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Pixel Magic VFX Drive Taxi

Pixel Magic recently took on the duty of chasing bank robber supermodels through Grand Central Station and the streets of New York for Foxs TAXI, culminating in a high-speed car duel on an elevated unfinished highway by performing more than 300 visual effects. They included greenscreen composites, CG cars, CG bridges, CG matte paintings, wire removals and assorted fixes.

One of the challenges in the final chase sequence, and in fact the entire movie, was to create visuals that enhanced the speed and danger of the driving stunts without stepping on the dialogue driven comedy of the film. For a climax, they decided on a race through a freeway construction site exchanging money for hostage car-to-car, ending with BMWs jumping between unfinished sections of a raised highway.

The challenge for Pixel Magic in this culminating helicopter reveal of the trapped bad girls was to create a location that didn't exist, incorporating practical cars and stars photographed on top of a dam in Los Angeles, and create a computer-generated surrounding environment of the New Jersey meadowlands.

While one group of artists rotoscoped the actors and cars from the top of the dam in preparation for compositing, another was busy tracking a digital 3D match move to allow for seamless integration of CGI elements with live action. Other artists created the surrounding landscape (ground, grass, trees, shrubs and water) in LightWave/Maya, as well as modeling the hundreds of objects needed for the raised unfinished highway and construction site.

Finally the elements were composited together to allow the four super model bank robbers and their 2 BMW's to drive on the all CG highway, jump across the virtual gap onto the CG island highway, and end up across from the good guys on the other side. Ultimately, more than 200 CGI elements were created in four months and composited in Shake for this 15-second shot.

Pixel Magic's on-set visual effects supervisor, Raymond McIntyre Jr. refused to give up on a troubling Grand Central sequence in which the bank robbers suddenly disappear and came up with a novel approach to save it. McIntyre flew to New York and photographed the interiors of Grand Central Station with a digital still camera. Multiple photos were taken for each angle to facilitate removal of extraneous people in the shots.

Multiple exposures were also taken so that the practical lights within Grand Central were not blown out. Production found a building in Mexico City large enough to accommodate the construction of a Grand Central Station floor surrounded by bluescreen. The camera was painstakingly positioned to match measurements taken in the real Grand Central Station in New York during the digital still shoot. Set lighting was hung to match the placement of actual lights in Grand Central to create convincing light effects on the car as it drove through. Hundreds of extras were photographed jumping out of the way as a BMW drove through the scene.

Ultimately, the Grand Central digital stills were composited with the live-action Mexico City plates, and post camera moves added for realism. The illusion that the scene was filmed on location at Grand Central Station in New York was complete.

Pixel Magic (www.pixelmagicfx.com), based in Toluca Lake, California, spans two generations of expertise in the creation of visual effects for film and television. Services include compositing, 3D & character animation, wire & rig removal, film & hi-def restoration, matte painting and film scanning and recording. Pixel Magic is currently working on MGM's PINK PANTHER, Foxs ELEKTRA and MR. & MRS. SMITH.

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