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June 2014

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10 Post • June 2014 visual effects L OS ANGELES — In Disney's animated classic Sleeping Beauty (1959), Princess Aurora is cursed to fall into a death- like sleep on her 16th birthday. Maleficent, the fairy and mistress of all evil, applied the spell in anger after not being invited to the royal christening. Forty-five years later, Disney has released a live-action feature that gives movie audiences another perspective on the fairy tale. Angelina Jolie plays the lead role, with special effects make-up enhancing her already angular facial features. Visual effects also play a large role in helping to tell the story, which spans the evil mistress's lifetime. Robert Stromberg, who received Academy Awards for Production Design for his work on Alice in Wonderland and Avatar, directed the VFX-heavy feature, which also stars Elle Fanning as the young Princess. Digital Domain and MPC handled the bulk of the visual effects for the feature, working with the film's VFX supervisor, Carey Villegas. Here, Digital Domain's VFX supervisor Kelly Port details some of the studio's work on 540 shots, which range from digital environments and creating the fairies responsible for pro- tecting Princess Aurora, to the wings of Maleficent herself. POST: What were Digital Domain's VFX contributions for Maleficent? KELLY PORT: "Digital Domain was responsible primarily for three main groups. One was Maleficent herself — any digi dou- bles — and her wings. She has three digi doubles. There is a young version of Malefi- cent, a teen version, and the adult version. And all had different costumes. The adult version had about four different costume changes." POST: Why was there a need to have digital doubles? PORT: "Primarily, it was for big action shots, where it was wider or she was flying around. Angelina did a lot of her own stunts, with rigs and wires. For a lot of those close ups, we used a lot of that material, and even used it for a lot of the wide shots as well. In certain cases, the physics — a certain dive or move, her body movement — weren't looking cor- rect for what we wanted to do, or a decision was made to change what was actually shot to be more appropriate for the environment we had built, because the environment hadn't necessarily been completed when we were shooting the plates." POST: Can you talk about the environments? PORT: "We shared a lot of work with MPC. They did a lot of environments as well. Environments where she was flying around, we did a lot of those — full CG environments with rocks and trees, and water and waterfalls, and clouds and skies." POST: Maleficent is a 3D film, but it wasn't shot in 3D? PORT: "A lot of 3D environments, we did in native stereo. It's a 3D film, [but] it was not shot native stereo. It was shot single eye and then dimensionalized [by Prime Focus, Gener8 and Legend 3D]. But for the all-digital scenes, for example, with her flying around — which is a good minute or two — and select shots, we made them native stereo because we could. And it was a little bit faster that way, and would look better. All we needed to do was get a stereo camera and render a second eye." POST: What other visual effects were Digital Domain responsible for? PORT: "I hate to say 'the group I'm most proud of,' because I am proud of it all, but the most technically-challenging and rewarding for us were the three pixie hero characters we worked on. You see them in the first act of the film. They are small pixies, about one-third the size of a human. These are the ones that were tasked by the King to take care of Aurora until she reaches her 16th birthday. And when they are tasked to do that, they transform into their live-action, full-grown selves. There are three of them played by three amazing actresses: Imelda Staunton, Disney's Maleficent By Marc Loftus Senior Editor/ Director of Web Content Digital Domain courts the mistress of all evil. Angelina Jolie stars as Maleficent. MPC relied on a combination of Maya, Houdini and proprietary tools for its visual effect work, which is featured in 540 shots.

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