CafeFX Scares Up Fiery Gothika
"We had to stay away from a straight morph approach as these are more stylized morphs and image manipulation," Goldman explained. Different elements of Rachel's face and head were tracked and warped with Elastic Reality then composited over Berry's moving head with Digital Fusion. Photoshop was used to paint areas of blood which pool in Berry's eyes and drip down her face. During the scene lightning flashes reveal a smoky, atmospheric background, which was also painted in Photoshop.
CafeFX finished the job by pulling off a moody sequence at the beginning of GOTHIKA, which gives audiences their first glimpse of the exterior of the asylum. Matte painter Robert Stromberg designed the shot and CafeFx animated it in LightWave and composited in Digital Fusion. The shot opens with cars driving on a rain-slicked street as the camera rises from the road over the tops of bushes, signage and a forested hill to the illuminated building.
"All of the foreground elements are 3D because there was a lot of perspective moving from one foot to 300 feet off the ground," Goldman explains. "We were given a plate with two vehicles driving by the camera and a dolly move over an existing parking lot filled with production trucks and equipment. We discarded about 80% of the plate and rebuilt the environment in 3D."
Looking ahead, CafeFX is exploring the further development of its digital fire shaders. "Everyone is interested in seeing our fire effects," Ebner reported. "Our goal is to be able to use digital fire as another tool in our tool box," Goldman concluded.
GOTHIKA served as a virtual test bed for the technology of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), "a physics-based simulation now moving into the effects world," said Goldman. "Previous methods for creating digital fire were 2D or particle simulations."
CafeFX R&D supervisor Taron didn't really like the particle approach to creating the complex patterns of fire simulations. "We felt there was a good chance we could come up with a principle to visualize heat," Taron says. "We initially did 2D research then attempted to make our first results three dimensional. During the course of doing that, we found papers in SIGGRAPH supporting the principle. The major advance we were making was putting it into 3D. Then it was a matter of how to apply the fire shaders to geometry."
Chris Reid developed an interface allowing artists to control color and motion behavior on an intuitive level, Taron explained. "We were using fluid dynamics not to create a physically-correct fire simulation but an artistically-convincing fire simulation. We needed to be able to serve the ideas of the director and be flexible in the creative visualization of fire." Heat distortions could also be fabricated using the results of the fluid dynamics calculations.
Since fluid dynamics are time dependent they can only be calculated on one computer, posing a problem for an effects-intensive motion picture. "When you want to render high-resolution sequences you need to render on several machines simultaneously," Taron noted. "So we developed a unique way to do network rendering for large sequences that was powerful and fast."
Sr. Digital Effects Supervisor: David Ebner
Executive Producer: Jeff Barnes
Digital Effects Supervisors: Jeff Goldman, Danny Braet
Digital Effects Producer: Vicki Galloway Weimer
Digital Effects Coordinator: Phillip Moses
R&D Supervisor: Taron
Programming and Development: Chris Reid
Digital Effects Artists: Akira Orikasa, Minory Sasaki, Gabriel Vargas, Votch Levi, Steve Arguello, Greg Jonkajtys, Everett Burrell, Toby Newell, Jeremy Cho, Lee Carlton
Digital Compositing: Mike Bozulich
CaféFX, a division of the ComputerCafé Group, is headquartered in Santa Maria, California, and has a studio in Santa Monica, California. The company was founded as ComputerCafé in 1993 by Jeff Barnes and David Ebner to produce broadcast promotions and television ID packages. Today CafeFX (MASTER AND COMMANDER) attracts clients from all aspects of the entertainment world.