Going Outside the Box with Skyline
"We were floating point all the way through for the way the images were stored. And the flexibility and latitude and freedom we got were fantastic. Everyone in the company started thinking more in photographic terms. That was cool because it's the best way to work: one color space to rule them all. It's been messy over the past few years with every digital camera outputting a pseudo log format that's different from each other. No one seems to have figured out a very elegant solution for controlling color science from acquisition to film out, including the DI facilities. There are so many horror stories for big budget movies, regardless of the camera, and this is one where we were able to stay in linear all the way through. The DCT master we made was just a straight output right out of that. It was also the first time we did a DI in-house, so having control from start to finish was nerve wracking but very gratifying in the end.
"We are very much Maya and mental ray-driven, including a proprietary mental ray shader and lighting system based on HDRI images. This was updated and the whole pipeline was streamlined to basically allow three guys to light 1,000 shots. We have boujou for camera tracking and quite a bit of Fume FX and Krakatoa in conjunction with some of our own tools that were integrated into Maya Fluids, which made a surprising amount of the volumetric effects. And then there was a lot of RealFlow to make the Tanker drool. So every shot of the Tanker is a fluid sim and that's 300 shots.
And what does Strause say about Sony's protests of conflict of interest with Hydraulx simultaneously working on the similarly themed Battle: Los Angeles (opening March 11, 2011)? "The idea of genre preclusion may sound OK on the surface, but when you get down into it, it's ridiculous," Strause offers. "I was working on <Avatar> at the same time and that happens to be about aliens, by the way. My reply to half of their complaint is: 'I'm more concerned that the core of Battle LA is based on a scene in AVP-R.' I've already directed a scene where there's literally a fire fight on the streets of an American city where a platoon gets wiped out by aliens. We've done that already. So to try and tell me that I can't do something with aliens in it doesn't make sense."
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.