2012: The End of the World as We Know It
Roland Emmerich's 2012 has proven to be a monster hit, racking up $225 million worldwide its first weekend (including $65 million domestically). That's in large part due to the spectacular vfx turned in by Uncharted Territory and more than a dozen other companies, including Scanline VFX, Digital Domain, Double Negative, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Pixomondo, Hydrulx, Crazy Horse Effects, Evil Eye Pictures and Gradient Effects.
However, when Uncharted's Volker Engel and Marc Weigert wow the Academy and VES with their bakeoff presentations, their unique hook for overseeing 1,315 shots of CG mayhem will be the complex nature of the integration: Not only is there "the shake, break and tumble," of a gigantic earthquake, but also the secondary involving, breaking glass, sparks, smoke, dust and debris. And then there's the tsunami to end all tsunamis and the pyroclastic ash clouds and lava bombs…
But perhaps the most significant part of 2012 is Uncharted's game changing role as a new "production shingle" model.
Indeed, as Jenny Fulle pointed out earlier this spring, Uncharted's new model may be a driving force for the future of this industry: "hiring key talent, setting up space, hiring a core crew and then outsourcing the majority of the work" and acting as a hub.
Of course, it helped that Engel and Weigert were co-producers as well. "It's both an advantage and disadvantage," Engel suggests. "The one disadvantage is that you have to recruit new people every time. But on 2012, it was a big casting process -- we interviewed about 300 artists -- and most of it I did myself, talking to each one of them and then handpicking the best.
"And then the rest are only advantages. You hire the exact people you want to hire, which has a huge impact on the budget. Believe me: Sony was reluctant in the beginning, having also Imageworks as a company. But it worked out great because we were able to give Imageworks 154 shots at the end for a big chunk of the third act."
However, Uncharted didn't want to give everything away and managed to act as the lead vendor, working on 433 shots: "So we set up a shop with 100 artists and we did the single most complex sequence in the whole movie: the first-half of the Los Angeles earthquake (the second half was done by Digital Domain)," Engel continues. "But actually being right in the middle of the destruction, with the street ripping open and all the buildings falling to the left and right of them, is something we wanted to do in-house because we had no idea how to do it when we first sat together."