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Cinesite Makes Time Stand Still For Clockstoppers

In the newly-released Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies film CLOCKSTOPPERS, Zak Gibbs (Jesse Bradford) finds an odd wristwatch amidst his father's various inventions and discovers he can use it to freeze time -- with the help of the visual effects experts at Cinesite. "Clockstoppers was one of the most challenging and complicated visual effects projects I've ever worked on," said effects supervisor Mike Fink. "At the same time, the effects appear to be very simple in the film." Fink collaborated closely with cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt to seamlessly integrate the effects shots into the film so the fantastical sequences appear real. After experimenting, Fink and Suhrstedt developed a technique to depict a transition from normal to hyper time, that they call the "warble" effect. Backgrounds for the warble sequences were filmed separately and composited with the character in the middle. Fink and the Cinesite crew worked on several elements that displayed details of the very slow background motion during the hyper time effect. Some shots include water that is almost motionless in mid-air along with characters moving at normal speeds. Cinesite used proprietary software and Maya to animate the water droplets, which were then rendered using Renderman. At one point a character puts her hand into the almost motionless droplets from a sprinkler. The first step in creating that shot was to photograph the actress doing the motion. "Then, we built CG models of her hands," says Fink, "and tracked them to the movement of her actual hands. When she moves her hand sideways, droplets collect on her palm, slide off her fingertips and float in the air. The motion is still upward, but they've been interrupted for a moment. They won't fall, because they're frozen in time."

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