "Bob Zemeckis and
his producing partner, Steve Starkey, hadn't originally planned
to use a 3D platform," remarked Greg Foster, chairman and
president of Imax Corporation's filmed entertainment division.
"But when Warner Brothers and Castle Rock approached
them, they said, 'Oh, my God, of course!' and kismet hit. Bob
has always loved to push the envelope, from a technology
point of view; this was family themed, which is where a large
If glowing festive lights, wheezing steam locomotives and part of our boxoffice comes from; it was a Warner Brothers
hordes of dancing elves are your bag, Warner Brothers film, their sixth digitally mastered release; and Imageworks'
Pictures and Sony Pictures Imageworks have a treat for you Imagemotion technology overlapped quite organically into our
this Christmas with their animated fantasy, The Polar Express. DMR and 3D technology."
Based on Chris Van Allsburg's children's book, the film
marked director Robert Zemeckis' ninth collaboration with
Ken Ralston, senior visual effects supervisor at Sony Pictures The studio greenlit the large-format initiative after producing a
Imageworks. Sharing credit with Jerome Chen, Ralston 3D film test using trailer imagery and, as with previous
brought Van Allsburg's book to life using Imagemotion, a new digitally mastered releases, modified the film's widescreen
form of integrated face and body motion performance aspect ratio to format imagery to the squarer Imax screen.
capture, resulting in the all-encompassing title 'imagery and "We tested images cropped at 2.35:1 aspect ratio," said
animation by' in the film's credits. associate producer Debbie Denise, "and it didn't feel like a
cheat because there was still so much to look at on an 80-
foot-tall screen."

To create the stereo imagery effect -- separate strips of film


for right and left eye, projected simultaneously and viewed
through polarized gasses -- Imageworks set up a team of 30
animators, led by visual effects producer John Clinton and
visual effects supervisor Jim Berney, to analyze stereo
options, which proved particularly effective in CG. "There are
reasons why 3D works better in CG than live-action," said
Hugh Murray, Imax vice president for technical production.
"Depth of field is one of them. In the real world, because of
physical limitations of optics, cameras can't see everything in After establishing ground rules for 3D, the Imax team worked
focus at the same time. In CG, we can; and in 3D we need in parallel with the main Imageworks production to
everything to be sharp. Another reason 3D is more deconstruct final approved shots as they rolled out of the
comfortable to watch in CG than live-action is that cameras production pipeline. "We were like digital archeologists,"
don't really exist in CG. They're just mathematical entities. So remarked Jerome Chen. "We had to bring each shot back
we had complete freedom to do anything we liked with the online, unearth it, try to find out how we did it, and then re-
distance between the right and left-eye cameras -- the render and re-composite each shot for left and right-eye
interocular distance -- and that became an animate-able perspectives, adjusting cameras to create the right sense of
parameter that we controlled constantly through the film." depth and convergence. Going into a digital artist's
compositing script was like going through their bedroom diary
-- every person does it differently and it's a mess because they
never expect anybody to go back and look at it. But once the
Imax team had reconstructed shots, the results were amazing.
In some respects, this should be the way everyone sees the
movie, since it all originated in 3D."

Zemeckis' cinematic style also enhanced depth effects. "CG


animators often use the equivalent of long lenses to avoid CG
intersections," said Murray. "Bob didn't do that on this film.
That was very fortunate, because long lenses in 3D compress
depth in the same way that they compress perspective, and
characters end up with that 'cardboardy' look -- flatter than
they should be. Instead, Bob chose to use wide-angle lenses, Imageworks occasionally introduced new elements, giving
or appropriately-angled lenses, for all of his shots. That gave steam and smoke additional volumetric layers. Artists also
characters real depth." refined atmospheric effects by placing a spherical 'clipping
The 3D process did not require 2D matte paintings to be zone' around the camera. "We clipped effects at about three
altered for stereo effect. "The human visual system uses more feet apparent distance in the theater," said Hugh Murray.
than binocular information to judge depth," Murray explained. "When snowflakes or sparks or any other effects came out
"We use both eyes to judge depth for objects in proximity; but into the theater, we faded them before they came too close to
we found that if we set up a convincing stereo environment, a viewers to become annoying."
two-dimensional background was still convincing if it had the
correct perspective. The viewer's brain just built it into a
scene."
Murray met periodically with Imageworks and Zemeckis to
view gray-shaded animation for camera approval and
interocular adjustments. Shots were then rendered with full
lighting and projected on dual digital projectors for stereo
approval. Imageworks supplied 2K Cineon outputs, which
Imax uprezzed to 4K and then sharpened with pixel
interpolation before scanning laterally to 70-millimeter film,
remastering the film onto 800-pound reels for special venue
theaters.

