Oscar 2012: Erik Nash Talks Real Steel
Real Steel took the Simulcam developed for Avatar and put it into a real world setting for the next advancement in virtual production in collaboration with Giant Studios, which came up with a new system. Erik Nash provides an overview of the significance for this Oscar contender.
Bill Desowitz: Interesting mix of nominees but with an emphasis on character-driven work such as yours.
Erik Nash: Yeah, it was the first year with 10 in the bakeoff and it was quite a tough group to be in. Lot of competition.
BD: What are your impressions of the five nominees?
EN: Well, in my mind, the favorites would have to be Planet of the Apes and Harry Potter. Planet of the Apes just because of all the facial work, particularly on the Caesar character, which is just phenomenal, and Harry Potter, they've never won but the work is just so consistently outstanding, particularly in the latter half of the eight movies. I think they may benefit from it being the last of the series, and people wanting to show some love for the work, not just for the last film but for the whole series of films.
BD: You've obviously raised the bar here for virtual production and the use of the Simulcam for these great robot boxing matches. What's it been like as an experience?
EN: When I read the script coming on two and a half years ago, it struck me immediately that it was a project that just called out to take advantage of that budding technology: Just the nature of the fights being robot on robot within a confined space. It's almost like it was written to take advantage of virtual production, specifically Simulcam. And we were very fortunate that the production and the studio agreed with our take on it and took the leap and put the investment in upfront to take advantage of the technology because there was a bit of a risk because it hadn't been done before. There was definitely quite a risk to take the plunge with us but at the end, when it was all said and done, they couldn't be happier with the outcome and saw the benefit of the approach, both in terms of how it enabled us to put the bulk of our visual effects money on screen and also really imbue the cinematography of the fights with a visceral quality and an immediacy that you could never achieve in the traditional manner where you blindly shoot negative space and shoehorn the animation into those plates after the fact. And they also the savings that virtual production gave us in terms of shooting a pretty sizable visual effects movie in 71 days with no second unit. And, again, without the virtual production component, that would've been impossible. We never would've gotten all those plates for the robot boxing as quickly and as efficiently as we did. There were times when we were shooting Simulcam when we were doing as many as six setups in an hour, which in terms of plate photography in my experience and everybody's experience I talked to is unheard of. So I think this approach definitely gave big benefits in a variety of manners on this movie.
BD: What was the process like for this movie?