Creating a New Legacy for Tron
Disney's Tron: Legacy might not be a game changer like Avatar, but it's a groundbreaker for Digital Domain. In addition to creating thousands of digital assets that comprise the dark, neon world of the Joe Kosinski-directed sequel, DD had to design a tracking system for handling the stereoscopic 3-D shoot, improve their workflow, management system and pipeline, raise their game for performance capturing Jeff Bridges as the younger Clu 2.0 avatar, seamlessly integrate a new satellite DD studio in Vancouver and coordinate all of the work from the five vendor partners: Mr. X, Whiskeytree, Ollin Studio, Prana Studios and Prime Focus.
Indeed, out of a total of 1,565 vfx shots, 882 were done by DD (723 in Venice and 159 in Vancouver).
What was the experience like? "Very daunting," admits Eric Barba, DD's visual effects supervisor, who oversaw the production, taking full advantage of his design background as well as his extensive vfx experience. "To me, I feel like I [was] a creative partner from the very beginning with Joe. And DD [was] a partner to help bring the production to life. A large part, of course, [was] happening virtually here and through our five outsourced partners and our other company in Vancouver. As far as the stereo aspect [using the new Sony F35 with Master Prime lenses, which open up to 1.3 for less light but shallower depth of field], both Joe and I had never done a stereo movie before and we did our homework and just had to plan out as best we could and we looked at it in bite-size chunks, and we wanted to make sure that all the previs was in 3-D, so we could literally cut the movie together and watch it."
DD also created a more efficient lighting system. "We spent a lot of time working on the transition from previs to layout and how that would get into anim, and we wrote a whole new set of tools to have the lighters aware of what should be in their shot," explains Steve Preeg, DD's animation director. "The suite consisted of a file that could be customized per sequence, where you could define a group, say Clu and all the items in the Light Cycle sequence. We wrote a UI that would allow us to load, update and change assets, and you could define the shot better."