Going Backstage for Black Swan
In Darren Aronofsky's menacing Black Swan, a psychological thriller set inside the New York City Ballet (channeling Brian DePalma and David Cronenberg as well as Powell & Pressburger), Nina (Natalie Portman) battles personal demons to pull off the dark side of Swan Lake.
Look Effects (under the supervision of Dan Schrecker) used a combination of 2D and 3D digital effects in about 220 shots. Highlights include the film's dream sequence prologue, 2D image animations to illustrate Nina's mental state and show her evolution. Meanwhile, the vfx team worked very closely with the prosthetics crew to enhance the practical effects, while designing and building their own solutions. The narrative demanded a good deal of head and face replacement, which, again, was accomplished through 2D and 3D means.
"The first big challenge with this was making sure everything lived in the world -- a hand-held, verite, super 16 style that Darren and Matty [Labatique, the cinematographer] created," suggests Schrecker. "And the second challenge was a budgetary one. I don't want to dwell on it, but it was something that Darren had to face. He's always facing it but maybe on The Wolverine he won't.
"For the skin rashes, it started out as appliances and prosthetic builds that we then brought in and animated. Deron wanted emotion in everything, but at the same time he likes to shoot practically, and it's great that Matty had [something tangible] that he could light and shoot.
"There weren't a lot of groundbreaking technology solutions: it was all tried and true methods that we've used before. Obviously the wings at the end were a big one, and a lot went into that in terms of research and design and builds."