Venturing into the Hereafter
Clint Eastwood adds yet another new, revealing side to his filmmaking repertoire with Herafter. Matt Damon plays a conflicted medium drawn to a French journalist (Cecile De France), who survives a tsunami and is haunted by a near-death experience.
Michael Owens, who is Eastwood's long-time visual effects supervisor, collaborated with ScanlineVFX/Los Angeles on the tour de force tsunami sequence at the beginning, and visions of the hereafter scattered throughout. The challenges were obviously different both technically and stylistically.
To begin with, Owens did a four-staged previs of the tsunami sequence, which is smaller in scale and less fanciful than the one Scanline did for 2012.
"Clint is very studied but when he actually goes to shoot, he doesn't want to have any of that reference with him," Owens explains. "So he was thrilled to have the previs and the edits that I had done so he could see how it fit together. But when we go to shoot, I'll remind him of stuff that I think will be cool. But it usually ends up being a hybrid from the previs because that's the style of filmmaking that Clint does. Quite frankly, it adds a loose, organic quality to the equation that has a little more randomness to it.
The key sequence was obviously the recreation of the tsunami, which drew upon a wide array of techniques: Full CG water shots and CG water extensions to water plates, digital doubles, CG set extensions, matte paintings, digital make-up vfx and full CG environments with extensive destruction, from toppling digital palm trees to colliding digital cars.
The tsunami wave comprised half the work. "Not only did the film offer us the opportunity to work with legendary, Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood, but also it gave us a great opportunity to build on our work on 2012, and to take it to another level altogether in terms of complexity, particularly in the area of water interaction with digital doubles," suggests Joel Mendias, exec producer, ScanlineVFX/Los Angeles.
"Digital doubles figured extensively in this sequence. We had a motion capture shoot, to build a library of moves for digi-doubles (including Massive doubles). As might be expected, motions included running and stumbling actions, as well as various reactions to the wave, accomplished with more conventional falls into crash pads. But to simulate characters in water, we also used a traveling wire rig, in order to capture characters in water -- from getting pummeled by strong currents, to treading water and trying to surface and stay afloat and floating dead underwater. Ultimately, much of this motion capture was combined with key frame, traditional animation, as animators worked to incorporate characters into digital water flows, both above and below water.