2008 VFX Year in Review
9. The Day the Earth Stood Still
Despite the final execution of director Scott Derrickson's remake of this sci-fi legend, you have to acknowledge the fine work performed by Weta Digital, Cinesite and the other vendors, with overall supervision by Jeff Okun. Early on, the team decided to update the technical approach of the original movie and take it to the next generation of vfx. That meant no man-in-a-suit for Gort, and no practical model for the spaceship. "We wanted to make sure that the visual effects would not upstage the story and we wanted to honor the spirit of the original film," Okun notes. "So, we took the point of view that we should try and make everything feel as if it were happening right now, as if it were real." This approach led to a specific path of research: What would an alien race do to deliver their message to Earth in a manner that we, the apparent primitives by comparison, would understand and not be afraid of? Possible answers to this question were tossed around in numerous round table discussions. Team members would suggest ideas based on movies, books, articles, documentaries, images and on discussions with scientists from various fields. Nanoparticles were discussed, SETI was interviewed, Microsoft contributed concepts and prototypes. This data was then processed to elaborate a kind of physics that could be applied to the action and intentions of the aliens in the movie.
9. The Day the Earth Stood Still
10. Quantum of Solace Bill Desowitz is senior editor of VFXWorld and AWN.
There's nothing quite like the tight collaboration between visual effects and special effects on a James Bond film, which Visual Effects Designer Kevin Tod Haug discovered on Quantum of Solace (directed by Marc Forster), the direct follow-up to Casino Royale that further explores the damaged psyche of Daniel Craig's 007. Working with Double Negative, Framestore, Machine FX, MPC and MK12, Haug oversaw 900 vfx shots within the long-standing Bond tradition of depicting realistic-looking action. "The rule was don't do anything that you're not 100% certain won't look good, don't get experimental, don't over reach, just do what needs to be done and do it as well as possible," Haug recalls." It was a sort of rear-guard action from day one to make sure that we didn't end up with 12 weeks to go and some horrible mess to sort out." The most difficult challenge was the aerial encounter with Bond and accomplice Camille in a DC-3 and the baddies trying to shoot them down in a Marchetti (handled by Double Negative). All of the interiors in the DC-3 were shot against bluescreen in a gimble at Pinewood Studios. The background was made up of digitally-generated environments, which were mostly made up from plates shot in Mexico. Back at Double Negative the team used proprietary software Stig and dnDoubleVision to create these environments. However, during the climactic freefall, it was decided that a sophisticated combination of CG and live action would provide a more visually realistic approach to the "Bodyflight" sequence. Craig and Olga Kurylenko performed in a vertical wind tunnel in which the airflow is strong enough to support a person above the floor. The actors appear to be skydiving but did not need to wear a parachute during filming. This method became known as "event capture" and involved shooting the action using 16 in-sync cameras: 8 4K Dalsas, 7 HD Cine Altas and 1 Arri 3 (hand-held in the simulator with the actors). Thus the team was able to reconstruct any digital move they wanted after the shoot using all the cameras. A procedural image-based modeling method was then devised that created a closed mesh representing the surface of the actors at each frame of the event capture. "That was very dangerous," Forster admits. "And that was a real challenge for Kevin to finish up in time. And that hasn't been done before because usually they shoot parachute sequences against greenscreen with a fan."
10. Quantum of Solace
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of VFXWorld and AWN.