Tackling a New Gulliver's Travels
"We continued our collaboration with the guys at Exotic Matter using Naiad (their dynamic solver and simulation framework) whenever we hit a wall. So a lot of the fluid simulation was actually done through Naiad and then used our own hooks to do things like aerations based off the density in the water and used our own tools to put the foam and the sort of white water rack on top.
We came up with the ability to turn the foam into millions of little particles and then spread out so it would look like particular mist, which really helped it look like giant water."
In terms of the Times Square scene, Hydraulx made the CG buildings but Weta added more detail through their own texturing and weathering system. And using Weta's image-based lighting system and spherical harmonics provided quick turnaround.
"Another thing we've added to our pipeline since Avatar is that we not only have indirect [lighting] but also three bounces of indirect," Williams adds. "And, where light bounces around, you'll actually get highlights on streets or into windows from the indirect component, not just the direct light sources, which give you a realistic lighting feel, which meant that you could lay out the lights in a proper way. We lit these shots as if they were live-action sets. We hit pin caves behind buildings shining up on top of buildings; and we did volumetric god rays so it felt like it was a back lot shot."
Meanwhile, for the Bermuda Triangle storm, full CG environments, including water, atmospherics and 3D, 2.5D and 2D skies were created by Scanline (under the supervision of Bryan Grill and Stephan Trojansky). Plates of Gulliver in his boat were shot in London, using a full-scale, partial boat on a gimbal and practical water dump tanks for direct interaction. The job of extracting Gulliver and his boat, the Knotfersail, and immersing them into the storm of the century, fell to Compositing Supervisor Chris Ledoux and his team. However, for some shots, all elements, including the boat and Gulliver, were fully digital.
As Gulliver gets tossed around in the growing storm, we are introduced to a towering water funnel, violently spinning counter-clockwise and spewing spray and foam. The water funnel was the result of an extensive design and development process, during which it evolved from a more conventional funnel emerging from the sky, into an inverted whirlpool of churning, stormy water that towers over Gulliver and the Knotfersail, eventually sucking him up and into a water funnel that transports him to Lilliput. The task of both design and execution, aided by the latest advances in Scanline's proprietary Flowline software (for which the company received a 2008 Sci-Tech Academy award), fell to CG Supervisor Danielle Plantec and Flowline artist Masakazu Murakami, along with a development team spearheaded by Trojansky.
In addition, Rok!t Studio created the imaginative title sequence. Rok!t shot the sequence in stereo in six days at a very slow frame rate to create an erratic motion in the New York City plates. When back in the studio, Rok!t applied a tilt-shift process, which gives the shots a miniaturized look so that all of the boats, buildings and vehicles tend to look like small models. Rok!t also built the 3D CG main titles which were composited into the scenes of the city. For the end titles, they designed an animated newspaper sequence of Gulliver's published travel column, which carries the drawings and end credits. Locations include Times Square, Liberty Park, Governor's Island, an aerial of Central Park, Top of the Rock and Columbus Circle.