Despite the immensity of the imagery, projected seven stories


high, the spectacle of The Polar Express remained rooted in
the charm of the source material. "The essence of the book is
never lost," affirmed Ken Ralston. "Bob didn't let the scope of
the film, or the size of his canvas, crush the heart of the
project."
ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE Kidron commissioned storyboard artist Tony Chance to
conceptualize the most ambitious effect -- the 'lonely people'
Article by Joe Fordham
shot, which, midway through the film, depicts a lonely and
unloved Jones after having split with her boyfriend. "Bridget is
at her window smoking a fag," related Alex Hope. "The camera
pulls back and, in Tony's storyboards, reveals an Alice in
Wonderland view of very tall, elongated houses with happy,
loving couples in hundreds of windows. Then we crane down
to find Mark Darcy, Bridget's boyfriend, equally alone, walking
through a park. It was a great idea; but the question was how
to turn this fantastic concept into a shot that would work in a
non-effects film."

In the opening of Miramax, Universal and Working Title Films'


Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, thirty-something Jones
(Renée Zellweger) returns to her London media job, buoyant
and in love, and passes a Piccadilly Circus Coca Cola sign that
proclaims 'Mark and Bridget: It's the Real Thing.' Overseen by
visual effects supervisor Jody Johnson at Double Negative,
the effect was one of 12 designed to augment the film's
quirky British wit. "The film was set in the real world but had
odd moments of heightened reality," said Alex Hope, Double
Negative managing director and visual effects producer. "The For the opening of the scene, pulling back from Jones'
director, Beeban Kidron, wanted little moments of whimsy window, production designer Gemma Jackson selected a
with a lovely light touch." location in South East London to represent Jones' apartment
exterior -- a picturesque residence above a drinking
establishment in Borough Market, previously seen in the Harry
Potter films as the Leaky Cauldron wizard pub. The location
did not afford easy access for a camera crane, so Double
Negative took position on a neighboring rooftop using a
motion control rig operated by Ben Goldschmidt and Ian
Menzies and filmed tiled plates of the pub façade, shooting
repeated zoom-backs of the left and right side of the building,
sans Bridget.
To place Jones in her window, disconsolate with cigarette, the tourist landmarks. "We've lived in London all our lives," said
production built an exterior window portion on Jones' Alex Hope, "and we wanted it to feel like the city we grew up
bedroom set and staged a second motion control shoot. in." Matte painters Diccon Alexander and Alban Orlhiac
Previz determined that the camera move, starting tight on mapped buildings to 3D geometry laid out on a footprint of
Zellweger's eyes and then pulling back, held the actress in city streets obtained from 1:5,000-scale Ordnance Survey
frame for approximately 700 frames, requiring a track of maps, then augmented textures with matte-painted cracks,
several hundred feet -- far exceeding the parameters of the moss, paint stains and rust, and added a matte-painted sky,
Ealing Studios stage. Double Negative and motion control projected onto a dome with animated layers of cloud and an
cameraman Ben Goldschmidt catered to the problem using a orange horizon glow. Artists then populated the city with live-
Milo rig on a 30-foot track, extended with CG. "We swung the action window elements.
camera back the first ten feet," explained Alex Hope, "then, as
we tracked back, we feathered into an 'x' and 'y' move on the
pan and tilt head. This gave us the perspective change we
needed on Renée and, as we lost the 'z' track back, we
blended into projections of her against the room interior."

