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Digital Dimension Makes Space for Zathura

Award-winning visual effects studio Digital Dimension delivered 200 vfx shots for ZATHURA: A SPACE ADVENTURE, the Columbia Pictures sci-fi adventure that opened Nov. 11.

Director Jon Favreau and visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer, with whom Digital Dimension collaborated most recently on ELF, brought the company on board to create signature effects for the movies digital star fields and to help them achieve action sequences in space using seamlessly composited practical miniatures along with CG elements.

Based on a book by JUMANJI and POLAR EXPRESS author Chris Van Allsburg, ZATHURA is set in the stratosphere, as a pair of young brothers discovers a board game with an intergalactic twist. Having catapulted their home into the Milky Way, they must finish out the game from a living room at zero G.

The filmmakers sat directly with artists at Digital Dimension to develop hero looks for the star field backgrounds that completely surround the house for most of the film. The company also worked closely with the filmmakers to deliver 20 to 25 heavy composites combining small-scale models of the house and various spacecraft to support the filmmakers choice of miniature photography as the preferred visual effects approach. Digital Dimensions contribution additionally included look development for comet and disintegration effects, CG debris, torpedoes and smoke.

Ive enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Digital Dimension that spans five or so motion pictures, added Bauer. For ZATHURA, I was familiar with the integrity and work ethic of their artists, and knew their creative abilities equaled if not superceded what you find at larger visual effects houses. Also, you always work directly with their artists and creative teams, which is a real aid.

The star field digital composites were created with moving cameras and a parallax change to create backgrounds that were photo-real yet mystical and had the feel of a round environment. For the miniature shots, Digital Dimension worked from elements shot on stage and then utilized motion control data for the interactive lighting, key lighting, ship engine flame and interior ship passes of up to 20 layers or more.

Digital Dimension has a balance that works well in being able to deliver high quality with a small amount of people, added Chris Del Conte, producer, Digital Dimension. Joe could come and dial in looks frame by frame with us, which was important for the finalizing of visual effects shots and proving that Jons choice to do a throw-back nod to traditional space movies using miniatures instead of CG models would pay off. Its been great working with these amazing filmmakers on a series of projects, and with Jon entering a deal to direct the JOHN CARTER OF MARS trilogy, we look forward to upcoming collaborations as well.

In addition to being the lead house for star field and miniatures effects development, Digital Dimension completed numerous other effects for ZATHURA, ranging creating a comet that marries miniature photography with several dozen motion control passes, adding reflections on astronaut visors and animating a CG bicycle seen floating through the movie at various points.

The companys software toolkit included Eyeons Digital Fusion for compositing and Autodesk 3ds Max for CG elements, including debris, rockets and chains.

Digital Dimension recently completed effects animation for the Tom Hanks-produced IMAX stereoscopic feature MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION: WALKING ON THE MOON 3D and is currently in production on an all-CG animated feature, THE LEGEND OF SECRET PASS. This fall, Digital Dimension won its fifth Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Award for its work on Part 2 of the pilot for the ABC television series LOST.

Digital Dimension ( is an award-winning visual effects studio with locations in Burbank and Montreal. The company was founded in 1997 and specializes in 3D animation, motion graphics and visual effects for film, television and interactive media. Digital Dimension has garnered two Visual Effects Society Awards and five Emmy Awards.

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Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.