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xRez Launches VFX Division with Gigapixel Panoramic Photography

With more than two years of R&D under its belt, xRez Studio has launched a visual effects division based on the studio's work employing gigapixel panoramic photography.

Founded by Eric Hanson and Greg Downing, both veterans in advanced photography and movie vfx, xRez has perfected the highest resolution photography currently available. Using digital techniques derived from feature film visual effects, images can be created at resolutions of up to 150,000 pixels wide, arguably surpassing any large format film standards used in photography and well beyond IMAX.

According to Hanson, the use of gigapixel imagery is far-ranging, from use in producing visual effects backgrounds in feature films, to aiding historic and natural interpretation in national parks. Taking gigapixel photography beyond academic research into a real production methodology and pipeline, xRez Studio provides location shooting expertise, efficient post-production of images, and 3D animation derived from images. Virtual cinematography can be created within the image and integrating a hidden layer of 3D geometry of terrain and structures can be accomplished using visual effects 3D software.

"The gigapixel images we capture are in themselves rich for visual exploration," explained Hanson. "But by utilizing the technical skills Greg and I have gained from the feature film visual effects field, we are able to extend conventional photography and offer unique 3D re-creations of locations that can provide the foundation for virtual cinematography of visual effects shots allowing modification of weather, light, or even the character of a space."

Hanson, who is also the professor of visual effects at the USC School of Cinema/TV, has specialized in the creation of digital environments and effects for feature films and has worked with leading effects houses such as Digital Domain, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Dream Quest Images and Walt Disney Feature Animation. His credits include: THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, CASTAWAY, HOLLOW MAN, MISSION TO MARS, ATLANTIS and THE FIFTH ELEMENT.

Downing specializes in image-based 3D technologies. His photographic work has been displayed in some of the nation's most prestigious museums including the American Museum of Natural History, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He has worked in film production integrating image-based technologies and as a lighting technical director at Rhythm & Hues and Imageworks on such feature films as THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and SPIDER-MAN 3.

xRez recently provided its services to Sassoon Film Design for a vfx shot on Tom Hank's MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION IMAX feature on the Apollo moon program. xRez re-created flying through a deep trench called the Hadley Rile, which was shot originally as a series of photographs taken by the Apollo 15 astronauts. A panoramic stitch of the images was made, then rigorous photogrammetry was employed to model the surface faithfully from the photographs. A layering of 24 matte paintings based on the photographs was then used to texture the canyon as the camera flew down its length.

"The shot illustrates the power and versatility of panoramic imagery and photogrammetry for visual effects work," said Hanson.

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