"The complicated part was shooting elements to insert into


our CG buildings," commented Hope. "The camera covered
five city blocks, moving at 30 miles per hour, so we figured
we needed at least 70 elements, 40 of which had to be
motion controlled, and we had seven days to shoot them."
Double Negative shot Zellweger in the bedroom window, then Double Negative determined 'z' tracking moves would again
a repeat pass without the actress, and conducted a be impossible to achieve in the space available and so
photographic survey of the bedroom set. Digital artists then developed alternative 'aimed camera moves' in previz, which
took the first 300 frames of Zellweger in the window, they then imported to Menzies' Milo rig. "As the camera
rotoscoped and blended this to a 3D model of the bedroom traveled back, we translated our 'z' axis motion to our 'x' and
set, created using camera projections and paint effects, and 'y' axes, rotating around our subjects. That gave us the
composited the element into the Borough Market pub exterior parallax we needed; then we placed the people onto 3D cards
and composited them in Shake."
For the journey across the rooftops, Double Negative created
a digital city from a photo-collage of structures. Artists
photographed 500 buildings, representing locations that
captured the romantic spirit of city, while avoiding clichéd
Double Negative used frame-grabs of canoodling couples,
photographed against bluescreen, to check perspectives and
timings against previz on set. A second camera captured
static views of each element, which compositors used for
distant windows, where parallax was less apparent. Artists
then composited vignettes into CG rooms and tracked
elements into buildings.

One year in production, the final shot lasted 65 seconds -- a


sophisticated centerpiece in an otherwise warm and fuzzy
comedy. "A shot like this in a film like this doesn't come along
very often," Hope concluded. "Working Title was committed to
having one big moment in the film, and Beeban took real
ownership of the shot, which enhanced the story by
emphasizing the sense of melancholy in a comedy. I think
more directors are seeing opportunities for using visual
The camera finally descends into live-action of Darcy (Colin effects in this way. It's great to see that happening."
Firth), filmed on location in the Hanwell Cemetery in West
London. Director of photography Adrian Biddle set timings
with a Super Technocrane move. CG supervisor Pieter
Warmington then used the edge of Hanwell Chapel as a wipe
from CG, and softened the transition with 3D trees. CG
supervisor Rick Leary completed assembly of the shot, adding
digital set extensions to transform the cemetery into a Notting
Hill park square, with keyframe animation of a flight of birds,
a rickety London taxicab and a passing double-decker bus.
GRAND ILLUSION
Article by Alain Bielik

Three years after his hugely successful Amélie, Jean-Pierre


Jeunet is back with his most ambitious project to date, A Very
Long Engagement, the epic tale of a woman (Audrey Tautou)
who searches for her fiancé in the midst of the First World
War turmoil. The production entailed the re-creation of
various areas of Paris in the early 20th century, in addition to
digital enhancement of action sequences. As he has for all of
his previous projects, Jeunet turned to Paris effects house
Duboi (Alien: Resurrection) to produce the visual effects. "We
created about 300 effects shots," said visual effects
supervisor Alain Carsoux, "including 100 shots that required
extensive work."

In the most challenging effects sequence of the movie, a


blimp explodes in a hangar after a bomb hits the building.
"Jean-Pierre thought he needed to build a full-size blimp to get
the shots he wanted," recalled Carsoux. "On our side, we felt
that a CG blimp would be more cost effective; but he was not
keen on the idea. Like many French directors, he doesn't trust
CGI. As a compromise, we suggested we use CG for
establishing shots and a miniature for the explosion itself."
Jeunet agreed to the approach and asked Duboi to
previsualize the sequence. "Working in Maya, we built a CG
replica of the real hangar, including the characters, the
vehicles and every single prop. Jean-Pierre blocked out
camera moves, angles, lenses, and even determined eye
lines! Once on location, he matched the previz shot by shot,
using a video switch to line up the framing. The previz also
helped us figure out how much of the blimp needed to be
built in miniature."
Special effects coordinators Yves Domenjoud, Jean-Baptiste
Bonetto and Olivier Gleyze of Les Versaillais supervised three
miniature setups for the sequence. The tight shot of the
bomb crashing through the ceiling was realized with a 1/3-
scale section of the blimp photographed under a partial
ceiling. For the explosion itself, Les Versaillais fabricated a
1/10-scale rough replica of the interior of the hangar that was
painted black. In this miniature, they assembled a group of
20-inch black balloons in a shape that reproduced the outline
of the blimp. Filled up with propane gas, the balloons were
detonated sequentially from the back to the front and shot at
150 frames per second.

