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Framestore CFC Alters Landscape for Nanny McPhee

NANNY MCPHEE, the new children's fantasy film, directed by Kirk Jones and starring Emma Thompson and Colin Firth, from a screenplay by Thompson, opens Jan. 27 through Universal Pictures. A team of more than 80 artists and technicians at Framestore CFC in London worked for nine months on the films digital vfx, providing some 150 shots. In addition, Framestore CFC's Digital Lab facility created the film's distinctive Digital Intermediate.

Vfx supervisor Mike McGee and lead compositor Gavin Toomey attended the shoot, which took place in August 2004. "It was a real mixed bag in terms of the vfx they needed," said McGee, "The largest single sequence for us was the wedding."

The film ends, as all good comedies should, with a wedding. Cedric marries the right woman, and the wedding, although it takes place in summer, is the occasion of a beautiful snowfall, which transforms not only the scene, but also the dress worn by the bride.

"To alter the landscape," explains McGee, "The set was covered with as much snow as was practicable. In addition, we were able to use Asa Shoul's digital grading work to complement the snowy touches we needed to add to the environment. He graded up the backgrounds to give them their looks one for the sky and one for the trees and then we worked on top of those plates, combining them with mattes."

CG supervisor Andrew Rawling added: "We created some CG snow in addition to the practical stuff. But our main job was to transform the bride's costume. Our heroine starts the scene in a blue dress, but as the snow lands on it, it magically turns into a magnificent white bridal gown, complete with train."

The blue silk dress in which the bride starts out had epaulette-like ruffs on the shoulder, as well as a ribbon around the waist. Three-dimensional models of this detailing were created. As the couple walks up the aisle, magical 3D snow swirls around them. As snowflakes settle on the dress, they start to form a thin layer of ice, which spreads out, covering the blue with a frosty white pattern. The shoulder ruffs crumble away, followed by the ribbon, which falls away in a little flurry of pink snow.

"After we'd got rid of the superfluous bits of the dress," continued Rawling, "We built up the frosty material, partly from the snow that's landing, partly from the icy frost that's spreading itself. We then start extending the dress out at the back to create the train. This was a complete simulation, using the Houdini version of Syflex for the cloth. The final element of the bridal gown was the veil, which had a slightly different look glassy and more transparent so that we can continue to see the bride's face to which the snow attaches itself in a sort of chain of flakes."

Another sequence that had to be carefully handled took place in the Brown's kitchen. Recalled Toomey, "The children are wreaking havoc, and crockery and chickens are flying about. For obvious safety reasons, we filmed all the flying crockery as separate elements and comped them in to the main plate with the children jumping on to the catapult. Whenever we were shooting scenes with the baby, its safety was our primary concern. Various 2D composites were necessary to integrate the baby into potentially unsafe or uncomfortable environments without risk. For instance, there's a bluescreen shot that invariably goes down brilliantly with audiences, in which the baby is discovered inside a cooking pot full of cabbages."

Other Framestore CFC credits include:* Visual Effects Producer: Lucy Killick* Visual Effects Coordinator: Kirsty Morgan* Technical Directors: Christoph Ammann, Louis Dunlevy, Michele Fabbro, Dan Lavender, Ben Schrijvers, Neil Weatherley* Camera Technical Directors: Lianne Forbes, Joe Leveson, Benjamin Loch, Paolo Mitton, Davide Nicolosi, Melvin Polayah, Mark Tudor-Williams* Animator: Paul Lee* Senior Modeler: Stuart Penn* Digital Matte Painter: Kevin Jenkins* Compositors: Sergio Ayrosa, Avtar Bains, Sule Bryan-Hurst, Kate Cuffin, Jonathan Fawkner, Brian Krijgsman, Christian Manz, Adrian Metzelaar, Ellie Meure, Bruce Nelson, Helen Bunker, Mark Oxenham, Steve Parsons, Travis Porter, Sirio Quintavalle, Craig Rowe, Pedro Sabrosa, Nicholas Seal, David Shere, Antony Smith, Corrina Wilson, Christine Wong* Digital Paint Artists: Giacomo Bargellesi, Dan McRae, Aled Prosser, Elsa Santos* Avid Editor: Richard Poet* Visual Effects Editorial: Rob Woiwod* Data Operators: Edward Xi Chen, Lucinda Keeler, Rebecca Manning, Maria Michalopoulou, Stuart Nippard* Head of Render Support: Alex Hessler* Render Support: Ian Comley, Paul Connor, Alasdair Coull, Stefan Putz, Rob Richardson* Systems Engineer: Stephen Willey* System Support Engineer: Kim Loan-Do

London-based Framestore CFC ( is one of the leading visual effects company working on effects for feature films and commercials.