Weathering a Perfect Storm for Finding Nemo 3D
"The primary challenge is just gaining access to the original assets and creating a production pipeline that works. The software that was used when we originally created the film no longer exists in that form, since software is constantly being improved and upgraded. We have this digital archeology to dig into the past and create a technical pipeline that uses pieces of the old software and pieces of the new software together. From there we have to get each shot to render, and lots of problems can occur as a result of the changing software as well as changes in our systems infrastructure. There are a lot of files that are missing, we either can’t find them or they are in a different storage location, so that’s the next challenge. Then you get into actually rendering the film and identifying the challenges that arise when making a 3-D version from the original 2-D version."
They were able to render difficult images (thanks in part to a new specular shading slider), fix shadows that don't move or tweak out of focus particulate (thanks to a new particulate auto program). Essentially, though, they can change cameras and make adjustments in depth.
"These aren't conversions -- they're recreations," Unkrich offers. "In this world of CG animation, it's like we can go back in a time machine and reshoot the movie with a 3-D camera. It was such a challenge to anchor the world because it was just vastness."
Whitehill points to the tense jelly fish sequence as a difficult one because the fish were so diffuse. Here's an instance of the 2-D being at odds with the 3-D recreation. "You want it sharp enough to fuse left and right eye images smoothly but you don't want high contrast sharp edges that'll cause ghosting. But again, it's the composition and movement of the camera and positioning of the characters that makes that sequence work so well. When Marlin goes back to rescue Dory, we're seeing his POV through Z space."
"When we finished the movie, we were really happy with what we'd done," Unkrich concludes. "We made a really solid, entertaining, emotional film, but we honestly had no idea how audiences and critics would react to it because it was darker in tone than anything we'd made. Thomas Newman's score gave it a sound that was different from Randy Newman's. The whole movie has to hinge on this neurotic father worrying about all the dangers that might befall his son. This is a world that you can be eaten by something and be gone in an instant. And every kid wants to go out into the big, dangerous world."
Finding Nemo was certainly a touchstone for Pixar that gave them the confidence to handle deeper emotional issues. Finding Nemo 3D dynamically enhances the experience.
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld. He's the owner of the Immersed in Movies blog (www.billdesowitz.com), a columnist for Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of 007 on screen, featuring interviews with all six actors.