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Discreet Technology Embraced by Holiday Films

What do a disfigured musical genius, aviation pioneer Howard Hughes and a resurrected vampire have in common? This holiday season, their stories are being told using digital content creation tools from Discreet.

Among the numerous holiday feature films shaped by companies using Discreet's systems and software are: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and NATIONAL TREASURE (Asylum); THE AVIATOR (Sony Imageworks, Buzz Image Group); BLADE: TRINITY and RACING STRIPES (Digital Dimension); THE POLAR EXPRESS, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS and SPANGLISH (Sony Pictures Imageworks); THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (Grey Matter FX); ALEXANDER (Eclair Laboratories), TEAM AMERICA (R!OT) and LA MALA EDUCACION (Happy Eye Movement).

Post-production house Asylum in Santa Monica helped bring Andrew Lloyd Webber's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA stage musical to the big screen. Using Discreet's inferno visual effects system and lustre digital color grading system as part of its film workflow, Asylum completed more than 150 shots for the film, including the breathtaking opening in which a postcard comes to life.

The film was shot in London, with no studio being large enough to accommodate the 40-foot long falling chandelier the story required. As a result, Asylum used the inferno system to composite the chandelier into necessary shots.

"Discreet's lustre system is the beating heart of our film workflow," said Nathan McGuinness, senior visual effects supervisor and owner of Asylum. "We used lustre to time all the visual effects shots in The Phantom of the Opera, in order to create continuity. With lustre, what you see is what you get on film. It enabled us to control and maintain the director and director of photography's vision. After the effects shots had been timed with lustre, they went to our inferno stations, where 8-10 artists worked on the effects simultaneously."

Asylum also used Discreet's lustre and inferno systems on 350 shots for NATIONAL TREASURE, starring Nicolas Cage as a treasure hunter unlocking the 2,000-year-old mystery behind the United States' greatest treasure. As the exclusive post-production house on the project, Asylum tackled complex sequences such as the final title sequence, the discovery of the shaft and treasure room underneath a church and the storm.

McGuinness continued, "The six-minute sequence from the shaft to the treasure room in NATIONAL TREASURE was similar in length and complexity to the storm sequence we did for MASTER AND COMMANDER. We started by color timing in the lustre system, sent the material to our inferno stations for compositing, and then brought them back into lustre for the final color tweak."

Sony Pictures Imageworks also used Discreet's lustre system for the final color grade of the all-CG POLAR EXPRESS. The lustre system enabled color enhancements on characters' eyes, teeth, skin tones, shirt color, hair color and more.

George Joblove, Imageworks svp of technology, said, "We use the lustre system to do all our digital intermediate color grading at [Imageworks]. The lustre system allowed us to deliver on THE POLAR EXPRESS' post-production requirements, particularly last minute changes like 100 additional eye enhancements. It gives us speed, creative freedom, and total control over color grading."

Digital Dimension completed 167 shots for BLADE: TRINITY with Discreet's 3ds max animation software. This third and final installment of the BLADE series stars Wesley Snipes, who joins forces with vampire hunters to unleash a virus that will kill all vampires, including Dracula. Digital Dimension also used 3ds max software on 44 shots for RACING STRIPES, the story of an abandoned zebra that grows up believing he is a racehorse.

Jason Crosby, CG supervisor at Digital Dimension, said, "Working on BLADE: TRINITY, we needed a system that could be customized enough to create a very fast, efficient pipeline. 3ds max software's mental ray and Thinking Particles gave us an incredibly flexible solution that let us create just what director David Goyer was looking for." mental ray is an integrated rendering solution within 3ds max. Thinking Particles is a rule-based particle system that applies simple behaviors to govern all aspects of a particle's motion, life, death and collisions in a true non-linear fashion.

Buzz Image Group used Discreet's inferno system to create a number of visual effects shots for the Martin Scorsese film THE AVIATOR. This included compositing actor Leonardo DiCaprio's head onto archival footage of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes. The inferno system was also used to recreate the image behind Hughes, and then to track, integrate green screen film elements and match the grain to the archival footage.

Buzz's artists have just completed visual effects shots for the upcoming Marc Forster film STAY, and are currently working on Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett's co-directed film LITTLE MANHATTAN, and Ang Lee's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.

Eclair Laboratories (France) used Discreet's inferno system to create ALEXANDERS opening and closing titles, as well as the death and infrared shots. Discreet's lustre system was used for the entire film's final color grade.

Discreet's award-winning solutions are designed for digital media creation, management, and delivery across all disciplines from film and television visual effects, color grading and editing to animation, game development, Web/interactive and design visualization. Discreet ( is based in Montréal, Québec, and is a division of Autodesk Inc., the leading design and digital media creation, management and distribution company.