One of the big nail-biting scenes of the new Iron Man 3 is the “barrel of monkeys” freefall, where Iron Man has only seconds to save a crew of 13 freefalling from a now-crashing Air Force 1. At first glance, you may think it’s some amazing CG and bluescreen work, but the reality is far more impressive. Involving a full team of parachuters and multiple jumps, the entire scene was actually done in-air and then touched-up for final results.
“I’ve worked on movies in the past where we’ve done fake free fall sequences, with vertical wind tunnels, people on wires, but by actually shooting it, you get the visceral, kinetic camera work that comes with actual free fall photography,” said Digital Domain VFX supervisor Erik Nash, who is an experienced sky diver himself. “It’s something that’s incredibly difficult to fake — the high-frequency camera shake that’s inherent to free fall photography. If you start with something photographed, it’s real, it’s believable and even if you change everything about it you’ve got a foundation.”
YouTube has a great video showing much of the behind the scenes motion tracking work that went into the new Adventures of TinTin movie. A huge mocap studio with markered actors and lots of virtual cameras and monitors all work together to make filming a CG movie almost identical to filming a traditional live-action film.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has finally hit theaters here in the US (It landed in European theaters a few years ago, and shows some fantastic VFX work ranging from the psychedelic title sequence to the more traditional color work and face-replacement. Over at FXGuide, they talk to Method and Digital Domain about their contributions.
“The vignettes with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Salander (Rooney Mara) had a base of motion capture for the body performances and then were enhanced bia keyframing,” continues Ross. “The performance capture helped us get the subtle nuances of realistic movement. The character’s facial animation is morph targets driven by performance reference of Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig which we shot here in LA during additional filming, it allowed us to capture them still ‘in character’.”
Over at Bill Desowitz’s blog he’s got some details of the work behind the new Tintin movie coming from their presentation at Autodesk University.
Meanwhile, the bravura two-and-a-half minute motorcycle chase in Morocco occurred as a result of the previs offering so many long master shots that Spielberg decided to utilize one in the film.
Snowy, the dog, proved challenging because of his white, curly fur and trying to maintain the spirit of Hergé’s odd design for the terrier. Weta used Maya and nCloth and Spielberg made sure that Snowy stole every scene he was in.
I have to admit, I know nothing of the Tintin comic, but the visual alone have me interested in seeing the film.
Dreamworks had lots of experience with the characters and environments of the Shrek series that they could reuse in much of the new Puss In Boots film, but the additional new characters required a good bit of new design and development work. They actually found that their previous fur system used in the Shrek films didn’t scale to having Puss and his companion Kitty as major characters, so they had to find a new system.
On prior films, Dreamworks had relied on a proprietary fur system, but this time around artists used Houdini for much of the fur. “We found that Houdini could handle an order of magnitude number of curves bigger than we’ve been able to in the past,” says Bielenberg. “We had a one to one representation of curves for the fur that were interacting with other objects like the belt. The character FX artists could pull up Houdini and really get a WYSIWYG representation. You could see how the curves were interacting with any forces in Houdini. And four or five simulations could happen in the one package, rather than a serial process.”
The Lion King in 3D made a huge splash in theaters the last 2 weeks, showing that the Disney classics still hold our attention and that classic Cell animation still holds a special place in our hearts. Of course, the original Lion King wasn’t in 3D so converting it was a large affair taking the talent of hundreds of animators, and FXGuide has the details of how.
One of the other things we developed was an intelligent depth painting tool that would allow the artist to give little gray scale hints at different points of the character. They could put a little dab of gray of varying values at different points on the character and they would begin to blend to form a depth map that strikingly begins to look like the character as you add more locations.
The recent Smurfs movie includes little blue guys running around in true environments and interacting with real people, which is always a challenge for VFX Studios. To make it a little more lifelike and vastly reduce the time required to make it so, Sony Pictures Imageworks turned to the Spheron VR Camera.
“On set, the Spheron enabled us to capture the actual wattage and energy of every light and lit surface and do so in a time efficient manner the production crew appreciated,” said Rich Hoover, visual effects supervisor on THE SMURFS. “In digital production, the lighting data captured on the set allowed us to render digital characters in a live-action plate very quickly, giving our artists more time to be more creative and make the final shot even better.”
Green Lantern featured hundreds of aliens, several of which had important speaking roles in the movie. Animating each of these individually and realistically would have taken months of time, but thanks to some new facial capture technology from Mova, they were able to accurately track real actor’s faces.
“We create more facial data than people are used to getting,” said Pearce. “In markers you can get maybe 100 or 150 data points tops, and we are giving people hundreds of thousands of points of data,” requiring the FX house to come up with a process that can use the exceptional amount of information and Mova to decide what data needs to be sent.
The article gets surprisingly in-depth into the workflow and technology, and makes a great read.
No surprise that since Avatar redefined the “pinnacle” of 3D cinematography, the overwhelming majority of 3D content to come out since then has been pretty lackluster. Over at Hollywood Reporter they talk to Pixar’s Dreamworks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg on the recent poor 3D ticket sales to get his opinion:
I think 3D is right smack in the middle of its terrible twos. We have disappointed our audience multiple times now, and because of that I think there is genuine distrust — whereas a year and a half ago, there was genuine excitement, enthusiasm and reward for the first group of 3D films that actually delivered a quality experience. Now that’s been seriously undermined. It’s not in any fashion, shape or form the demise of 3D, but until there are 3D experiences that exceed people’s expectations, it’s going to stay challenged. (He predicts Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon will exceed expectations.) It’s really heartbreaking to see what has been the single greatest opportunity that has happened to the film business in over a decade being harmed. The audience has spoken, and they have spoken really loudly.
I agree with him 100%. I was amazed to hear that one of my local theaters sold out of 2D showings to the final Harry Potter film, leaving 3D tickets unsold. People are just unwilling to pay the extra premiums for fancy effects that typically add nothing to the film.
Update 7/19 10pm: Dreamworks, Duh.. don’t know how I screwed that one up.
For “Green Lantern”, yU+co created some impressing motion graphics for the lead-in and credit crawl showcasing some great CG work and RED Camera footage.
yU+co. was invited by Director Martin Campbell and Producer Donald DeLine to create a :90 second opening in 2D and stereoscopic 3D for Warner Bros.’ comic superhero story, Green Lantern. Using stylized patterns of light and color, the opening sequence takes the viewer on an immersive ride through the far reaches of outer space, showing the formation of the intergalactic peacekeeping corps of Green Lanterns and the evil force of fear that the superhero must destroy in order to maintain a balance of power in the universe..
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