Helping Fincher Build His Social Network
Leave it to David Fincher to push the digital envelop ever so slightly in The Social Network with two simple VFX techniques to enhance his storytelling. For instance, he suggested a "hockey mask" face projection method to create the illusion of the Winklevoss twins (both played by Armie Hammer), the arch rivals of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg). In addition, to create the illusion of miniaturization for the twins during their dramatic loss in the famed Henley Regatta in England, the director recommended a new select lens effect based on tilt-shift photography.
To help with the face projection, Fincher enlisted Lola Visual Effects (under the supervision of Edson Williams), which worked on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. They first thought of utilizing Paul Debevec's Lightstage method, but it proved unworkable with the Red camera.
"So we developed a similar system using traditional lighting (12 kinoflo 400s and 8 bi-color litepanels) and DMX stage lighting software," Williams explains. "We wanted to use the Red because the movie was shot on Red and it also gave us a higher res and better dynamic range. We're able to shoot realtime, 24-frames-per-second, with four Red MX cameras running, using a stand-in to match the lighting of the offline.
This method was used for 20 shots, with nearly 100 additional shots required for other split-screen work involving Hammer since they were unable to shoot at Harvard. Michael Watson, a camera operator on several Fincher projects, helped with technical aspects of the Red and the lighting as the internal DP. Since the flesh tones of Hammer and Pence are different, this required some additional tweaking. The process worked really well, according to Williams, allowing Fincher to get a very controlled performance in a very efficient manner.