"Since the explosion was shot on black from the same angle
as the background plate," said Carsoux, "we were able to use
it as a fire element that we composited over our CG blimp.
Les Versaillais shot different types of pyro events in order to
give us a variety of textures and shapes to work from. The
various layers were assembled in our in-house compositing
software, Dutruc. We also simulated a shockwave by replacing
real props with CG replicas tht were animated in Maya. The
sequence concludes with an exterior shot of the hangar as a
huge fireball engulfs the windows, an effect realized with a
1/10-scale miniature."

The battle scenes kept Duboi busy with even more pyro
effects. In a dramatic shot, a character is thrown in the air by
a direct shell hit. "The actor was on a wire rig developed by
stunt coordinator Patrick Cauderlier," Carsoux explained. "The
explosives were detonated when he was five feet up; but
since the camera was looking straight down at him, it seemed
as if he was right in the blast. Les Versaillais designed a pyro
effect that generated a mainly horizontal shockwave. After the
wires had been painted out, we perfected the dynamics of the
actor's movement by removing specific frames and adding
morphs. We also animated CG dirt and dust to enhance the
scale of the blast." For bullet impacts that couldn't be realized
live, Duboi shot a series of pyro elements -- impacts on
clothes, on blood bags, even on raw meat -- that were
integrated into the live-action plates. The studio also
animated hundreds of CG tracers to augment the realism of
the battle scenes.

Duboi also tackled the re-creation of the French capital as it


appeared 100 years ago. "We had several major establishing
shots," said Carsoux, "including one featuring the Opera
house. For this shot, we started by filming the building in the
early morning with a carefully previsualized camera move. We
then painted out the traffic, the pedestrians, and any
anachronistic element, until we had a background plate that
was the exact reproduction of the location in the early 1900s.
After that, we reproduced the outline of the location on a
parking lot, using tapes to mark out the sidewalks and
bluescreens to represent the facades. Extras were shot with a
static camera in four passes, at different distances. Although
the background plate featured a camera move, we were able
to digitally replicate it on these elements, thanks to the previz
on which all the parameters had been worked out. The end
result is a multi-layer moving effects shot that was realized
without motion control."
In another scene, Duboi's tracking and match-moving abilities
were put to the test with an aerial shot of a lighthouse
overlooking the ocean. The original plate was shot from a
crane on a parking lot with a partial lighthouse set surrounded
by bluescreen. "After that, we shot a plate of the real ocean,"
Carsoux explained, "trying to match the original camera move
from a helicopter. The two plates were then combined with a
CG tower that connected the lighthouse set and the ground.
The final step was to remove the reflection of the city that
actually surrounded the parking lot from the windows of the
lighthouse -- an enormous clean-up job that had to be
repeated on almost every single shot of the sequence!"

For Carsoux, the most remarkable aspect of the project was


Jeunet's distinctive photographic style. "Jean-Pierre didn't
want to re-create the real ambiance of Paris in the early
1900s. He wanted a postcard look, which meant that a lot of
our shots had to be stylized. It made the whole process more
difficult for us, but the result is quite unique."
UNHOLY TRINITY Fuzzy Logic and Pixel Magic, did some compositing for us, as
well."
Article by Jody Duncan

