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June 2010

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COVER STORY [ cont. from 10 ] techniques to depict female lead Kirsten Stewart running her fingers through a wolf ’s CG hair. “We had a particle-based technique where, if an actor’s hand is brushing through the fur,we could emit par- ticles from the hand to the fur and those particles could drive different attributes [in the fur], like lay down, stand up or get more or less clumpy.” Eclipse’s wolves are bigger — roughly six feet tall at the shoulder, yet they otherwise resemble regular timber wolves. For fight scenes actors would wrestle on camera with a big stuffed gray bag that stood in for an at- tacking wolf. (One rolling-and-tumbling fight sequence uses a digital double for the human character.) The wolves in Eclipse, as per David Slade, are more animalistic and less empa- thetic than the wolves in the previous film. For both movies the Tippett animation crew studied the behavior and movements of real wolves and took hundreds of hours of video and thousands of photographs at a wolf preserve.“But from there we dealt with what the needs of the shot were.” Animators would take their favorite movements by real ing] to get a perfectly lit CG creature.”That’s not the reality, Leven says, but “we were able to get much further much faster with the HDRI stuff.” Solid objects are much easier to ray trace with than furry Eric Leven (pictured) and Phil Tippett went on location to Vancouver and brought a bunch of these large wolf cutouts to use for blocking and size reference. wolves they studied and incorporate them as elements in the scripted movements of the CG moves.Animation super- visor was Tom Gibbons and lead animator was Randy D. Link.The Tippett crew numbered around 60 and they com- pleted about 90 shots for Eclipse. “There’s a great battle scene where all eight wolves are onscreen taking care of the evil vampires,” Leven says. “There’s some great interaction with Riley, one of the great evil vampires.” HDRI “We had some new techniques like our HDRI pipeline that we never used before. High dynamic range imaging is all the rage these days.You go out, take a bunch of pictures of sets including all the environment, the color of the sky, the ground and all the lights, you come back and [use that imag- [ cont. from 23 ] age to being competitive with or supe- rior to the newest cameras on the market.” On the post side, the single biggest change in the Red workflow is the Red Rocket accelerator card,Willard adds. “Before, only two or three DITs could do full-on transcodes on set because you needed multiple Mac Pro towers cranking all day long. With Red Rocket, on-set transcoding is becoming standard for commercials; it’s often expected. More DITs are making the investment in streamlined hardware and providing a professional end-to- end solution.” Willard served as DIT on a Cadillac campaign shot by Damon/LA, which featured multiple digital camera systems (Sony F35s, Arri D-21s, Canon 5Ds and 7Ds, Silicon Imaging SI-2Ks, Phantoms) tapped for their various strengths; Red, however, generated perhaps 85 percent of the creative and running footage lensed in southern California. With just three weeks from shoot to air, an entire post facility was built creatures which would require millions of calculations.The improvements brought by the HDRI pipeline made lighting easier. But, given the Twilight series’ vampire-friendly setting — the often rainy, cloudy environs around Seattle — natural lighting was flat and the DP, Javier Aguirresarobe, did not light specific areas of a frame in a woodland setting to accommo- date CG wolves that were not there yet. “Lighting became really important because the wolves really needed to fit the plate,” Leven says, adding that direc- tor Slade is a stickler for detail. Leven says lead lighter Marie- Laure Nguyen had to strike an exact balance to show off the Tippett wolves without allowing the shot to look artifi- cial. In each shot the CG lighters had to blend just the right amount of fill light and the indirect lighting derived from HDRI in the film’s naturally low-contrast environments. The next big release for Tippett is Cats and Dogs 2. There will be plenty of fur flying in that CG-driven comedy but, Leven says,“The big deal was a hairless cat.That was an amaz- ing set of challenges!” RED SPOTS on site at South Bay Studios in Long Beach. Freehill Produc- tions provided the Red post solution, which began with Red Rocket transcoding to ProRes for Final Cut editorial by Skunkworks; iPhone dailies were delivered. “It was nice to see that a job as large as this was willing to embrace a kind of homegrown Red workflow,” Willard notes. “Instead of relying on all the heavy hardware of a brick-and-mortar company, they were able to leverage the strengths of the camera quickly and easily.” Willard was also DIT on a recent Heineken spot shot by cinematographer Salvatore Totino,ASC, (The Da Vinci Code), who used a Red camera sporting the Mysterium-X sensor. “It was nearly 2000 ASA for most of the shoot, with little LED panels lighting the interiors of bars and offices,” Willard recalls.“The sets were brighter on the monitors than they were to the naked eye.The shoot really showed how sensi- tive the camera is.The sensor has changed Red enormously: It’s a completely new beast in the same box.” June 2010 • Post 39

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