Computer Graphics World

November/December 2013

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 22 of 51

to what we wanted to achieve, Butler says. "So, that's what " we did, and I believe it worked. We repaired all the shots that were wrong, which was probably about half of them. In tight shots, you couldn't really tell they weren't in zero gravity. In the medium-wide shots, we replaced nearly all of them. In the big, wide shots, they were fully synthetic. " However, even those entirely CG shots needed refining, as well. "We didn't constrain the artists, Butler says. "They were " free to move the characters where they wanted, and then we wrote a tool that corrected the pivot point and stabilized the character in 3D space. " Facing Reality To reproduce the actors' faces, the team relied on scans from ICT/USC to capture data that represented the features geometrically and to replicate the light. The CG characters didn't need complicated expressions; when the actors needed to deliver lines, the crew filmed them and used that footage. "On one extreme, you have fully CG characters and can appropriate to the mood. We had a morning scene with the blue Earth below. Next, a romantic scene with the sun eclipsed by the Earth. Next, we see shafts of warm amber sunlight. And next, a film noir look. We couldn't ask the visual effects department to just copy and paste the lighting. The more complicated your work is, the earlier you want them involved. For the battle room, we built the gate and some silver diamond-shaped things the kids hold onto. The lighting had to be carefully worked out. We had an amazing collaboration between the physical lighting team and the visual effects lighting team. They were in sync, so the final design would include all the lights and reflections. Would you want the visual effects team involved early, even if the VFX studio weren't a co-producer? Many studios think you should shoot a movie and then do the visual effects. I think that's crazy. You only have greenscreen. You still have 50 percent of the movie to shoot. You can't edit the movie without seriously done visual effects. So, instead of shooting actors first and then visual effects, how about doing the visual effects first? Get the action first and then shoot the actors, and we worked substantially that way. The battle room went like a knife through butter because of how well we prepared. The only mistake we made, and I've definitely learned, is that the start date was shifted forward and we didn't properly finish the previs of the final act. It meant the stress was greater in shooting and we had to shoot a lot more coverage. Of course, you don't need to do research for a film with only enhancement work. But, for a film like this with more than make sure the physics are correct, Butler says. "On the other, " you have human actors, and we were at the peril of making what we shot dynamic. We rocked and rolled between the two and picked our sweet spots. I'm a firm believer that if you can shoot something, you should shoot it, so that's what we did – even if we'd have to manipulate it. We're not doing visual effects for the fun of it any more. I believe the work is successful because we had a successful marriage between live-action stunt work and synthetic manipulation. " "In visual effects, we model reality, Butler says. "We " look at whether something behaves the way we're used to, and what we're used to is physics and optics. So, we write renderers and simulators. They look beautiful because they follow physical rules that define behavior. We followed the same guidelines. ■ CGW " Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for CGW. She can be reached at half the shots involving considerable visual effects, it's critical and wonderful. How early should the studio bring in a visual effects team? This is an era in which 50 percent or more of some films are VFX-based. What I will take with me going forward from this film is that it's really important to work with your VFX team in pre-pre-production. That's what I was able to do because one of the producers was a VFX company, and that's what I really enjoyed about working on this show. In a perfect world, just as you bring a cinematographer on in pre-production, I think the visual effects supervisor, who is the head of a department, is as important to bring on early – and, in some cases, more important. You can do that whether you have a freelance supervisor and multiple houses, or one studio. I liked the fact that we had a powerful one-stop shop, and I had the benefit of Matthew [Butler] knowing the artists really well. Half the problem in making films is relationship-building. I hooked up with Matthew, he hooked up with the people on his team, and by the time we got to the set, we knew each other's quirks. I made changes to the script based on thoughts Matthew had about the way ships move in space. For me, visual effects is no longer something that you tack onto the end of the film. Filmmaking is a massively collaborative experience. We should build visual effects in at the beginning. It's critical for them to be with the cinematographer, the set designers, the costume designers, so we can all understand the various problems. Build them in, not bolt them on. – Barbara Robertson C G W N ove mb e r / D e c e mb e r 2 013 ■ 21

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Computer Graphics World - November/December 2013