Both reputations and boxoffice dollars have been made off of


Blade, the 1998 vampire film directed by Stephen Norrington.
Blade gave Wesley Snipes, its star, a career-making role, while Digital Dimension -- a relatively young effects company that
its sequel, Blade II, further established Mexico-born director has grown from a four-person facility to one employing 50 --
Guillermo Del Toro in the Hollywood movie-making scene. picked up the greatest number of shots, most notably 80-
Now, Blade: Trinity has provided writer David S. Goyer -- who some 'ashing' shots, a vampire-disintegration effect that had
penned the original Blade screenplay -- with his first major been established in the previous two films. "There were more
feature-film directing credit. ashing effects done in this film than in the other two films
combined," said Bauer. "When a vampire is killed with
The production hired visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer to something -- and there are a number of things that kill them --
oversee an effects slate that, in the end, numbered 540 then they just disintegrate into ash and blow away." The effect
shots. The majority of those shots were executed by Giant had always been done digitally. "The ashings were cool
Killer Robots, Digital Dimension, CaféFX and Amalgamated looking, but not very realistic in the first movie. They were
Pixel -- though, by the time postproduction concluded, many less cool and also not very realistic in the second movie. And
other vendors had jumped into the project. "All together," said in this one, we're told that they are both cool and realistic!"
Bauer, "we had 17 vendors, including Pixel Liberation Front,
who we used for previz, and General Lift, which provided our The ashing effect started with cyberscans of performers in
motion control. Some smaller boutique companies, such as vampire makeup -- makeups designed and executed by Mike
Elizalde and his Spectral Motion crew.
"We ended up cyberscanning 42 people," said Bauer, "because
nearly every vampire had to ash pretty close to camera. We
would do a hand-off from the real actor to the digital double,
then do this disintegration effect, which basically looks like
layers burning off from the outside in. That was a
combination of on-set interactive lighting and 22 layers of 3D
digital stuff -- skin and clothing and bones and muscles and,
finally, the charred ash man that blows apart. There were
layers of particle work, keyframe animation and then
dynamics to shatter bones and things like that."

Digital doubles were also required for a fight scene between


Blade and a Dracula beast -- a stunt performer in beast
makeup and costume. "Dracula turns into a beastie," said
Bauer, "and in this fight scene, they are swinging each other
around in a big interior space. So we did some of that with a
combination of greenscreen and motion control compositing,
with CG glass and other things they would fly through. Other
times, we just did an on-screen hand-off from the
photography to a CG double."
Giant Killer Robots modeled and animated the CG Blade and
beast. In some live shots featuring the real performers, GKR CaféFX created CG body interiors for shots revealing the
tracked a CG mandible costume piece to the beast. "The effects of a vampire-killing virus. "The camera swoops around
beast costume just wasn't doing it as it was," said Bauer. "So internal organs," said Bauer. "Also, when they inject
we designed this separate mandible thing and tracked it onto something into the beast, it throws up a spray of blood that
all the production photography. Giant Killer Robots did a great has this virus in it. We go back and forth from normal
job of tracking and compositing that." GKR also provided photography to micro-photography as this stuff is floating
performance shots for the 'maw' -- an effect introduced in the around and attacking the vampires in a big cavernous space.
second film, in which the vampire mouth opened up into a CaféFX did those shots, as well."
wide gaping hole. "In this movie, there is a Pomeranian and
two Rottweilers that do the same thing; and, at the end, the
beast creature does it, as well. We had maquettes made of
the dogs' heads, and then those were scanned for the digital
maw effect. The difficult thing with the Pomeranian was that it
had long hair and it was often backlit, so there was a lot of
light refraction through the long fur. The maws had to interact
with that fur, and then their digital fur had to match the
photography. There was also saliva to deal with, as well as
creating the fleshiness of the inside of the dogs' mouths, all of
which was seen in closeup. It was a lot to pull off, and Giant
Killer Robots managed to do it perfectly."
Synthetic city views -- created by Eric Chauvin of BlackPool
Studios in upstate Washington -- extended the relatively flat
cityscape of Vancouver, where the movie was shot, into
appropriately tall, skyscraping exteriors. "Eric did full 3D
exteriors for us," said Bauer, "day and nighttime. We transition
from interior photography, then pull out and pan around
these 3D environments." Other environments were created as
large miniatures built by Mike Joyce's Cinema Production
Services, specifically for an opening sequence set in Iraq.
"The vampires are digging up the original Dracula, and he is in
an ancient ruin, a pyramid type of thing in the middle of the
Iraq desert. CPS built the ruin as a miniature; and then we
augmented that with some matte painting work by Deak
Ferrand at Hatch FX."

Bauer is currently working with director Jon Favreau on


Zathura, due out in theaters Christmas 2005.

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