Filling the Stadium for Moneyball
Moneyball, the critically acclaimed biopic starring Brad Pitt as the iconoclastic Oakland A's general manager Billy Bean, was tailor made for Edwin Rivera, the visual effects supervisor for Rhythm & Hues. He most enjoys movies that blend in the backgrounds and don't take away from action in the foreground, which was perfect because Moneyball was all about virtually filling the seats of The Oakland Coliseum.
In fact, Moneyball offered some new digital twists. Rather than shooting in a traditional way with 300 extras in a section and moving them over, Rivera figured out a more agile solution because of the Coliseum's bowl shape, which necessitated shooting from different angles.
"So what we did was," Rivera explains," we shot 50 different people at four different angles: 90 degrees, 66 degrees, 45 degrees and 22 degrees. That gave us coverage for every person. What we did then was shoot them in pairs of twos and isolated each of the people on a 1K card. And we also shot them with seven different emotions at the exact same time from a blue plate for 20 seconds. They were sitting bored, the Wave, sitting down again, seated clapping, home run, standing and clapping, sitting back down and booing. Let's say, for example, frames 1,000-1,500 we knew that every single person from every single angle would be sitting down bored. And from frames 2,250-2,750 they would be jumping up and screaming as if it were a home run.
Rivera underscores that their system was very agile and flexible. It had to be because if you look at real footage of a baseball stadium, the crowd is never doing the same thing at the same time. "So we could go in and say, 'I want [so many] of the people sitting down looking bored, [so many] clapping, [so many] standing and clapping and [so many] booing,'" Rivera adds."And then we'd go and render it and randomly take those people and populate it and say, 'Let's lose that person, and lose that person.' And the turnaround was really quick. The other nice thing is that since we had tracked it all, and they were CG people, the compositors never had to track one frame. Typically, that's the biggest nightmare on any crowd duplication show. We got parallax, which you never get with traditional plates. And there were no crazy camera moves. It was rooted more in a traditional way of filming it."