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SWAY Studio's Sleight Of Hand Opens Columbia's 21

Renowned for its groundbreaking photo-realism and lighting techniques in commercial visual effects, SWAY Studio is currently showcasing its creative versatility with a spectacular 3D opening sequence for Robert Luketic's feature film 21, now the #1 movie in America.

Utilizing expert techniques with macro photography, specialty lighting and animation, SWAY's talented team of artists created a stunning photo-realistic environment mirroring an iconic Las Vegas casino.

Columbia Pictures' action/adventure 21 is inspired by the true story of the very brightest young minds in the country -- and how they took Vegas for millions.

Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a shy, brilliant M.I.T. student who -- needing to pay school tuition -- finds the answers in the cards. He is recruited to join a group of the school's most gifted students that heads to Vegas every weekend armed with fake identities and the expertise to turn the odds at blackjack in their favor. With unorthodox math professor and stats genius Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) leading the way, they've cracked the code.

By counting cards and employing an intricate system of signals, the team can beat the casinos big time. Seduced by the money, the Vegas lifestyle, and by his smart and sexy teammate, Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), Ben begins to push the limits. Though counting cards isn't illegal, the stakes are high, and the challenge becomes not only keeping the numbers straight, but staying one step ahead of the casinos' menacing enforcer: Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne).

Opening with a complete 3D sequence, the first shot pulls away from an acutely high-resolution landscape of a playing card as it hurtles over rows of casino chips and soars across the surface of an extremely realistic re-creation of a Las Vegas blackjack table. Radiohead's I MIGHT BE WRONG sets the haunting tone for the scene as the narrator tells his account of how it all began.

"Our main goal for this project was to enable the impossible," said Chris Nichols, SWAY vfx supervisor. "We created a macro world in which the camera travels to within mere microns from the surface of the cards and poker chips. This technique added a level of detail that would have been unattainable for a real-world camera."

Although the original direction called for a downplayed environment of the table, the film's vfx supervisor Gray Marshall (Gray Matter FX) and editor Elliot Graham preferred SWAY's more photo-real approach so much that they actually adapted the original environment to incorporate it.

These extreme macro perspectives, made possible by the photographic techniques of SWAY, captured a previously unrivaled perspective. The techniques also required the development of a unique image format that was able to support such extravagant textures. Large lens flares, blinking slot machines and a simulated depth of field gave life to the smoky casino atmosphere.

21 Production Credits:Director: Robert LuketicScreenplay by: Peter Steinfeld and Allan LoebBased Upon the Book BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE by Ben MezrichProducers: Dana Brunetti, Kevin Spacey, Michael De LucaExecutive Producers: William S. Beasley, Brett Ratner, Ryan KavanaughEditor: Elliot GrahamVFX Supervisor: Gray Marshall -- Gray Matter FX

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, with Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Spacey

Visual Effects: SWAY studio:Creative Supervisor: Mark GlaserVFX Supervisor: Christopher NicholsCompositing Supervisor: Chris BankoffAnimation Lead: Robert GlazerTechnical Director: Graham FyffeLighting Lead: Daniel BuckFX and Animation: Greg TsadilasTexture and Shading: Rob MeyersAnimation/Lighting/Compositing: Derek SmithCompositing: Christian Schermerhorn, Lauren Mayer-BeugVFX Producer: Erin Hicke

Tools Used for vfx:Assimilate's SCRATCHAutodesk's 3Ds MaxThe Chaos Group's V-RayThe Foundry's Nuke