London-based vfx house, Double Negative, developed a series of CG shots for BRIDGET JONES: THE END OF REASON, opening Nov. 12, 2004, including one of the films pivotal sequences: The Lonely People. Alex Hope, co-founder, Double Negative, said: For both of these shots, the brief was to very subtly push the limits of realism to create an effect that bordered upon fantasy.
THE EDGE OF REASON picks up a few weeks after the first film left off - Bridget is happily hooked up with the honorable Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), having seen off the dastardly Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). Sadly, Bridget manages to complicate this idyllic set-up, with her usual gift for saying completely the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time, and Cleaver is back to continue his heartbreaking ways.
Despite having three people wrangling for her attention, Bridget appears to be innately unlucky in love, and this shot finds her home alone in South London, gazing wistfully out of her window. Director Beeban Kidron believed with this Lonely People sequence she had an opportunity to show London in all of its romanticism and glamour, as directors have often treated New York in the past. At the same time she wished to emphasize the loneliness of Mark and Bridget by juxtaposing it with views of hundreds of happy couples across London. She conceived a shot, which pulls back from Bridget, passing windows full of happy couples - giving a sense that every twinkling light on the London skyline contains a scene of marital, or familial happiness. The camera would then jib down to find Mark Darcy walking unhappy and alone near his house.
The shot was storyboarded initially, then Double Negative started pre-visualizing the shot with 3D mock-ups, showing how it might work in practice. Hope commented: Though the end result had to have a touch of fantasy, we felt that in order to sit within a non-effects film it was important that we strived for realism as much as possible. Double Negative thought that previous realizations of London skylines in miniature and matte painting tended to oversimplify the layout of the city.
Instead, Double Negative took 1:5000 scale maps of different areas of London as the basis for the shot. These were selected to cover different periods of Londons building architecture, from the great fire of 1666, through Queen Anne, Georgian and Edwardian styles. Hope added, By blending these footprints together we aimed to create a layout representative of the cramped, haphazard London skyline that we see today.
Double Negative then photographed hundreds of houses around London to present to Kidron and production designer Gemma Jackson. They selected their preferred architectural styles and low-resolution models with simple photographic texture projections were built. These models were laid in terraces on the street plan and broken up into blocks that could then be dressed to camera.
Kidron was keen that the shot should not just be about rooftops and the audience should see plenty of facades as well. Therefore, the Double Negative team cheated the topography of London slightly to create a valley of houses sweeping away from camera and topped by the bright lights of the city center. Once the layout had been established, Double Negative set about shooting the live action elements to include in the windows:
The shot begins as a pull back from Bridget in her window revealing the pub beneath her flat. Expense and restrictions at the location did not allow Double Negative to use a crane to film the exterior of the pub, so this was shot as a tiled photographic plate from a nearby window.
The tiled plate was projected onto a CG Model of the pub and surrounding area. Kidrons preferred camera move was ported into a motion control camera so that Bridget could be shot separately in her room.
In this scene, Mark is seen to be walking in the park, reflecting on a row with Bridget, and feeling equally forlorn. This shot was filmed from a crane, which pans down to Mark walking in a churchyard. After filming had completed, Kidron thought the Churchyard setting did not quite work, so Double Negative replaced the entire backdrop with a digital representation of a London square, complete with London black cab.
It was determined in previs that Double Negative would need to film as many couples as possible to populate the windows and bring the cityscape to life. The camera in the shot travels at up to 30mph over the rooftops and covers five city blocks. In order to film the elements in a studio, each couple would need to be shot separately, against bluescreen, with a cheated motion control camera move. The cheat ensured that, though each move was different, the perspective in each of these varied camera moves was true to the final shot, ensuring each element would sit seamlessly into the digital landscape. The pre-programming of each move allowed for a very streamlined shoot and Double Negative shot 40 motion control set-ups and as many locked off set ups in seven days.
Final adjustments were made to the layout of the city and final modeling and texture work commenced. Double Negatives matte paint & texture artists then set about ensuring that every building in the shot was unique; introducing different brick types, cornicing and weathering to each building.
Once the buildings were complete, Double Negative set about the mammoth task of lighting and rendering the shot. Once initial lighting passes were done Double Negative added in layers of fog, and depth to give scale to the shot. The team at Double Negative used the latest Open EXR operating system, which facilitates the most faithful reproduction of a film image on a computer screen. Moving objects were added to help bring the shot to life; including buses and headlights moving in the distance and CG cars.
As a final polish, puddles were added to roofs, broken gutters, chimneys, ugly TV aerials, moss and rubbish were all dressed in to give the whole shot a grimy magnificence. Hope offered, We didnt want the shot to appear too perfect. Living in London was our inspiration as any Londoner will know, very occasionally its possible to look beyond the cramped, dirty, unsymmetrical streets and see the magical, almost ethereal elements of the city that are only visible from afar. It was a year after puzzling over the first pre-visualization in pre-production that we felt we had successfully achieved this.
Since its formation in 1998, Double Negative (www.dneg.com) has firmly established itself as a leading player in visual effects production worldwide. Located in the heart of London's Soho, the company is a pre-eminent visual effects studio with more than 30 features to its credit, including FINDING NEVERLAND, and is working on HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE and BATMAN RETURNS.