Oscar 2012: Scott Farrar Talks Transformers: Dark of the Moon
ILM surpassed itself with the third Transformers movie, Dark of the Moon, not only by tackling 3-D but also with a lot more compositing and double the work of the paint and roto. Supervisor Scott Farrar, who's been on this franchise for nearly six years, revisits the challenges.
Bill Desowitz: You certainly raised the bar with more mayhem, improved animated performance, and the addition of 3-D.
Scott Farrar: Yeah, all those things and new locations always pose new issues but that's the fun of it.
BD: What was the impact of shooting in 3-D?
SF: I like stereo; I like other films when it's done well. It's not something you can rush. The big problem with conversion is that it's not based at all on the physical environment that's being seen in the shot. There's no formula. But I think conversion benefitted in our movie because we had back-to-back shots in certain cases where we showed the conversion house true stereo and they could watch it in stereo and see how their shot cut with ours. And so we have a volume, we have a distance, we perceive that it's so many feet or yards to something in the background or the back wall of whatever set we're looking at or exterior. And that's a true distance that reads a certain way to your eyes. It helped.
BD: And Michael Bay had to adapt his shooting style.
SF: And he did. Not only was he really patient with reloading or changing a lens, he's really good at setting up alternate camera setups to buy the guys some time while they change the Pace rig over to a new lens. And although he's prone to faster and more dynamic camera moves, he did slow down his shooting style. Let's pan fast but let's pause, so we built in pauses with our movements. He took to it.
BD: Sentinel Prime was new and key. Let's revisit him.
SF: Just building him, for one thing, never in your wildest imagination, did you think the color red would be so hard to duplicate in all the different lighting scenarios that we have in the movie. Basically, he's a red that is copied after this sophisticated fire truck. But trying to nail down a color; the sheen of a color; the sheen of the bounce of the light on the color. All these different artifacts that happen: whether it's sunlight or fluorescent lights or what have you. And the color red is one of the hardest there is in computer graphics because it goes purple or pink or green, so you're always fussing with each and every shot. Then just as a key character we came up with all kinds of ideas: this beaded beard so it would wiggle with every move or talk. And we did our initial test with Sean Connery before any voice actor was cast. And then we have to have the facial design feel like it's a face and that means hundreds of moving parts on the face because they're just hard body surfaces. And if we don't have enough pieces, we put more pieces in and we do that practically every time, and then you usually have to plus out the eyes because you can't really tell all the nuances of the expressions. So we got that nailed. And then we cast Leonard Nimoy, and it wasn't far from the look of Sean Connery. So we made only a few minor adjustments on the face.